The Easter fixtures have turned out most eggselently for Arsenal. After our 1-0 win over City on Sunday, Sp*rs lost at home to Norwich and Chelsea dropped a couple of points as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Fulham. Newcastle continue to win and win well and will be putting the shits right up our London rivals in the chase for the top four.
I watched the Sp*rs game and they played like a team who are really feeling the pressure. Norwich were great and should have scored more, as well as being denied two very obvious penalties. Amusing as it was, and it really was, we have to remember we face this Norwich side before the end of the season, but it also gives us a real opportunity to open up a gap on those behind us.
However, it’s also an illustration that games against teams you’re supposed to beat are never as cut and dried as people think. We’ve got to go to Molineux tomorrow night and face a team who despite their terrible league position and awful form are going to fight from the very first whistle. They are literally scrapping for their Premier League life and we have to ensure we don’t fall into the same trap we did at QPR.
It has been a failing of ours in recent seasons to find ourselves up for it and properly motivated for the ‘big’ games yet take our eye off the ball when it comes to the so-called lesser teams. That said, we had a short, sharp reminder of what happens when we do that less than 10 days ago at Loftus Road, so I’m assuming there won’t be any repeat of that, even if we’re likely to carry some heavy legs into the game after Sunday’s performance.
The key, of course, is consistency. Something Thomas Vermaelen touches on, saying:
In some games we have shown a lot of quality and that we can compete with everybody. But you have to be consistent in the league and sometimes that’s not been the case for us. But we will try to do that better next year. I’m confident we can do that.
Even better would be to remain consistent until the end of this season and then we can take stock. In some campaigns it’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong precisely but I don’t think there’ll ever be any doubt as to what happened this season. There was ‘the summer from hell’ meaning it took us time to find a settled team/squad, followed by the unprecedented situation where we had all four full backs out injured for a sustained period.
We muddled through but eventually it caught up with us. The return to form coincided with having proper full backs and proper balance in the team. There’s only so long you can play players out of position and expect them to perform, but even then, defeats to Fulham, Swansea and Man United were precipiated by avoidable, individual errors and not just at full back.
I have some sympathy for the manager over the January situation. There was much clamour for him to go buy a full back to provide cover, but what does he do when the players are all fit again? The loan option sounds good but the big problem is who is available on loan that’s any good? It had got to a stage where people were genuinely talking about Wayne Bridge as a realistic option. I shudder to think. I know desperate times call for desperate measures and all that, but really.
Where we could and should have done better is May – August 2011, that period is what cost us, and I know we’ve been over it countless times so I’m not going to revisit it too much. What’s important is that lessons are learned and it seems to have been the case as we try and tie up Podolski early and you’d hope our other business this summer will be far more efficient than last time around.
Yet for all the criticism of the ‘supermarket sweep’ we got involved in as the transfer window came to a close, I think most of the signings have worked out well for us. Mikel Arteta might have been the latest of them but he’s been brilliant, just what we needed. A player who has curbed his more natural attacking instincts to anchor our midfield so well and chipped in with 6 Premier League goals.
Benayoun might not have played as much as he’d have liked but obviously Arsene has used him well and he’s played a bit part in big results at home to Sp*rs and City, as well as being a hugely positive influence at the training ground, by all accounts. I like Mertesacker, I know some have doubts but even if Vermaelen and Koscielny have cemented a good partnership, I think we all know you can never have too many centre-halves. Andre Santos is a cuddly maverick who is about as much a traditional left back as Gareth Bale isn’t a diving chimp, but he’s added to the squad in a positive way despite missing months through injury.
Only Ju Young Park could really be considered a failure, a relatively cheap gamble by Arsene which didn’t pay off, and with van Persie’s form he was hardly needed anyway, but 4 out of 5 is not bad, considering. Imagine what we might do if we were able to plan properly, remove some of the deadwood completely, and work hard to bring it targets who can join up with the squad properly, settle in before the season starts, and be ready to go from the start of the Premier League season.
Still, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. We’ve got 6 games to go this season, if we win the next couple against teams down the bottom of the table we put ourselves in a very healthy position. As I said though, we can take nothing for granted so let’s try and produce the consistency Vermaelen has spoken about, then see what we need to do when the season ends.
In other news the club have announced another pre-season friendly in the far-east, this time a game against Malaysia on July 24th.
And for those following ‘Tomas Rosicky’ on Twitter, be advised it’s a fake account, and instead you’re following a weirdo who spends their time impersonating an Arsenal player. It’s a short progression from there to serial killer, you know.
Right, that’s yer lot. We’ll have news throughout the day on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow.