March 27, 2012
Three goals, three points, a three point lead and third. Three really is a magic number at the moment. Obviously in the longer term we want the number one to be the magic number, but it’s hard to complain about it being 3. We haven’t just claimed third, we’re now beginning to cement it and move clear of others. Complacency isn’t setting in and we’re playing fantastic football. It feels great to be a Gooner again.
There is still a long way to go in the season as we’ve got to face Manchester City and Chelsea at the Emirates, and travel to Stoke, but we’re in such good form, that even some of my pessimism is being quashed. We have a real chance to beating those sides because the aura about this Arsenal team is constantly growing.
It has to be said that Aston Villa weren’t overly challenging opponents. I’m not sure what Alex McLeish is doing to that team at the moment, but they’re struggling and playing some poor football. However we didn’t allow them the chance to get in the game. When they came to the Emirates in the FA Cup earlier in the season, we were a bit tentative going forward and allowed them to get a foothold in the game, which subsequently turned into a 2-0 lead. Even though we came back and won that match, Arsenal look like a different team to the one we were watching two months ago.
March 23, 2012
I think I’m going to give up trying to predict anything this season. The Premier League, as proved by most British clubs failing in Europe, isn’t quite at the level it was in terms of quality, but the excitement, tension and unpredictable results produced have more than made up for it. It isn’t just in one-off games either. I’d never have predicted that Arsenal would be in the top three at any point in this campaign considering our start to the season, and our start to 2012.
Now we’re actually there, we can’t assume that the job is done. As much as Spurs’ demise is hilarious, they’re still only a point behind us and have some winnable fixtures left. However confidence and momentum can be powerful things in sport. To make a change to recent seasons, we’re heading into the run-in with some confidence and momentum flowing through the team, while others around us continue to fail. Given the previous fragility of Arsenal, I can’t bring myself to be overly confident that we’ll hold onto third, but now it’s hard not to be positive about the way we’re playing.
The Everton game was slightly different to our recent wins, mainly because we didn’t have to go behind to click into gear, and because we allowed Wojciech Szczesny to have a quiet match. After Spurs lost at Goodison Park, I was really concerned that the hosts would be pumped up for the match and that we’d suffer up north again. Instead, we dominated the match in the early stages and looked capable of cutting Everton open every time we attacked.
March 14, 2012
Ever since the first few weeks of the season, it feels like we’ve been trying to build a comeback. It seemed to be going well, before we took some more hits in December, and then had the epic failure of Milan away in the Champions League, and Sunderland in the FA Cup. A comeback towards the league title was never realistic, and for a long time, the same could be said about the top three. However somehow we now find ourselves on the verge of completing a near miraculous turn around.
In the last few weeks, this comeback has been instigated by comebacks. Obviously we’d all prefer for Arsenal to not be a goal down in games, but it seems that isn’t a problem for the squad at the moment. Questions can legitimately be asked as to why we keep falling behind in games, but after five Premier League wins in a row, that shouldn’t be the focus. The focus should be on how this team keep surprising us and producing magic moments.
Fans’ expectations of the team and the players as individuals have undoubtedly been lowered this season, although the expectations of the club as a whole have remained high. Due to this, every time we do come from behind, I’m surprised and elated in equal measure. By now though, I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re the first team to go a goal behind in four Premier League matches in a row, and still win them. Amidst the strangest of seasons that we’re experiencing, that is superb.
March 7, 2012
Ultimately, having pride doesn't bring you trophies. The fact of the matter is that despite playing superbly against AC Milan at home, we're still out of the Champions League. Whenever a game has gone badly, I'm keen to look at the bigger picture. It should also be considered when we've played well.
The bigger picture is that it is now definite that we won't win a trophy this year, and that we're still struggling for consistency at the highest level. We have so many regrets from the tie with AC Milan, mainly for the non-performance of the majority of the team in the San Siro. However as an individual match, the home leg at the Emirates showed the fans and the team, that Arsenal do belong at Europe's top table. Not many teams will beat AC Milan 3-0 this season.
Now isn't the time in the season for negativity. The fans know, the players know and the whole club knows that the performances in Milan and Sunderland in the cup were abysmal. On a long term basis, those poor performances in key cup games need to be addressed. In the short term, performances have definitely been addressed and sorted out. If after those games, someone said to me that we'll beat Tottenham, Liverpool and Milan, score 10 goals and concede three, I'd have dismissed them as crazy.
March 5, 2012
Anfield has been the venue for many great Liverpool v Arsenal moments. From our point of view, Michael Thomas and Robert Pires immediately spring to mind. Usually our best results on Merseyside have been the unexpected ones. Despite the demolition on derby day last weekend, I wasn’t expecting too much from Liverpool game. After our performance early on in the match, the expectation was lowered further.
However whilst we know that in certain areas this Arsenal side are significantly down in quality, there are some big characters that can drag the others through games. Robin van Persie has grown into the captaincy this season, and has improved his own individual performances when wearing the armband. Wojciech Szczesny is 21 years old, but is never short on confidence. If you’re going to be that confident, you have to back it up with performances, and Szczesny’s showing on Saturday was sensational.
There was a distinct hangover from the midweek international break throughout the team, and following the epic victory over Spurs, it was clear the players were struggling to find the same level of intensity that was so prominent at the Emirates a week earlier. In the first half, we were out played. Liverpool were quicker to the ball and fed off the Anfield crowd. To repel the sort of onslaught we faced, you need a bit of luck and a world class goalkeeper. For the majority of the time, we had both.