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So Far, So Good. But why?

So Far, So Good.

Ian Jenkinson.

After the disappointment of losing the opening game at home to Anthony Taylor Aston Villa, Arsenal have won every match since. That is quite impressive.

Amongst those victories there were two tricky European away ties against Fenerbache and Marseille, as well as an away win in a London derby against Fulham and a home win in the North London derby against Tottenham. So post Villa, we have played 8 and won 8 in all competitions. Not too shabby.

To briefly go back to that Villa game, the fact that Arsenal have won every game since and up to the mid week league cup match just gone, and Villa had lost every game since is a testament that something rather strange happened at the Emirates on the opening day of the league season.

And I would add, anybody who can’t see that the referee had at least a small part to play in the final result must really take a closer look at the circumstances. But enough has been spoken of that game.

So, our start has been great, and to compare it with last season’s start things are certainly on the up. We didn’t have any Champions League qualifiers last season but our league results for the first 5 games last season comprised of 2 wins and 3 draws. So last season after 5 games we had accumulated 9 points, which is 3 less than the 12 we have so far this season. Our sixth league game last season was a 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea. We also, rather coincidentally started our Champions League campaign with a 2-1 away win in France, that time against Montpellier.

So if we win our next league game we could be 6 points better off than last season after only 6 games. That is a big if, our next game is away to Swansea City who after a slow start have picked up some momentum and will be no pushovers (despite their fairly awful display against Birmingham last night).

Although Arsenal have won their last 11 away games, it’ll be an interesting and tough game either way. Hell, even if we lose that game we are still three points better off than last season.

A little stat also shows that we have played 2 teams in the first 5 games of both last season and this season. They are Sunderland and Stoke, last season we had two 0-0 draws in those games, this season we have had two 3-1 wins. Although this season the fixtures were in reverse, it is Interesting nonetheless and I have some thoughts on why I think the start has been different this time around, more on that a bit later.

Last season Arsenal finished 4th, this was due to a fantastic run in their last 17 games. In fact, Arsenal were top of the league for those last 17 games. That is just two games short of half of an entire season. The table for those last 17 games and the first 21 games are as follows:

Last 17 Games

First 21 Games

Team

Points

It is not difficult to see where Arsenal’s problems were last season. On the left for almost the entire second half of the season we had title winning form but on the right we were well off the pace in the opening half of the season.

Team

Points

Arsenal

39

 

 

Man Utd

52

Man Utd

37

 

 

Man City

45

Chelsea

34

 

 

Chelsea

41

Man City

33

 

 

Spurs

39

Spurs

33

Arsenal

34

Liverpool

30

Liverpool

31

We all said that if we had started last season a bit better we would have been a lot closer to the top of the table. Never a truer word said but it looks as though this season we have done just that. I know there are only 5 games gone and I am not for one second suggesting that all of a sudden we will thrash all before us and become Champions in May. Not in the slightest, all I am pointing out is that we have so far gotten the start that we wanted. It is the first step in any potential Championship winning team – a good start. We need to keep up that form for the next 5 games and reassess.

Arsenal were 5th after 5 games last season and sit top after 5 games this season. Obviously we are going in the right direction. But why? What has been so different this season?

Well one big obvious reason is that we have a very settled squad that lost no major players during the summer. Last season we started the season with two 0-0 draws and the vultures were out because we had sold our solid gold goal machine Robin Van Persie to Man Utd. We were finished. Forget about top 4 etc etc etc.

We also sold Alex Song to Barcelona. I was actually quite worried about this at the time as I felt Song had a fantastic season with us. We were falling apart according to the press, we had lost all our best players over the last three seasons. None of the hacks really mentioned the quality we had brought into the club, Podolski, Giroud and the signing of last summer – Santi Cazorla – nd then Monreal in January. But they couldn’t be quality as they didn’t cost £30 million each.

And nobody mentioned the most important thing, the maturing and improvement of the remaining players at the club. The likes of Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, The Ox, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Gibbs and Szczesny. They were all becoming men. “I believe in you,” is what Wenger was telling them all along, even through the hard times, they just needed to start believing in themselves. After years of development they were finally realising that they are all a serious talent. This revelation amongst that group of players has gone relatively unnoticed outside of certain Arsenal circles and I feel has been hugely underestimated elsewhere. It is now a big force within the club.

Add to that young energy source the mature players like Arteta, Mertesacker, Sagna, Podolski, and Rosicky playing as well as they are, guiding the young players and you will find that Arsenal have a squad with an enormously exciting mix of youth and experience in all areas of the pitch. And Wenger has them all singing from the same hymn sheet. It is just fantastic to see.

Another reason for Arsenal’s great start has been two of our new signings. Flamini, who so many people were really unhappy with when the news hit that he had signed has been fantastic. He has played in every game since he has been here. He got man of the match at the weekend and has provided some steel to the midfield. He and Arteta will rotate that role depending on the opposition. I was delighted when it was announced that we had signed Mathieu. Well played Arsene, well played indeed.

And then, out of nowhere and on the back of a cheeky Wenger smile we made the signing of the summer (for the second season in a row). Mesut Özil is the cherry on an already beautiful cake.  Can you imagine the lift this gave the players? Gibbs spoke of himself jumping for joy at the announcement. Podolski and Per couldn’t stop grinning like Cheshire cats on Twitter. Arsenal fans all over the world nearly melted! And this was before he had kicked a ball!

The second half of last season had been enough for the existing squad to start believing but the arrival of Özil would have been a massive shot to the arm. And from the first second he had arrived he spoke about winning things. How wonderful was that? What a great mentality to bring to a squad bursting at the seams with talent and ambition. And Özil has been immense on the pitch, he has 4 assists already and has created lots of chances in all the games he has played. He is a game changer, not just for individual games but for Arsenal as a whole.

The squad has a new confidence and belief and it is contagious. Again, I am not getting ahead of myself; I am not saying we are world beaters but something is brewing at Arsenal and I like it.

Before the season started, when it was clear that we weren’t selling any of our major players all I wanted was for Arsenal to close the gap to the top of the table. And that is still my hope.

Arsenal finished 16 points off the top last season. If we closed that gap to 6 or 7 points I would consider that to be a good season. I would then expect us to build on that and seriously challenge for the league title over the next number of years. Our league position will fluctuate this season no doubt. I hope we are there or thereabouts come May.

I know a lot of people think that we can win it this season, and they are right. We can, we have the ability. If we get a handle on our injuries you never know, especially with all that is happening with the other clubs but i for one think that it is very much a step by step process, get closer to the top, attract one or two more of the right players and then go for it and hopefully nick a cup or two in the process. We are back as a force.

I feel good, but with Arsene in charge, I knew that I would………

@Gooneriano

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25 comments to So Far, So Good. But why?

  • Digvijay

    Nice article to read. And totally agree on the step by step part(towards the end).
    “So far, so good, but Why?” Why indeed.
    I have a feeling apart from all the reasons you mentioned, there is another factor.
    We have not played any of the top teams yet. We did have the tricky fixtures like Sunderland, Fulham, Stoke, Tottenham.
    But games against Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, will have huge parts to play, not only for results in those games, but also on the confidence level. We have to get those games under our bag, to turn this excellent form into unbeatable form. That will make the players see(and also us) that if Arsenal are ready for the title or not. And if we play like we have – with so much passion(tottenham?) we are in it to win it!

  • crispen

    Great article.. We did look forward to this for the last few years despite all the noise from the ignorant journos. We are not too far from pure Wegerball…. JOY!!

  • notaspursfan

    Good read.
    Have we got our Arsenal back…..

  • Jim

    Villa won against Norwich….

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Digvijay, The newly minted pundit an ex-Liverpool, Janes Carrager said it and you too just said it, “we have nit played any of the top teams yet” and, so goes the logic, we cannot rate our chances as title contenders. You even went one better by discounting the fact that we’ve played and beaten Tottenaham at our home already. Tottenham that came 5th last season and that spent in excess of $100million on new players to mount a serious challenge for the top 4 position.

    However, I think this logic is either self-serving or exceedingly conservative. If the top clubs are limited to the top 4, then, in each half of the season, what is at stake in playing them are 12points. It is prestigious, gains bragging rights and boosts confidence to gain more than 6points in each half of the season from playing the top clubs but it is more important to be consistent across board as points gained or lost with one team is no different from points gained or lost with another team.
    To this end, it is far more important to maintain our strong away games performance and to work harder at making the Ems and intimidating place to visit and to aim to gain any points for all visiting clubs than to be over concerned with how we rate playing other so called top clubs.
    Incidentally, focusing on our overall performance away and at home is the best way to ensure that our performance against the top clubs will measure up. Whereas, the reverse is not the case: we can do well against the top clubs and still end up with a miserable league position at the end of the season.
    Incidentally too, no matter what Liverpool’s position was last season, James. Carrager with still consider them as one of the top clubs we need to perform well against before he can rate our potential to win the league. And even if we do well against the top clubs the pundits can still choose the find sundry excuses to rate other clubs ahead of us.
    The league is a marathon; we are better off just racking up the points as the games come and keeping our heads down and focused on the next game – as we seem to be doing so well just now.

  • Robbie Rotten

    Good read. I think one of the reasons we fared badly against the top clubs last year is that they had no fear of us, and the team did not have the belief that they could do it either.

    Call it playing with the handbrake on or whatever, but this season I am sure will see some of the other teams start to have a bit more fear when they play us.

    Our away form is unbelievable at the moment! Bring that home and we are nailed on league winners 😉

  • blacksheep63

    this season everyone will beat everyone. Chelsea went to OT played with no strikers and ground out a draw. MU went to Liverpool and lost. Citeh (without Kompany) lost at Cardiff. We lost at home to Villa but beat Sp*rs. Chelsea lost to Everton. Its a very open championship and i doubt we will really see what’s happening until after xmas.

    I like this Arsenal team but I am excited to see what we are like when we have a full squad and when AW signs 2 or 3 key players in January.

  • Mahdain

    Its not that im getting ahead of myself but i have a feeling we are going to be champions come May if and only if we get fair refereeing in our matches. We have a squad which is capable of beating anybody in any given day of the week. Ofcourse we also need to cut out individual errors that also cost us a lot. There is every reason to believe this season and im loving it.

  • bc

    Its good to be a gooner again and I am loving it. There is an air of confidence seeping back in amongst the fans but most noticeably in the players whilst the twinkle is back in the managers eye. He knows that something should happen this season that’s why the conyract talks are on the back burner. What better position for him to be in a title winner needing a new contract.

    I just hope that come november most of the injured will be back then the fight for the starting x1 places will really heat up. In particular the return of the 4 players that usually compete for the wide slots walcott chamberlain cazorla and podolski. I am one of the few that is happy to wenger involving bendtner and park once again their experience may be very useful before the window reopens. When you actually look at the squad in terms of numbers it is actually quite full. 29 players plus the likes of akpom bellerin hayden eisfeld olsson. Once those injured are back we could field an under 21 team that could win this capital1cup

    Martinez
    Jenkinson hayden ajayi ormonde-ottewill
    Wilshire frimpong
    Gnabry chamberlain ryo
    Sanogo

    Iliev boateng bellerin olsson eisfeld afobe akpom

    Whilst still having 22 players classed as over 21.

    If that isn’t depth I don’t know what is

  • colario

    I don’t understand the phrase ‘its good to be a gooner again’.

    It is always good to be a Gooner. When we go through a trophy drought it is still good to be a Gooner. These past 8 years have brought a trophy the size of which no one but no one could have imagined I refer of course to the Ems.

    I note along with thousands of other Gooners the games we have lost through “strange decisions from ‘top refs'” I note that we have never been lower than fourth despite the financing of the Ems. I take pride in the football we play.
    Of course silverware is important and every year I hope some will come our way.

    Trophy or no trophy I am proud to be a Gooner. I say of myself: Je suis un Gooner! Merci Arsene.

  • tee

    Nice article the main issue is stability,I went through the recoerds for the past four seasons wew have started the league really awful because we sell.different this year.winning is an habit which we have now learnt we may still lose but we will be hungry to make things right the next game .all we need do is make a statement by signing a world class striker(suarez)or benteke even lukaku by january and the league is ours

  • Gaurav

    Titles and titles and titles. I am tired. The press really need something to make us read what they have to say. and man we follow the bread crumbs they lay out for us.

    Let us not talk about titles. I ask what do you (I do not think any arsenal player reads UNTOLD, they should 😉 but i ask the fans right now) get when arsenal win a title? Bragging rights? over other clubs’ fans, whats the point in that? Joy/Satisfaction maybe. I bet if we really ask ourselves, the answer most of us will give is we cant explain it.

    Then why belittle such a purity in emotion with titles and honors? We went through a entire season w/o losing and who gives a damn about that now. In tough times who thinks the manager that achieved such things pull things straight. Apparently winning till 2005 isn’t enough in 2013? i think it started in 2009, them saying Arsenal w/o a trophy since blah blah…

    Guys lets not follow the bread crumbs. I hope we all find something more in Arsenal than titles.

  • Gaurav,

    Thank you. That is what this Gooner has been saying for ages. I don’t have any of Arsenal’s titles/trophies on my CV so I cannot be abusing those who would actually have it on their records for not wanting it enough or not trying enough or lacking ambition and other trophy junkies’ nonsense.

    You are wrong about Untold readership though. The monthly number of visitors to the sight is remarkable. Most regulars here support Arsenal for the club’s values; not just silverwares. And that is how it should be.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Really enjoyed reading this. Noticed amongst other things the issue of selling song, something that riled me and others on here at the time and for a while afterwards! Loved your last sentence, with arsene in charge!
    Wenger is under many pressures and suffers many false perceptions. Team Cannot defend set pieces, cannot defend, will not spend, no tactics. This season, he has blown so much out of the water. He has just needed the right players and time to develop, without losing them all as they peak. The critics wanted Chris samba, we got kos per and tv. The critics wanted Scott Parker a couple years ago , Fellaini this year, no need to mention our MF….and Ozil. Wenger sees the whole of the moon. He knows who is coming through and their potential and is not thrown by the medias next big thing. What he has patiently put in place is coming good. You are right to mention it will be in steps, we are maybe not there yet…players fit for what this team is being made into do not grow on trees.
    Loved the link Mahdain, again, taking it at face value, blows a lot of perceptions out of the water. I have had huge reservations about stan and posted accordingly, mainly to do with asset stripping, making a fast buck and selling to whoever and a lack of ambition. The way stan sets things out here makes me feel a lot better about him, maybe he is worthy to own a wenger managed club afterall.

  • Unbelievable belief

    Thank God for GTA5 coming out this week!
    The grownups have the place to ourselves for a while, and the comments are far better.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Step by step, starting with Swansea on Saturday!

  • Gf60

    I don’t want to pour cold water on our hopes (and can’t wait for our walking wounded to return) but we beat every side we’ve played in the corresponding fixture last year. This year, thanks to A. Taylor, sorry, Villa, we have 12 points from 15 as opposed to 15 and a goal difference of 5 versus last season’s 7.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Why ?
    Because Arsene Knows Best .
    Because the owner and the board stayed true to Arsene’s plan for Arsenal.
    Because of those supporters who stayed firm despite the abuse and vitriol from all and sundry.
    Because patience is a virtue and all good things come to those who wait .
    Because many kept their cool under intense provocation and even had their sanity questiond.
    Because most of us didn’t care an iota for the opinions of
    hacks , pundits ,ex-players , ‘experts’ , bloggers ,the AAAA , AST ,BSM and their ilk .
    Because for many of us , doing the right thing ; playing the game in its true spirit ; not being concered for worthless trophies and enjoying the beautiful game ,is more paramount than a fleeting moment of success /or of reflected fame/ of bragging rights at the office or pub and some mis-imagined grandiose sense of entitlement .

    WHY ? BECAUSE WE ARE THE ARSENAL !

  • Pete

    Really impressed by Kroenke’s interview. Other than reservations about his “taking money out of clubs” viewpoint – not that it seems that is likely to happen significantly at Arsenal near term – I found it hard to disagree with anything.

  • Stuart

    @ Unbelievable Belief,

    Fair point about GTA5. It’s also worth pointing out school holidays are over in the UK.

  • Unbelievable belief,

    I am not too sure that the usual suspects can’t take time of playing video games to post their bile; and Stuart, they can always post after school. I know I usually post after work and I was only very active on Untold during the long holidays. The main reason for their absence is the club’s back to back to back to back…….. wins 🙂

  • Tasos

    Nice read.

    No doubt about it Arsenal are on the up. There’s a positivity about the place and that can only be a good thing.

    However, I fear another Anthony Taylor type display is just around the corner should Arsenal become a real threat in this season’s Premier League.

    Arsenal FC’s potential remains huge. If this team were to win the Premier League the snowball effect would catapult the club forwards.

    I am both optimistic (about this team) but pessimistic (about the EPL and its restrictors).

  • ARSENAL 13

    Hmmnn….Whatever they are “smoking” at the Ems, It seems to be working.

    Us wins all the competitions we enter. So do I hope. But do I car If we dont??….Not at all.

    Me the Gooner for ever.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    Thank you all for the comments. I am only getting to reply to them now. It is certainly exciting at the moment.

    @ Digvijay

    Last season in our first 5 games the only two teams of note we played were Liverpool away (Win) and Man City away (Draw). You could use the Spurs game this season to cancel out the Liverpool game from last season and the only big team we played was Man City. For me it is very important how you do against the smaller teams. And we have turned two draws last season into two wins this season (Sunderland and Stoke).

    Didn’t Man Utd a few seasons back only drop 2 points against teams from 6th place and down? It was that which won them the league, they had a modest record against the top 5 teams. It is important to accumulate points against the smaller teams, what you pick up against the top teams is important but not detrimental to your hopes if you don’t win them all.

    @ Robbie Rotten

    You are right, Arsenal had lost a bit of their fear factor in recent seasons, i think that may be back now.

    @ blacksheep

    Yep, this season will be very open, points will be dropped by everyone.

    @ Gaurav and Bootoome

    Absolutely, although trophies are essentially every teams goal they are not essential for fans to enjoy themselves. And i for one am very proud either way. They are blooming nice though!!

    @ Mandy

    Thank you, and you are 100% right on the players that people shouted for Wenger to sign. Look at them now. Arsene knows….

    Thanks again everyone for commenting, i enjoyed reading through them…..