Arsenal shouldn’t fear a blip + Arsecast 288

Good morning folks. Another Friday rolls around and we get set to face West Brom in the Premier League this weekend.

While the manager has yet to face the press we do have some bits of team news. Bacary Sagna is facing a test on a hamstring problem, with Carl Jenkinson waiting in the wings if required. And although he spoke last week about wanting to play against West Brom, there’ll be no return for Santi Cazorla this weekend.

I suspect this is a game he might have been able to play if really necessary but with an Interlull on the horizon, if we played him then he’s got to go away with Spain and I don’t think that’s something the manager wants. I have no idea where Spain are playing, it’s probably away to some team who exist at the very centre of the earth, requiring three days of travel and boring in a specially adapted machine, so it’s probably for the best that we ensure he doesn’t have to go through that.

Other than that I think we’re looking at everyone who was available against Napoli being fit and ready for the weekend. No doubt the manager will expand on that as he meets the press later on this morning.

It’s typical of the way football is reported on that there’s talk of Arsenal winning the title. Certainly being top and not playing catch-up puts us in a much healthier position from which to launch a challenge, but it’s still so early in the campaign and so much can happen.

As Tim Stillman points out in his latest column, guarding against complacency is something the manager is going to have to contend with, but I think the maturity of this team is such that it’s not going to be as much of an issue as it was in times past.

If you look at the team that played against Napoli, only four were under 25 years of age and one of them, Mesut Ozil, turns that age in a few days. Not to mention he’s had years of experience playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Over-confidence, complacency etc, tends to happen when the average age is a bit lower, plus many of these guys are fired up with the desire to win something at this club.

They know how long it’s been. Some have suffered the failure of missed title campaigns (think Flamini and Sagna), and cup finals which didn’t go to plan. I think there’s a motivation in this group of players that fuels the attitude and the commitment which has played such a part over the last couple of months.

Arteta talks of the benefit of competition:

If you don’t play well for one or two games, then you can be dropped. We have players to come back like Santi and Abou Diaby and that’s the way we want it. When it is really tough, everyone is at 100 per cent and that makes a big difference.

Clearly he’s just referring to midfield, but when you consider that we still have to welcome back Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Sanogo, the squad starts to look a lot less stretched. And the man we spoke about yesterday, Mathieu Flamini, says:

I think everyone knew Arsenal have a lot of qualities, but this year we are showing we have the fighting spirit, everyone is helping each other and it makes the difference because of course in a season you have some good periods and some difficult periods.

And it’s the difficult periods that will tell us how close to being contenders we are. It’s not unusual for us to go great guns but when we get knocked out of our stride it takes just a bit too long to get going again. How we react to the next setback will be both crucial and extremely interesting.

I have to say I think the way we responded to the Villa game augurs well for future difficulties. I don’t think there’s been such a visceral reaction to a defeat in a long, long time. Not even the Carling Cup final disaster provoked such a response, and it would have been normal if the kind of pressure heaped on after the opening day of the season affected the team in a negative way.

Instead, we’ve gone out and won 10 games in a row. I’m counting the Capital One Cup game as a win because, basically, we won. On penalties. If we’d cocked up the penalty shoot-out would it be considered anything other than a loss? It astounds me people try and say we didn’t win that night. Not the game, but the tie. I don’t get it.

But that’s what we did last time things went a bit south. Now we have a team that’s confident, assured in each others qualities and capable of playing excellent football, so I don’t think it’s something we should fear. Obviously it’d be better if we didn’t have to deal with it but at some point we will. And I think we’ll deal with it well. One bad game should not open up all the old wounds, either for the team or the fans.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by David Winner, the author of the Dennis Bergkamp book ‘Stillness and Speed’. We talk about the process of writing a book like this, avoiding the pitfalls of the typical footballer biog, Dennis as a subject to work with and lots more.  There’s also the usual waffle and something of a travelogue from Arshavin.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 24mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

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And that’s about that. We’ll have team news and anything other bits from the press conference over on Arseblog News, back here tomorrow.

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