There’s a story about David Bentley.
I kid, I kid. I’m all out of Bentley stories. I could tell you my epic about Arturo Lupoli, his secret agent dog and his layabout sidekick, but it’s all a bit too similar to an episode of Scooby Doo and I need to give it some work.
So, what’s going on in the world of Arsenal? Not a great deal. A win generally brings about a quiet week and this has been no different. With less to examine in great details that’s no surprise, nor a bad thing, but the Blackburn game was just the first step in what is going to be a very difficult and challenging run in. And the manager says we need not just consistency, but not just your regular, off the shelf, supermarket own brand consistency. Oh no:
We know that with the position we are in we need an exceptional consistency, so that is the challenge we have in front of us at Sunderland.
We had a good week last week. We had a good result against Aston Villa and a good performance against Bolton. We have a good spirit and desire within the group – and we have quality.
Now, I’m not willing to pore over the Bolton game again, nor the manager’s bigging-up of his players (which I understand completely – doing anything other than that at this stage would be like chucking in a massive towel), but he’s absolutely right about the consistency thing. We have 14 games to go, 42 points to play for, and given our season start and that rather nasty run in recent times, we have nothing left in the way of wiggle room.
Tomas Rosicky believes that the Blackburn performance can act as a spur, saying:
We recently had an unsuccessful spell so this is something we can build on,. We can be happy after this game but the most important thing is to carry a performance like that and fight for a Champions League spot.
It was a game when almost everything went in and it’s good for confidence. But it does not matter if it was seven goals or one. The most important thing is the performance and the fact we can repeat it.
I know what he’s saying about the goals but I’d argue that the seven goals were important. When the competition is this tight who knows whether goal difference might be the deciding factor? The +6 we got on Saturday against Blackburn wipes out the -6 we suffered at United, so while the three points is always going to be the priority, racking up some goals along the way will be no bad thing.
Next up is Sunderland, resurgent under Martin O’Neill, and it’s a place we’ve had some difficulties in the past. And we’d better get used to seeing them because their win in the FA Cup means our next run of games is Sunderland (A), Milan (A), Sunderland (A) and Sp*rs (H) (and that’s not even mentioning the next three, Liverpool (A), Milan (H), Newcastle (H).
You could pretty much say it’s a make or break period for this Arsenal side. At the end of it we could still have two cups to play for as well as keeping up the chase for the top four, or we could be licking our wounds and trying to make sense of football (whilst wailing and shrieking). We need to rediscover the form we showed from the Blackburn game until December. It’s not that we played particularly well, certainly not in the grand style that we have been accustomed to when Wenger’s teams are in full flow. It was all a bit more fragile than that but we got results. And that’s what we’ve got to get back to.
If they’re scabby one-nils or scintillating fours or fives it matters not a jot. Confidence is borne from winning games and while it really is a cliché, the old ‘one game a time’ thing has never been more relevant than it is right now. More focus on the Sunderland game tomorrow and Saturday.
Beyond that not much happening. It seems that Kieran Gibbs will be back in the squad for Saturday after having two hernia operations in the last four months. I’ve got nothing much to say about his abdominal cavity but he really needs to prove he can stay fit for a sustained period now. Otherwise the manager will have to think very carefully about him for next season.
And according to reports in the Swiss press, Johan Djourou has signed a two year extension with the club. I’ve got no problem with this, he’s been criticised, and rightly enough, for his performances at full back but he’s not a full back. As a fourth choice centre-half, which is what he is at the moment, he’s a good option and people are quick to forget how well regarded he was for us last season. I know it’s a case of too much hype but it’s worth bearing in mind.
And finally, Capello, eh? Redknapp, eh? England manager, eh? I am baffled, quite seriously, as to why anybody in the world would want to be the manager of England. It is without doubt the worst job in football. And yes, that includes the Chelsea youths who have to take it in turns to clean John Terry’s ring (he’s quite fastidious about keeping his wedding band shiny, I’m told).
Managers do the England job; managers fail; managers are castigated, slagged off, ridiculed, mocked and lampooned – and if you’re a ‘furriner’, like Capello, you’re doomed from the start regardless how well you do. And yet, the common denominator in all this is not the managers. It’s the FA and the English players and, let’s face it, sections of the English press whose expectation levels when a major tournament approaches don’t seem to be tempered in any way by the England team’s record in previous tournaments.
Still, maybe what England were missing was that something special. The Twitch Factor, I think they call it. No doubt a man who has won one FA Cup in his entire career knows more about winning than somebody who has won countless league titles, cups and the Champions League. And if the England players need someone like Redknapp to inject them with the necessary ‘passion and spirit’ to play for their country it says far more about them than Capello.
Right, busy day, back tomorrow with an Arsecast. Till then.