Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Belief-o-meter

Morning, thanks to Andrew for filling in for me yesterday. Interesting thoughts from inside the ground at the Palace game, and obviously we’ll be hoping for better against Villa tomorrow night. That seems to be the default position with Arsenal right now. Hoping for more, getting little tastes of something more edible, but then back to the gruel.

I said to somebody the other day, ‘I don’t know how we get good’ with this current set-up. As it is, we’re just a mediocre team, capable of some nice moments, with some good characteristics that I think can be built on, but I find it hard to be confident it’s going to get us where we need to go this season. And where we need to go is just the top 6.

If that elicits accusations of letting standards slip, fine, but let’s be realistic. We’ve been 8th for a couple of years, there are better, richer, more developed teams than us competing for the top four, and I think getting back into the Europa League and finishing higher up the table would be progress. Then you look to build on that again.

I realise I’m saying this after 8 games of the season, with Arsenal in 11th place in the Premier League but also just 3 points off the top 6. A win tomorrow night would bring us level (temporarily) with Man United (6th), West Ham and Everton. That’s ball-park where we need to be in the table, but my gut feeling is that the kind of football we play means it’s going to be tough to maintain the pace.

This is another aspect of Arsenal right now which I find quite difficult to contend with. When something good goes down, like beating Sp*rs and playing well, I want to believe in what I’ve seen. I want to believe in the possibility of this team being able to do that more often. I want to believe in the idea that we’ll get the most out of the talent we have in the squad.

Then a game like Crystal Palace happens. On reflection, it was obviously a poor night, but I don’t think my angst about it was 100% down the performance itself. We showed some character to keep going and get that late goal. If we didn’t make it easy for Palace to score due to our own mistakes I don’t think they had a huge amount to offer from an attacking perspective (but then that’s a big IF and one we’ve been dealing with for too long). I don’t certainly don’t think we were played off the park or anything like that, but there were too many familiar things that immediately set alarm bells ringing. Our lack of attacking potency, our inability to keep possession – something which is increasingly becoming a big concern for me.

It’s that when you see a game like that, like so many of the games we’ve played under Mikel Arteta, it resets that belief-o-meter back to zero again. It’s the football equivalent of that Nightmare on Elm Street moment when you’re trying to climb the stairs but your feet keep sinking into the steps. We could be good tomorrow night against Villa, and I really hope we are, but to convince people this is going to be the season we’re looking for, we need to be good against Leicester and then Watford and even demonstrate that we can at least try and be good against Liverpool (I’m taking performance over result here, I’m not unrealistic in that regard).

I think there were positives to take from the wins over Burnley and Norwich, but they came in particular circumstances following that awful start to the season. The bar was set very low. Then came the derby and I loved pretty much everything about that. Brighton and Palace, if you want to say these were games we might have lost in the past, fair enough, but for me they hit the reset button – not least because our major problem, creating and scoring, looks nowhere near being solved.

It was interesting to hear calls for Alexandre Lacazette to come back into the team after his appearance against Palace. I thought he was very good, he changed the dynamic of the game for us, he added some energy and good combination play, and then grabbed the late goal. What more can you ask for from a substitute? It’s just that if we start Lacazette against Villa it probably means Aubameyang from the left again, and that feels like a retrograde step in terms of the the kind of team we envision. We’ve been there, done that, worn the t-shirt, and while it’s still quite a comfortable garment, it’s a bit torn and ragged – not to mention one of the sleeves is going to leave at the end of the season. Are we looking backwards to go forwards again? That doesn’t feel right.

Andrew wondered how long the match-day feel-good factor would last. Hopefully longer, because that means we’ll be doing things right, doing things better, but as I’ve always said, fans aren’t cheerleaders. They will support the team but it’s a two-way street. They know what they see. It all depends on performances, it all depends on results, and once again Mikel Arteta has to start instilling the belief against a team who have caused us problems in recent times. More on that game here tomorrow, and we’ll get the latest from the manager when he meets the press this morning. All the stories from that on Arseblog News throughout the day.

Back tomorrow with an Arsecast, we’ll also have a preview podcast on Patreon at some point today. Until then, take it easy.

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