Saturday, 27 October 2012

What a difference a week makes...

Let me begin by quoting from my last post, exactly seven days ago: "There is a good vibe around the side at the moment". It didn't take long for that to change, did it? Two dire performances on the pitch and another antsy AGM later and the mood is very different.

Did we misread the positive displays in the early part of the season, when the team appeared to have learned the mysterious concept of 'organisation'? I don't think we did, it's just that whatever good habits they had picked up were lost over the international break. We have suffered injuries, Diaby's absence being felt most acutely, but that doesn't explain the sudden loss of shape and cohesion.

I can't see a reason why, given time on the training ground, they can't re-learn those good habits but what makes things harder is the atmosphere off the pitch, among supporters. The familiar frustration endured at some point every season (but usually around spring when false hopes have truly been dashed) has come to the boil in double-quick time this year. It sets everyone in the club on edge and doubtless makes it harder for players to perform on the pitch. I don't blame us for our response - it just makes it harder for squad members who are suddenly struggling with form to improve.

The lack of any kind of vision from Stan Kroenke about what he wants to achieve - either outlined at the AGM or elsewhere - fuels the concerns. What he perceives as a hands-off approach, we end up seeing as disinterest. The ethos and attitude of the club needs to flow from the top down - perhaps Kroenke has shared his ambitions within the club behind closed doors but I doubt it. Either way, if supporters aren't given even a morsel of information worth hearing, it only feeds the 'in it for the money' conspiracy theories.

Anyway, our most immediate problems are on the pitch. Everyone, including Wenger, highlighted our terrible start to last season and what a 'miracle' it was to recover from it. Well, if we take just a point against QPR today we'll be in exactly the same position after nine games, with a trip to Man U next up.

No matter how much more encouraging the start to this season has been compared to last, it will be another daunting task to recover and gain the fabled fourth spot. Europe's fifth richest club shouldn't continue to suffer the same problems and cause the same frustrations for supporters season after season.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Back in action

The return of domestic football seems a good time to dust off the keyboard and get back to blogging.

Since my last post we've seen downs and ups and performances of vary degrees of quality but overall the trajectory of the team has continued to be upward. The lowest point was the performance against Chelsea. We still had good chances to get an equaliser but there was a clear lack of belief among the Arsenal that they were good enough to beat the league leaders.

The high point was the Man City game. Not only did we outplay the champions for a good proportion of the match but I watched it in the company of the Bay Area Gooners in a San Francisco pub, my first 8am kick off. They got behind the boys from first minute to last and the atmosphere after Koscielny's goal was better than the Emirates. Fair play to them.

There is a good vibe around the side at the moment. It is amazing what a few wins will do to confidence but more than that the players seem more up for the fight this season.

Is it the Bouldy effect or just being able to call on better quality players like Podolski and Cazorla? Most likely a combination of the two, plus the clear improvement of players now in the second season like Gervinho, Jenkinson and the BFG.

But they say you should only start to judge a season after 10 games and that will feel about right for this Arsenal. As encouraging as things have been, we still sit seventh, seven points off Chelsea who admittedly have probably over-achieved in accruing 19 points.

The next three league games - Norwich away, QPR home and Man U away - are all winnable. Seven points or nine, giving us 19 or 21 after 10, would be a great foundation to build from; continue the form and we'd have 72 to 79 points come May 19. We'd probably need more to win the league which means we'd need to get better still to challenge. It looks a tall order given the size of the squad but let's give ourselves a chance - let's beat Norwich.