By Bulldog Drummond
As I suspect everyone has worked out, we’ll be top if we win, although quite possibly only for a day. But even so it’s not a bad feeling. Indeed looking at the table built just from the last six league games we are indeed top:
Arsène Wenger has been talking about the side becoming more efficient of late, praising the defence and singling out Mesut Özil for improving even further. Certainly in the last two games it has looked very much like that.
The tactics are also changing, and seem now to be changeable for each and every game. Possession all the time is not seen as vital – and it certainly wasn’t against Bayern Munich. In that game we had just 30% of possession, and only completed 175 passes to 600 from Bayern! Normally that would cue huge outrage from the aaa, but they seem to have shut up for a moment – undoubtedly awaiting a defeat so they can say, “It’s no good beating Bayern if we can’t…”
Anyway they don’t have to think up that line as I’ve now written it for them. (It wouldn’t do to let them strain their brains too much).
As to why that tactic hasn’t been used in the past Mr Wenger said, “We had very young teams before and now we have a bit more experience.
“I also believe the recent history of a team makes the team stronger or weaker. In the modern game, even more. In the modern game, as soon as you lose an unexpected game, you face a storm. That is why I think we are bit more stable defensively.
“We have maybe a better discipline. People reproached us many times: ‘OK, Arsenal play football but they are a bit fragile’. Before, maybe, when we were not dominating completely the game, we were a bit insecure. On Tuesday night, Bayern had a lot of the ball but we could handle that.
“We are more mature, for sure. Two years ago, we were a long time top of the league. After, we lost one or two players, and we lost one or two big games. That was the killer for us. I feel today we are better prepared. We know, as well, the competition will be long. We have played nine games [in the Premier League], there is a long way to go. But let’s make sure that we can produce week in, week out.”
It certainly seems a fair analysis to me, as does the praise Özil is getting. On that subject the boss said,
“He is 27 now. It is the golden age of a football player, 27-31, 32, the age when you know your job, you realise suddenly that it is not only important to play, it is important to win as well. You go into that period thinking: ‘Finally’. Under 25 you think you can last forever. Once you get to 27 you realise it’s time to capitalise on what you have learned and efficiency takes a little bit over the playing mood.
“He is focused on his job. Talent wise, I think deeply he is a very collective player. He is a very respectful guy. If you tell him to do that he will do it for you. I think his talent is exceptional. Sometimes I think he sacrifices himself for the team. Sometimes he releases the ball when you want him to, sometimes he will do it when you don’t want him to.
“He plays in the link between the low midfield and the striker. He is the vital part in that. In that final part of the pitch he has the most assists. There he is vital.”
And of course we have Petr Cech currently being the top ranked keeper in the league. Long may that last too.
However rather worrying the Telegraph has now run a feature with the headline Is this finally Arsenal’s year? That’s usually enough to knock us back a few pegs.
And the praise that the Telegraph is passing Arsenal’s way is actually getting frightening with them saying there is an “argument for Arsenal being the heavyweight champions of the world at the moment. Bayern Munich are a superb outfit and have made the most dominant start of any team in the top five European leagues, and yet Arsenal put in a plundering shift…”
Of course in the end there was the normal Telegraphian sarcasm without which any article in that paper is not complete, but even so – half a sentence of praise therein is quite something.
So what of Everton?
When Untold published its article Arsenal must deal with the Merseyside flares issue we received a huge level of comment – often from supporters of the Merseyside clubs seeking to blame Arsenal or excuse Merseyside fans for bringing flares into the stadium or even trying to say one of the articles was worthless because there is a difference between flares and smoke bombs. My own view, for what it is worth, is that one set of dangerous behaviour never excuses another – and besides who cares what the difference is between a smoke bomb and a flare. It is a criminal offence to bring either into a ground. Untold has never excused bad or dangerous behaviour by Arsenal supporters, whether it is directed against rival fans, or even our own manager.
Dealing with flares in previous games against Merseyside teams has left Arsenal looking foolish as the stewards were quite unable to cope with the situation, and I am hoping that this time around no one will try and smuggle a flare into the ground. If they do and let it off the stewards must have a much better set of tactics for getting to the perpetrator and handing him/her over to the police.
Moving on to the game, Everton have never won at The Emirates Stadium. In fact the last time they won against us in London was the 1995/96 season. That was the year we came fifth and they came sixth. And our manager was Bruce Rioch. Incidentally in case you are not too familiar with Arsenal’s history, the season before that we came 10th scoring fewer goals than any other team in the Premier League. Now what, I wonder, would the aaa make of that?
“On Saturday we have to react to our performance last weekend [in which they lost 0-3 at home]. We cannot just afford to be facing Arsenal and that could narrow things down in terms of not carrying that baggage of not being able to win there for a long time.
“We are facing an Arsenal team that I watched against Bayern and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they won. They were very worthy of the win. They are a very complete team at the moment and I think this will be as big a challenge as we will face all season.”
Which is a fair and decent summary I think.
In relation to that home defeat to Man U the Everton manager said, “It was an emotional day and none of us enjoyed the footballing occasion. Goodison was quite emotionally charged that day and now we need to get back to having our normal dynamic and positive approach.
“It was a one-off… the character and resilience you need to be a winning team, we have that in the squad… it is part of our DNA and will never leave us.”
Moving on for a moment I think it is interesting to consider the current top scorers with Arsenal. Interesting to see who is in second place.
Everton’s top scorer is Lukaku with seven, exactly as per Alexis, with five in the league and two in the league cup. After that it is Naissmith (4), Barkley (3), Koné (2) and two players on one.
The review continues with the teams, injuries, and more analysis, in the next article which will be published shortly…
Today’s anniversaries (part 1)
24 October 1883: George Allison (the third manager in the first Arsenal Golden Age) born in County Durham. Bernard Joy said “he lacked the professional’s deep knowledge of the game”. But he still managed to win the FA Cup and the League twice.
24 October 1936: The East Stand, Highbury opened for game against Grimsby. It cost £130,000. With the West Stand opened three years earlier, Chapman and Norris’ vision for the stadium neared completion.
You can find all the Arsenal Anniversaries on Arsenal On This Day.
Arsenal in the summer – 48 tales from the Pre-Season files now including all the Wenger years. Here are the latest…