Imagine if there was no such thing as coffee and first thing in the morning we all drank some other kind of hot beverage. Like nettles boiled in puddle water or something. But if there was no such thing as coffee, we couldn’t, wouldn’t, miss it. Unless coffee was banned by some wicked despot who ruled the world. That would be bad.
Anyway, leaving aside my terror of no coffee in the morning, there’s one thing to be said for this time of the season, and that’s the fact there’s plenty of football. It means that disappointing results like the one against Norwich don’t hang around too long and we’ve got a chance to make things better sooner rather than later.
Two home games in a week – Schalke tomorrow night and QPR on Saturday – provide the perfect chance to remedy to what was a dismal day at Carrow Road. But as dismal as it was, and there’s no arguing against that, it wasn’t really representative of this season so far. Even the defeat to Chelsea wasn’t borne out of a truly awful performance. Individual mistakes cost us that day and I remember Petr Cech and his silly hat making some outstanding saves to keep his team in it (there’s that whole goalkeeping thing again that I won’t mention … *cough*). Unlike at Norwich we created chances to equalise having gone behind.
In the two 0-0s (Sunderland and Stoke), we also had chances, and since then we’ve beaten Liverpool away, stuck 6 past Southampton, won away in Europe and forced our way, deservedly, back into the game against the champions at their ground. I know it’s the familiarity of this kind of defeat that stretches back to seasons past – and there’s no question our ability to lose to teams like Norwich is an Achilles heel and something we need to sort out – but it seems a shame that so much of the positivity generated this season has been forgotten.
Every team has days when it just doesn’t happen. We had one last weekend, there really was nothing positive at all to take from it, but come 5pm on Saturday if we’ve won both the games this week, regardless of how we’ve done it, things will feel a lot better. And as capable as we are of stumbling like we did against Norwich we’re just as capable of going on a run of games where we rack up wins.
November looks a full-on month with away trips to Manchester United, Everton and Aston Villa. Sp*rs and Fulham come to our place and there are a couple of Champions League fixtures in there too. The rest of October gives us a chance to build some momentum ahead of those fixtures, and we have three games a team which has the ambition to ‘do something’ this season, like we keep hearing, ought to win. For me this squad is more mature and more experienced than any we’ve had in recent seasons, and although I think we’re light in the striking department, there’s enough talent to pick ourselves up and get going again.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong all played as Arsenal U21s met Everton yesterday and ran out 2-1 winners thanks to two goals from the interesting German youngster Thomas Eisfeld. He’s not a player I’ve seen too much of, but the glimpses we got in pre-season showed he’s got something about his game. The timing of his runs, his positioning etc, means he’s always in and around goal (Ljungbergesque almost), and I’m sure we’ll see him get a game in the Capital One Cup against Reading next week.
The key issue though, is that Wilshere and Sagna have both played another 90 minutes and while tomorrow night might just be too soon for them to start, they must both be in contention for Saturday. We’ve been down the Jenkinson/Sagna road before and I think the Frenchman will come back into the side, while the simple fact is that Jack Wilshere is a prodigious talent, one of the best young midfielders in the world and, as such, needs the chance to cement his place in this Arsenal team.
When Cesc Fabregas left he said something along the lines of, ‘Don’t worry, you have Jack Wilshere’. Some might write it off as a platitude from a departing player but that’s to downplay the potential and ability of the young Englishman. After so long out of the game he’ll be itching to make up for lost time, and although I think we have to expect a certain period where he’ll need to find his touch and match sharpness, it’s impossible to look at the future of this club and not see Wilshere as a mainstay in the team.
If and when he finds his form he’s as much a first choice as anyone else. He offers a dynamism and energy that no other player at the club really does. That he can couple that with great ability, the love of a tackle, more than a measure of creativity and an eye for goal (he scored bucket-loads at more junior levels, much like Cesc who took some seasons to re-produce that at a senior one), is what sets him apart from the others.
That’s not to build him up or to expect too much too soon, but the sooner we get Jack Wilshere fully fit and re-integrated into this team the better we’ll be. He might find it tough going, or he might take to first team football again like a duck to water, but his return, his long-awaited, sticking out tongue return, could well provide the kind of boost the team needs at a time when the fixtures are going to provide a real challenge to the squad.
A full preview of the Schalke game tomorrow, news throughout the day on Arseblog News.