By Walter Broeckx
The only thing that is predictable when it comes to football is…that it is unpredictable. Now anyone that follows football a bit knows this but for some strange reason the people who are paid to follow football or who make a living out of following it and writing about it …..tend to not know this.
If a team is on a winning run they tend to pretend it will last forever. Except this is not the case for when Arsenal is on a winning run of course. Then they brush it aside as being pure luck. Last week Arsenal won with 3-1 against Bournemouth. And it was down to luck. Or so proclaimed the people who know such things.
Liverpool who were having a good run of wins over the last few weeks suddenly were the team that could win the title. They still are but as happens with each team when they have a good run…it will end one day. They had a few high scores and suddenly the pundits think it will last forever. But last weekend being 3-1 after some 65 minutes against Bournemouth and then losing 4-3 at the end of the match is something that would give outrage on Arsenal supporters’ channels. It would make the pundits gloat about Arsenal being weak and not having what is needed to win the league.
I say… it is part of that unpredictable game that football is.
Chelsea is now of course the flavour of the day. Six wins in a row if not more. So cue “Chelsea will win the league”. Yet Arsenal just having their “bad November” and their “worst month in the season” behind them are only three points behind Chelsea.
Will Chelsea keep on winning? The thing is that they are not as unbeatable as they look for the moment. As I had nothing better to do last Saturday I watched a big part of their match. And I still can’t believe how Manchester City threw away that match. The Messi of City Kevin De Bruyne managed to miss an unmissable ball from only four metres out in front of an empty goal. If Man City had gone would 2-0 up at that moment the match might have been over and City would not have continued attacking as they did.
But for the moment Chelsea are winning and so they will win the title. As that is how it goes in the media.
Of course Chelsea and Liverpool are two teams who have played fewer matches than the other teams in the top four. As they have no European matches their schedule is very light. And how much influence that has can be seen when you look at the matches after the League cup. Is it a coincidence that Liverpool collapsed in the final stages of the match against Bournemouth after they have played in midweek? Something they are not used too this season.
Arsenal had a bit of a rough period in the last weeks. The fact that we lost both Santi and Bellerin will have had a big influence on our fluidity in attack. Bellerin with his overlapping runs on the right flank is vital for our attacking game. And Santi, the little magician, who has such a big influence on our transition from defence to attack, is a player that looks rather irreplaceable.
Arsenal had to adapt to playing without them and it took a while one could say. And cost us a few points. But with Xhaka getting better and better we seem to have overcome this handicap to a large degree. Mind you Xhaka is no Santi and is a different type of player, but against Bournemouth and now against West Ham he was pulling a lot of strings in midfield with the help of Coquelin who is one of those players that we keep on forgetting to prise for his performances. Maybe the fact he didn’t cost £30m or thereabouts is why he stays under the radar a bit. But his mad dog style is very important for this team and for the way we play.
What also is very important is the fact that our players on the bench are contributing to the team a lot. At Sunderland it was Giroud who showed his worth. Against Bournemouth the starting Oxlade-Chamberlain played a major part in a much better performance and he confirmed this with an excellent match against West Ham. Will The Ox finally make the last step up this season? He is such a talent but too many injuries kept him back for a long period. He still can have his bad moments of course but he looks to have improved both on his attacking game and on his defending.
And then we have Ramsey. Another scapegoat whenever we don’t get the desired result. But against Bournemouth he came on and had a good run out. And now again when he came on at West Ham he certainly helped in playing West Ham off the pitch in the final 15 minutes.
And with Gabriel we have found another player who can do a job at right back. I must say that against Bournemouth you could see him struggle a bit at first in knowing what he can do and what he was not allowed to do. As a central defender you don’t go rushing forward and at first he didn’t do it at the right back position. But the longer the match went on the more he got himself forward and did things I didn’t expect from him.
Finding solutions within the team is more important than bringing in new players from other teams. When it is needed, it is needed but as we have a full squad of 25 players there is no room to bring in players from the outside unless we sell some.
So far the squad is doing a good job and I like the fact they stay under the radar. Nobody talks about Arsenal as being a potential league winner. Let us just try to keep close to the leader and then hopefully when the business end of the season comes we will have all our players available for a strong run in.
From the anniversary files
5 December 2009: After a 0-3 home defeat to Chelsea Arsenal beat Stoke 2-0 to start a month of five wins and 1 draw. It was Arsène Wenger’s 500th game in charge.
The full anniversary files for each day are shown on the home page.