Monday, 23 September 2013

Home truths

The word of the day before kick off should have been ‘complacency’. On the back of a Champions League trip to Marseille – albeit a winning one – coming home to face the likes of Stoke screamed points let slip.

This was exactly the sort of game where the Arsenal of the past few seasons would start slowly and go a goal behind, or take an encouraging early lead but then stop playing and let the opponent back into the match, only to spend the remainder of the match chasing a precious goal.

Strangely, in many ways the match lived up to those fears but thankfully a pretty mediocre performance still led to three goals and a win.

Does that mean we have witnessed the dawning of a new Arsenal era?

No, not really.

The only surprise in the line-up was the presence of Serge Gnabry – a late swap for Theo – and aside from three points he offered the biggest positive of the day.

I’ve not seen enough of him to know whether it was an overachievement on his part but he put in a very composed performance and certainly wasn’t phased by making his first league start, or his last-minute inclusion in the starting 11.

He didn’t offer the same down-the-line threat as Theo but conversely he looked far more dangerous cutting inside and the ball stuck to him with greater security. Here’s hoping he gets the chance to live up to an encouraging first taste of the Premier League.

Aside from the German teenager’s display, there was precious little else to get excited about except the fact that we have yet to really hit top gear and still find ourselves top of the league and have our best points total after five games for four years.

Games like this must lead to three points if we are to have serious ambitions of challenging for the league.

Last year we won 11 home matches and didn’t win eight (five losses, three draws) and having already lost to Villa we aren’t left with much wiggle room for the remainder of the campaign.

Only twice since the switch to 38 game seasons in 1995/96 has the title-winning team won less than 14 games so that seems a fair target.

Based on yesterday and the other matches so far this season I am unconvinced we will achieve that kind of number.

The fact we didn't succumb to complacency yesterday and that we managed to win without playing well are of course good signs.

But before anyone gets too carried away reciting all the WWWs, DDDs and just one L since March, let me suggest there hasn’t been enough of a restructure to address the defensive faults of previous years - we are simply playing a fraction better as a team and benefitting from some exceptional individual contributions (eg Ramsey).

The hope that the presence and influence of Özil might raise the level of a few players may come to fruition.

Even then, though, my fear is we’ll remain vulnerable to the flaws that have prevented us from turning Ashburton Grove into the kind of fortress a championship-winning side can rely on.

Stoke didn't create many clear chances yesterday but we still have an air of vulnerability that, for example, leaves us serially open to counter attacks from our corners or too often waving legs at balls at the hope of making a tackle rather than being in the right position at the right time.

We have had a good start but there is plenty of work to be done. This team is still under development..

Anyway, before people start shouting at me for managing to sound fairly downbeat after a 3-1 win against Stoke, let me end on a positive.

If anyone with red and white in their veins has not yet read this article, an excerpt from Dennis Bergkamp’s autobiography, then I implore you to do it.

It will give you a warm feeling that the current team also appears to have more players that worship football than use it for their ego (Stephen Ireland, anyone?), but also reminisce about what a genius Dennis was and how privileged we were to see him and the rest of the Invincibles play for the Arsenal.

And it will probably also make you log on to Amazon to pre-order the book.


  1. take your negative drivel and stick it up your arsenal. based on us winning matches where we are not at our best you have come to the conclusion that we wont reach 14 home wins. your understanding of the game is unquestionable.

  2. You great post .. no hype, no peppering over the cracks .. Just the reality of arsenal at the moment.

    How well we do this season could depend a lot on luck, especially how we fare between now and January when a new opportunity to bolster the attack and or defense arises. Plus, how well could the raw alternatives (Sanogo & Bendtner) fare if and when called upon to serve as main striker focus ..

  3. That's the reality but we need to stick to our beloved team whatever happen.


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