Today a guest post from @poonaloon
Chances are Arsene’s unfancied eleven could cause a third title-winning upset …
I haven’t done this for a while. I am a bit out of practice, so be gentle. I used to blog regularly, but stopped five or six years ago. The lines of debate became so fixed that people stopped listening, you were just lumped under an acronym and your views were taken for granted. Denilson’s forward pass statistics ended it for me. Kudos to anyone who has stuck around being a gobshite or passionately enjoying The Arsenal and saying so online since then; it must have taken some stamina. I don’t need trophies to enjoy Arsenal, but they would be nice. As we enter the home straight of this season though there seems very little reason not to be excited on many levels.
In Europe we get another crack at a Pep Guardiola team, one who are again the standard for world football. Getting to see that live will be wonderful. Unlike the previous pops at his teams, I think we have a genuine chance this time. (We came damn close but for a dodgy red card already.) If we do get through, then we have as good a chance as anyone left and no one will want to draw us. Absolutely no one. It will be interesting to see how Arsene approaches the tie and sets the team up. Do we go for a guns-blazing home win, taking something away to defend, or try and play it close over two legs and pick our moments? The Dortmund games, where we played far better at home and lost before winning away in a scrap, shows how variable things can be at this level. That we even have a choice of tactics or style is something worth savouring, it hasn’t always been this way.
With the financial burden of the new stadium finally easing, we have quietly gone about building the deepest squad in years, possibly ever,in terms of numbers. We could add another defender and a quality striker, but otherwise we are loaded. (Adding Draxler would be divine and make me smile for several weeks on end.) Depending on what you think of Jenkinson, we have two quality players at each position, money to continue adding, exciting young talent coming through, and the club appears proactive on all levels that we can challenge the depth of talent our oil-rich rivals have tried to accumulate.
This means that the exciting run of fixtures we face needn’t be seen as a burden. As we start to focus on the run-in, a home draw in the FA Cup appears favourable and rotation would mean games for players of the calibre of Podolski, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey and Rosicky. After that, there is only one side left we would not be short favourites to qualify against. The FA Cup may be the least glamorous option, but it is a great chance for silverware and the joys of a cup final. It is a shame that Theo Walcott will miss out on all this. Whilst a run of games for Serge Gnabry has been a delight – I’m a huge fan – Theo is one of the best attackers in European football. His pace gives us a unique dimension and his end product can win games – just check his goals and assists stats. The Premier League is so tight that any further big injuries could be the difference, for any of the title-chasing trio.
Since the cup draw this Sunday evening, there has been a lot of talk about fixtures, but things are no easier for our rivals. In fact, there is an immediate opportunity to maybe get some relief, with City playing 5pur2 and then Chavski back-to-back. They also have games with Barca to distract and an away Manc derby rescheduled for the business end of proceedings,and also the CoCup final. The Chavs have the easiest run as it looks now, but serene passage past Galatasary – does it exist? – will offer up an almost guaranteed humdinger somewhere, so that can change. The next two away games will be crucial for us. If we can take 6 points from Southampton and Liverpool we may just give ourselves a buffer before the bigger tests to follow. We did just this already, building leads that nullified the impact of losing twice in Manchester – both games leaving a huge sense of ‘what if’ and Arsenal still top of the league.
We might be able to keep our lead if we can continue to be ruthless against the fourteen or fifteen weaker sides in the division. We did this last year, turning around what had been a series of disasters through February into a convincing run-in, but one that involved home draws with a hung-over Man U and Everton, the only teams of any reputation we faced domestically in that period. (The year before we were nowhere near as good, winning only 1 of our last 5 league games, drawing 3 and getting beaten at home by Wigan. ‘Arry really did gift that to us and so goes the history of that shit mob, again and again.) Last year we ground out clean-sheets. This year, the depth of our midfield options may carry us. Even without Walcott, we can name Ramsey, Flamini, Rosicky, Podolski, and Chamberlain on our bench at the moment. Four of those players are recently returning refreshed from injury-enforced rest. We can always put 5 in a midfield that very few sides can control.
This season may end up being a thriller win or lose, it may be a collapse, or it may be history. My outlook is such that I am thinking back to Arsene’s first two titles. We were not favourites either year and in we got through both times on the back of spirit as much as talent at times. They were great teams, but Chris Wreh scored vital goals in that first double, with a 17 year old firing in others amongst Ray Parlour’s most prolific campaign. Stephen Hughes and Gilles Grimandi also proved match winners to start our winning run to the title. It can be a funny old game. (Imagine playing Chris Wreh now, let alone a raw teenager, there would be a riot… Where can I back Sonogo’s goals?)
The second double may have been driven more by names that are now legends, but it also hinged on moments of grit. Liverpool away with a shocking red-card for Gio Van Bronckhorst barely 30 minutes in will forever be a treasured memory. Kanu put in the shift of his life that game and we were able to win, finishing the season 7 points ahead of that Liverpool side in second. It was Wiltord and Ljunberg who scored the crucial goals over the final 6 games of that season, with Lauren pea-rolling in one of history’s great penalties with 4 minutes left to beat the Scum at home. Neither Henry or Bergkamp played the night we won the league in Manchester. Following cup final defeats to Galatasary and Liverpool in previous seasons, that title was far less obvious at the time than in hindsight.
I am quietly bullish about our chances of making 2014 a banner year.
I have no idea how we might get there and this may all be drivel within a month, although I doubt that, but it will be a ride. I like our chances with Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil, Cazorla blending it about. Arsene Wenger has taken the deepest pool of attacking and technical midfield players in the country and turned them into the most solid Arsenal side since Sol Campbell took the short route to Europe and had Vieira and Gilberto sitting in front of him. This sounds good to me. Plus all the other teams are total detestable .
How can we not win, it is meant to be? Right?
Even if we don’t, we have had a do. Right?
Can’t wait for Arsene to sign that new deal either.