Brrr, seems like yesterday wasn’t just a one off. Cold again this morning as we head into the Interlull. My weather widget is not exactly a welcome sight, I have to say. Still, not much we can do about it. Other than move house and Mrs Blogs is not keen on the equator. Oh well.
So now we face a two week gap with no real football, which is pretty frustrating. The form in recent weeks is much improved, culminating with the win against West Brom which, while not thrilling or anything like it, was just as enjoyable in its way as the one against Chelsea. Yeah, I know, there was no despicable, glass-jawed, stumbling, not-racist-at-all bloke falling over to provide us with a comedy moment up there with Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch, but that we won the game in the manner we did was a real sign that this is a team that’s finally coming together.
If you step back and think about it, it’s not really a surprise. If our frustration at the beginning of the season was borne out of our obvious underachievement (given the players at our disposal), it shouldn’t be that much of a shock that when the new players bedded in and the team became more settled that results would improve. Sometimes it is difficult to see the woods for the trees though. I’ll admit to seeing a lot of trees but I’m viewing the whole damn forest now.
The manager is much happier but he’s taking nothing for granted despite the recent run of results:
We are not there yet but it is much more positive. There was a lot of scepticism after our earlier wins and suddenly the Chelsea game highlighted that we are not too bad. Now we are a bit lighter in our display, a bit more spontaneous. That is linked with the confidence of course.
When you have so much possession and cannot finish a game off I am always a little concerned that the ghosts we had to fight one month ago will come back. We are not yet on a completely different planet and we still have to fight against it.
It’s interesting that he also talks about the experience in the side and I wonder if that has changed how he’s speaking publicly. This cautious Arsene, one who is very obviously trying to keep his players’ feet on the ground, is at something of a remove from the Arsene who, even if results were bad, would speak constantly about the quality of his team. Even if what we were seeing didn’t quite tally with what he was saying.
As I said yesterday, I like it and I think it’s the right approach. The form is good but Blackburn away was just over six weeks ago. A long time in football all right, but in actuality not so much. Reminding his players that they still have lots of work to do, that there are no laurels to be rested on, is important and I do think the fact he’s dealing with more experienced players means his message is one much more grounded in reality. He’s not having to sugar-coat anything, he’s not trying to instill belief in them via his public utterances, and it’ll be curious to see how they continue to respond.
One of those experienced players, and one I highlighted yesterday as being a very important piece of our improving machine, is Mikel Arteta, and the manager too has spoken about his contribution. He said:
He is an important player for our team. He is really a player between Song and Ramsey or Rosicky and that gives us continuity. When we need to keep the ball he can achieve that – Jack can do that as well. But with Jack missing he is a player who can keep the ball when it is needed.
I think a lot of people expected him to fill the Cesc role, perhaps simply because he’s Spanish and a bit similar in stature and appearance, but what we’ve seen is a little different. He’s certainly capable of contributing in the final third, he has a couple of goals already and I suspect there’s a bit more creativity yet to come from him, but it’s Aaron Ramsey who is more naturally suited to that role. We’ve seen the Welshman score and assist with a bit more frequency in recent weeks and it’s Arteta’s work behind him which is providing him with the platform to do that.
On Saturday against West Brom he completed 90% of his passes, with a total of 93 successful passes in the game. Compare that with the West Brom midfield trio who completed 108 between them. He keeps our game moving, enables us to maintain possession and therefore keep the pressure on the opposition. Carling Cup aside he has started every single game since he arrived on transfer deadline day and that’s a measure of the faith Arsene has had in him since he bought him.
I have to say he’s a player I’d have loved to see playing with Cesc, rather than instead of him, but for all the talk of last minute panic shopping this was a very, very canny purchase indeed. He also comes with the added benefit of not going away with his country during Interlulls. I think Arsene is right when he says he’d have played for England, and indeed most other countries had he been from there, but Spain do have quite a number of quite good midfielders. Not that I’m complaining, one of our most important players now gets two weeks to train lightly and rest up before we head into a really crucial period of the season.
Finally for today, Jack Wilshere has been talking about his injury and possible return, and also about his future at the club. Asked by an interviewer if he would promise to stay at Arsenal forver, Jack said:
I promise that, yeah. I’ve been at the club since I was nine and learned to love it. From the Vieira days, to Bergkamp, Fabregas, I’ve watched them come through and move on. There’s a crop of new players Ramsey, myself, Kieran Gibbs…hopefully we can really create something special. I love the club and I want to be part of its future.
Those of us who have been around a block or two might well be cynical about such a statement. I mean, who knows what can happen in football? You never say never, can’t tell the future etc etc, but it’s still heartwarming to hear it. I do think Arsene’s plan of growing a young team together didn’t quite work for various reasons, but it strikes me he’s putting together a nucleus of English/British players who won’t be quite as open to the vagaries of location, the lure of home etc.
And as long as Arsenal are a good, successful and competitive team, then Jack’s promise will be easy to keep. Fingers crossed it goes like that.
Right, busy day ahead, till tomorrow.