By Tony Attwood
Slowly but surely, the wattage of support (if support can be measured in wattage) has risen. Before the game the club now often plays with the lights flashing them on and off in fancy sequences, the sound levels are up and there is a really positive feel about the place.
No matter how difficult it is to get into the stadium (and last night it was difficult with extra levels of searching still continuing and queues stretching back so far that it became impossible to walk around the stadium to get to one’s correct entrance), no matter that we started the game five points off the leaders, no matter than we had most of our squad injured, and that we knew Alexis would be missing, no matter anything. The atmosphere was excellent.
As for the Man City supporters there were no more protests about the cost of going in, largely because if they held the right bit of membership they could buy the seats for a discounted price. Besides, they knew that if they did boycott then their spare tickets would be sold to Arsenal supporters (exactly as happened before) and snapped up at once.
And of the sad little fellow with his “Enough is Enough” t-shirt, there is no sign. From the moaning youngster who sits behind me there was… nothing I could hear. But the noise level is very good.
And so it should be – this is a great team. “Arsenal are no longer one dimensional” said the Telegraph, desperately trying to excuse their past hatred of the club. Even for those who thought that Arsenal might once have been one-dimensional (a view I don’t share) surely the Man U away game in the FA Cup in March this year overthrew all such old prejudices.
Or apparently not.
Mind you the bloggettas are still constantly harping on about the thinness of the squad forgetting the recent sequence of events, and particularly, as Walter noted, the part Mathieu Flamini has played in it. We were told we would fall apart without Coquelin, and that the “refusal” to buy a back up was “irresponsible”. And the Telegraph in its “5 things” piece today said, “it remains clear that further midfield reinforcement is needed”. But even they now admit “at Arsenal’s moment of great need, Flamini has stood tall.”
Indeed one begins to wonder about the Telegraph when today under a pic of Mangala they have the heading, “
Anyway, because the law in England is now that if you publish a paper you have to have lots of “5 Things we learned” columns, the Independent has such a list which includes
City do not have enough resilience to be champions
Walcott is now becoming the finished article, at last
So the media wakes up to the notion that the club is consistent (until the next defeat at which point we would have a 5 Things list which includes the notion that Arsenal are not consistent enough to win the league).
“Character is down to consistency,” Arsène Wenger said. “All of us can be exceptional, for one day in our life. But character is to have a target, and maintain your focus on it. That is what I call character, and what we have to show.”
So here we are in an era in which Chelsea have sacked their manager, Man U are said to be about to sack their manager and if he doesn’t win the league, Man City will do the same in the spring. Funny ol’ game.
But a word more must be said about Theo. He can play left wing, right wing, centre forward, and if required (as last night) deep winger who goes back to harry and stand in the way of attackers. Just like Gibbs is being re-invented as an attacking midfielder who can also defend.
And when we still thought that Alexis was going to return for the Boxing Day game we were all saying what a shame that was for Joel Campbell who would be dropped. He is really growing in this team – an excellent player of high quality who plays a major part in worrying the opposition to death wherever he turns up.
But no, hang on, that can’t be right. We’re down to the bare bones. Wenger was culpable for not buying…
Thus slowly, in a desperate attempt to re-write the past, it is now acknowledged in the media that while the average Premier League club (that is the average across the 20 clubs) spent fractionally under £43,000,000 on transfers in the summer, Arsenal spent £10 million. An outrage!
We now have an injury crisis (the media don’t call it that any more, but the numbers remain much the same, so if it were a crisis in November it must be a crisis in December). And yet we are still winning. Unbelievable!
[Hang on, I thought we agreed that we only used exclamation marks for Liverpool! – Billy “the dog” executive publication director]
And how? By buying players and developing them, to play along a few high price maestros introduced of late. Aaron Ramsey is still developing, still introducing new ideas, still adding power. And he’s still only 24.
And Giroud. Remember the endless, endless, resourceless criticism of Giroud? He has made 22 starts this season (including internationals) and scored 19 goals! 10 Premier League goals in 11 starts!! He’s never man of the match, but he just gets on with it.
And Mesut Özil, of whom the jury is still out, ho ho. Every defender in the League knows what he does and how he does it, and he still can’t be stopped. 15 Premier League assists including assists against every other top six club in the Premier League.
Not surprisingly the Guardian’s “5 Things” started with
Wenger’s side look well placed for title charge
“Looking forward to watching the battle for second place,” snarled Gary Lineker before the game. Our next three games are Southampton, Bournemouth and Newcastle and when it comes to the battle of the top two in the re-run of our 5-2 victory at Leicester, it might not be the top two any more. And I don’t think that will be because we have slipped.
Also in the Guardian’s 5 Things there is a piece on Ramsey as well, which quoted Mr Wenger as saying,“He comes alive when he plays through the middle,” in the programme. Indeed.
But they go out on a limb with
4) Guardiola and Arsenal could be a perfect fit
Pep Guardiola is leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season and, if the rumour mill is to be believed, has all but agreed to take over at City. The Spaniard has also been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea, but what about Arsenal? Wenger’s contract with the club runs until May 2017 but with Guardiola available would it not make sense for he and the Arsenal board to consider making a managerial change 12 months early to take advantage of an opportunity that may not come up again?
Anyway back to the players, the consensus says it was Ozil and Walcott who took the honours. Maybe so, but everywhere you looked there was quality, style and dedication.
And that extra bit that Mertesacker revealed in an interview. “We are capable of doing different things in different games, and that is what makes it harder for the opponent. We go game by game and concentrate on having a game-plan and trying to implement it. That has been our strength so far against the big teams, and it makes us stronger as a unit.”
Anyway, the papers have started picking up on the Untold idea of looking at where teams who were top of the league at this time of year, ended up. Here’s the chart… I think it comes from the Telegraph, but I’ve lost my note.
|TOP AT XMAS||SEASON||FINAL POSITION|
And just one final bit. At the start of the season you could have got 4/1 on Eden Hazard being PFA player of the season. Now he is 100/1.
Makes you think.