So here we are, between games, and although we don’t have much time to consider things before tomorrow night’s game with Montpellier, we should take stock a bit.
The win over Sp*rs was fantastic, it was welcome and enjoyable, but now it’s time we make like Housemartins, and Build. The issues we’ve had defensively and offensively drill down deeply into our problems, but the chief one has been lack of consistency, both in terms of performance and results. Now, looking at the fixture list, having played Sp*rs, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City, with varying degrees of success, we have a run of games from which we should be capable of taking a lot of points.
That’s not to say that the games are easy. Everton away is always tough and West Brom, this season’s surprise package, have shown they’re a very good team and will provide a decent test to anyone. But you look at games like Wigan, Reading (gulp), Swansea at home etc, and think that if we really want to consolidate our position in the top four, at the very least, then these are games from which we should be targeting maximum points.
I strongly believe the talent is there and the front three are beginning to produce on a regular basis now. Podolski, Giroud and Walcott have 22 goals and countless (only because I don’t have time to count them this morning) assists between them. Cazorla, with Wilshere and Arteta behind him, looks capable of producing in any game and while I still think we’ve got issues defensively, some of those will be helped by the fact that Wojciech Szczesny is back in goal. I’ve always said he’s got a lot of work to do to become the goalkeeper he has the potential to be, but he’s got the kind of presence and stature that’s vital and that no other keeper at the club possesses.
But one good win against Sp*rs doesn’t prove anything. I have no doubt that it will instill some confidence and belief, and perhaps the good thing is that players don’t tend to analyse games as closely as we do. If they hang on and scrap out a 1-0 win all they’ll care about is that it’s a win, whereas we might look at defensive lapses or missed chances that might have been costly.
It’s finding consistency that’s been the main issue. The last time we won more than three games in a row was last season, coincidentally after the 5-2 against Sp*rs. We won six on the bounce before slipping up against QPR, so it’s now time to take the positives, take the experience in this team, take the fact that our new signings and attacking options are forging a decent understanding, take the fact that bar one or two injuries (mostly to players you’d expect to be injured anyway) we’ve got a pretty healthy squad, and really kick on.
There’s no reason why a team that can hammer Sp*rs, beat Liverpool at Anfield and come away from City of Manchester stadium with a well-earned point can’t produce in games against ‘lesser’ opposition. Questions about the team’s mentality are more than valid in my opinion but also confusing and difficult to draw any conclusions from. We’ve let leads slip but also come from behind to earn points, so there’s fragility but resilience too.
It will come down to hard work, on the training ground, on the pitch, and if there’s enough of that, coupled with the ability of the players we have, there’s no reason why we can’t go on a decent run in these upcoming fixtures. The fact we can produce such good results is what makes the poor ones so frustrating, so fingers crossed we can step it up a bit over the next few weeks and get some real momentum going.
Elsewhere, there’s more talk of Theo Walcott’s contract and what might happen with him. Arsene has been quite bullish in recent weeks about wanting him to stay and how the club will try to make that happen, but it all feels and sounds very familiar. How we’ve got to this point is a long and complicated story. It’s not simply a case of the club not giving him what he wants, it comes from both sides and neither of them have covered each other in glory.
I think we needed to be pragmatic and from a footballing point of view we are. We’re playing Walcott, Walcott is performing and producing like we know he’s capable of when he finds some form. Whether it’s just good form, whether he’s extra motivated to show Arsenal he’s worthy of more or if there’s a touch of the Flamini to the whole thing, I don’t think it really matters at this point. Arsene says he won’t be sold in January regardless of what happens, and that’s pragmatic too. I’ve said before that this situation could have played out a lot differently, with a lot more bitterness and recrimination, and thankfully expediency ruled the day.
Personally, while I can see the ‘pay him what he wants’ argument, I think it’s easy to forget that as exciting as Theo has been at times, Arsenal fans have shown him a great deal of patience. Far more than other players have been granted, and if it feels a bit like that’s being thrown back our faces, I guess that’s the modern footballer for you. But people’s judgement of players exists very much in the here and now and it doesn’t suit to remember the development, hard work and faith put in him to allow him to get to this point in his career.
So if we’re being pragmatic now, and using the player well, then we also need to be pragmatic about the situation as a whole, and it’d be a huge surprise to me if he were to sign a new deal. That means looking at how we replace him. Do we buy? Do we promote Oxlade-Chamberlain? Do we use Gervinho more on the right hand side? At the very least this is something the manager and his staff need to be considering in the long-term. Players come, players go, but how you deal with departures is much more important than the departure itself. We shall see.
As Arseblog News told you at the weekend, Emmanuel Frimpong has joined Charlton on loan until January. It’s an important spell for him, he’s got to start producing on the pitch in a big way, and even then I’d have my doubts that it’ll be enough to secure a future with us.
Finally, for today, if you want to win a DVD signed by Robert Pires, I suggest you go here right away and enter the dreamy competition.