A good weekend topped off nicely

arsenal team spirit

So a good weekend for us got even better yesterday. Manchester United were a couple of minutes away from beating Cardiff only to let in a late equaliser and drop 2 points, while in the earlier game Sp*rs were just 89’46 away from holding out against Man City at the Etihad.

6-0, eh? Now that’s what I call value for your £100m outlay. I was listening on the radio as the game came to a close and the commentator said that Sp*rs would have to ‘reassess their title credentials’. I nearly swerved off the road with the laughter. Title credentials? They’ve scored one goal more than bottom place Sunderland. They’re the only team in the top 10 (and they’re just about in the top 10) with a negative goal difference.

‘Title credentials’, heh.

Arsene Wenger has touched on something post-game that has been in my mind for a little while now – a sense of togetherness in the team which is clearly obvious. It’s not to say that we’ve merely been a collection of individuals in the past, but it’s not too difficult to look back and see players whose first priority was themselves, and not the team.

Now, you look at guys like Mertesacker, Sagna, Arteta, Giroud, Cazorla, to mention just a few, and you know that their first thought is what’s best for the team, not individual glory. The boss says:

We knew that we were sometimes in trouble and you felt that they were ready to fight for each other. That is the solidarity level that was needed. It’s very important. We could see a good togetherness to help each other out.

There seems to be a great balance between youth and experience; the hunger and desire of some of the guys to win something is aided by fresher, youthful legs who themselves can be guided by the older players. There’s genuine competition for places in almost every area of the pitch and the benefits of that are obvious. It keeps players sharp and on their toes, but above all there appears to be a collective spirit which sees the players going that extra yard for each other.

If we’ve cut out many of the errors that proved so costly in the past it’s down to concentration and discipline, but the feeling that you don’t want to let down your mates is part and parcel of it too. It’s difficult to quantify the effect of that, it’s very much an intangible, but it’s definitely there this season. You can just feel it. And it’s part of why, at this moment in time, we’re 4 points clear at the top of the table.

It’s why there’s genuine belief that we can, for the first time in 5 years (?), properly challenge for the title. I don’t talk about belief that we can win it (yet), but what I’ve always said I wanted is a team that can go the distance, right through until May, and we’re on course to do that. What a difference it makes looking down instead of up, wondering, plotting, hoping that disaster strikes those above and things go our way to allow us to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla has touched on tomorrow night’s game against Marseille and sounded something of a warning:

There is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points but they are going to make things difficult for us. It may be tough and if we’re not careful we might slip and then we might not be able to get through to the next round.

To me this is another part of the maturity and common sense that runs through this squad. There’s no getting carried away with anything, each game is taken on its own merits, nothing taken for granted. But he’s not just in it to make up the numbers, pointing to the wins in Munich and Dortmund as a sign that Arsenal can mix it with the best in the Europe:

Last year we went out having won 2-0 at Bayern Munich and this means we are a lot more excited this year about the Champions League.

And Dortmund:

They hadn’t lost at home for a long time, they didn’t concede any goals to their rival teams and that means that we’ve done things in a really good way and that we can face great teams.

When you win away from home against teams as good as that it does boost your confidence and belief, as well as make other teams well aware that they’ll be up against when you face them. Marseille have nothing to lose, but they know it’s going to be very, very tough too.

In terms of tomorrow we’ll get some team news later on. I guess there’s a worry about Mikel Arteta seeing as he went off against Southampton at the weekend but that’s something to be confirmed in the pre-game press conference. The return of Mathieu Flamini from suspension will help us cope with his absence if that’s the case, but hopefully he’s not out for any extended period of time because he remains a very important player for us.

News and updates throughout the day over on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow. Until then.

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