Sunday, December 4, 2022

No easy games

It was dark when I got up this morning. That’s rubbish. Dark is for sleeping in, definitely not for getting up in. Unless it’s the middle of the night and you have to go to the bathroom.

On arising, one should be bathed in soft, warm light and that light and warmth should remain with one throughout the day until you decide it’s time to sleep again. I suspect that to have dominion over the sun itself is a tall order but still. If you’ve got no ambition then what’s the point?

So, our European trip was, despite the late goal, pretty well received by all and sundry and most of the all by the players. Laurent Koscielny, Yossi Benayoun and Wojciech Szczesny all spoke about how confidence would be boosted by almost beating the German champions away from home. SZCZ said:

To get a point away from home, in Dortmund – probably one of our toughest fixtures – gives us a confidence boost. I think we showed a lot of people what we’re made of.

What’s interesting to me about where we are now is that there cannot possibly be any measure of complacency in any game and against any opposition. When Arsenal were considered title contenders and there was no question of us finishing outside the top four, you would find that from time to time Arsenal would approach certain games with less intensity than others. This is why you would see us drop points at home to West Brom, or Hull. It’s why we’d play a scintillating, high-intensity pressing game against Chelsea and win, yet slump to a draw against ten man Wigan just a couple of days later.

The days of Arsenal going into a game having an expectation of winning are in the past (at least for the time being). Every game has got to be approached as if it were a cup final (not a Carling Cup final, a different kind of cup final where we actually turn up). No opposition can be thought of as lowly. Swansea was a perfect example of that at the weekend. Sure, they’re a newly promoted team and were full of the early season vigour many such teams have, but afterwards the complaint from some fans was that although we won, we didn’t hammer them.

I think we need a little readjustment in our expectation levels. I hope that’s happened at squad level already, that there’s the same seriousness for a game against Swansea as there is for one against a bigger rival (domestic or European), but until new players gel and we get a real run of results under our belt confidence will remain quite fragile and I think that will be reflected in our performances. If we go 10 games without losing, then there’s certainly something to build on. At the moment it’s just 2 games, and the hard work needs to continue.

And maybe the realisation that every game should be approached in the same way is no bad lesson for some of these players. If success is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration, our perspiration levels have been found wanting in recent seasons. If every game is requires maximum effort and that effort is rewarded with results then maybe a few lightbulbs will go off in a few heads. I thought the team, for the most part, worked very, very hard the other night against Dortmund and we came back from Germany with a very decent point.

The approach for this weekend has to be exactly the same. Blackburn may not have the stature of Dortmund but we know it’s a very difficult place to go and they’re a team under real pressure at the moment. They will be fighting to lift themselves off the bottom of the table and if we allow ourselves to view this game any differently to the one in midweek then we’ll be doing ourselves a disservice and I think that will show when the final whistle blows.

New boy Mikel Arteta says pressure and expectation at a club like Arsenal are good things:

Being under pressure is good because it means people expect something from you. The challenge here is to win trophies.

It’s a different kind of pressure at the moment though. Ask people if they expect us to win the league this season, and I would suggest the answer is no. Not simply because of the way we’ve started the season but because of the quality of our opponents, the way the squad has struggled in the last 6 months, the players we’ve lost, the players we’ve replaced them with. I think that’s a realistic view and we can open up a debate about why this is, but I think that can wait for another day (if it hasn’t already been done to death already).

The pressure now is simply to win the the next game. And the one after that. And the one after that. And once we get going a bit maybe then we can talk about trophies and fighting for the title again. There’s some consolidation needed first and as I said above it’s been just two games since the mauling at Old Trafford. I think it’s too early to talk about turning corners just yet.

We’ve responded well but there’s still some way to go. And for players who might once have approached a game like Blackburn and viewed it as a second class fixture, well, they need to adjust their mindset. There’s no such thing anymore. There never was but it’s taken some tough times for that to become obvious to them.

In other news Yossi Benayoun reveals his last ditch transfer to Arsenal wasn’t last ditch as it seemed:

The media thought it was dramatic, but I knew it would go to the last day. There was an agreement between me and Chelsea that we would wait until then because they wanted to bring in another player. I first heard about the interest from Arsenal eight days before the end of the window and when I knew they wanted me it was an easy choice.

Still begs the question as to why he didn’t have a medical if we knew all that time but there you go. I thought he was a bit ineffectual against Dortmund but couldn’t fault his workrate and effort, and at this moment in time that’s so important.

Leopold reacts to some Wenger comments over on the real ANR.

Right, that’s about that. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast – and for those of you unaware, we’ve just launched a new Arsecast Daily Edition over on Arseblog News. It’ll be a 4-5 minute round-up of the days Arsenal news, posted at around 5pm every weekday. I won’t lie to you, some days there won’t be one but that will be entirely due to a dearth of news rather than me being all Armand Traore. Honest.

Till tomorrow.

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