It does seem odd that this weekend will be entirely Arsenal free, but due to Everton’s FA Cup commitments that’s the way it’ll be.
Funnily enough, they play Sunderland who knocked us out, and I guess the best we can hope for is a rough, tough, energy sapping scrap on Saturday. It’s at Goodison Park so the scorched earth, no-man’s land pitch at the Stadium of Light won’t play a part, but while some might worry our momentum is interrupted I think it’s no bad thing that we have a couple of days off.
Winning games the way we have been winning them recently is no doubt exhilarating, but also physically and mentally exhausting. We don’t have the biggest squad in the land, we can only rotate so far and maintain our effectiveness, so a chance to rest and recuperate is no bad thing.
There’s a lot of talk of ‘breathing down the neck‘ of Sp*rs, which is true, but all the same there’s a long way to go yet and there are some difficult games ahead. There’s no doubt they’ve gone a bit quiet in recent weeks, we have minded the gap and what have you, but I am very much in the camp of he who LOLs last LOLing the longest and the out-loudiest.
Perhaps it is just the natural order of things, the universe righting itself, but we cannot think for one second that we can ease up now. As Goodplaya pointed out yesterday the fact that we’ve become the first team to come back from behind in four league games in a row is a testament to the spirit and character of the side, but I think we would all prefer if we didn’t go behind in the first place, and maybe that’s something we need to work on.
Don’t get me wrong, the coming from behind stuff is hugely enjoyable (in the end), and definitely provides the team with a confidence boost as well as creating that uncertainty in the opposition who know they’re facing a team who can score at any time right until the death. Any team we face now will be more than aware of our propensity for late, late goals and that can work for us, but it’d be much better to be a goal or two ahead going into injury time.
At some point the last minute winner won’t arrive and we’ll have to look at why points have been dropped. And if that were the case on Monday, for example, you’d have to question our finishing. The chances were created, they just weren’t put away, and that’s an area in which we can do better, I think.
Going back to where we stand right now, our league position and so on, I’m with Tomas Rosicky, who says:
If we take our foot off the gas then we will pay for it. This team has something special but on the other side we have to find a way to make it a little bit easier for ourselves and not go behind in every game.
We are there, just one point behind third place, and we have to carry on like that. If we do that we will be there.
Whatever has changed since the cup exits is hard to define, but something definitely has, and it’s down to senior players like Rosicky, van Persie, Arteta etc, to make sure that what has changed doesn’t change back. You can be sure the manager and the coaching staff will be getting that message across on the training ground, but once you cross the white line it’s down to the players.
I think it’s a legitimate question to ask why the team hasn’t played with this attitude and spirit all season. I wish I had the answer, but the important thing now is that we maintain it until the end of the campaign. If we do, and if we play with the same drive and energy that we’ve shown in the last few weeks, then I think we’re more than capable of finishing the top four and possibly even third. But as Rosicky says, if we relax at all we’ll find out how unforgiving this league is, as if we didn’t already know.
Speaking of Rosicky, I haven’t touched on his new contract. The more cynical will say it’s a player being rewarded for just a handful of decent games, but the decision will not have been made on his recent form. He’s a player that Arsene loves (literally) and there was talk of extending his deal long before the last few weeks.
That his new deal has coincided with a run of good form, well, that’s just one of those quirks of timing, and not a bad one either. He says himself that getting a regular run of games has allowed him to build some rhythm, and taking into account his current injury free status it’s all come together nicely for him, and us.
Obviously one swallow does not make a summer, and all that, but having a player of his experience in the squad is important, not to mention the undoubted quality he has when he’s in this kind of form. If he can keep it up I think he can make a very important contribution to our last 10 games, and hopefully many more beyond that too.
In other news, Andre Santos will play for the reserves tonight against West Brom as he looks to get match fit again, while Wellington says Arsenal are watching him in every game he plays and he wants to come back to the club, perhaps via the Olympics.
And that’s about that other than to point you at the Arseblog Shop for some new prints and, of course, the book which is still available.
News as it happens throughout the day on Arseblog News, you can follow on Facebook and Twitter, and if you work in a terrible place where they censor your internet, remember you can get Arseblog slammed into your box every morning by joining the Mailing List.