Who Are Ya?
By Simon Bailey
The press have gleefully swooped on Arsene’s comments at the AGM and it is now gospel, we are bringing home silverware this season.
Personally, I saw Arsene re-iterating the same position he has taken all season. Pundits are getting very fond of saying that we have more chance of winning the CL than the prem. We are not going to know much about the CL until we win our group.
The Premier League is however well underway. This season the league is wide open. We are a quarter of the way through and it looks like the breakaway bunch will be six or seven clubs. All of these have Title and or European aspirations. They also present a nice snapshot of the premier league as a whole.
So apart from Arsenal who are these upstarts, well, who are ya?
Man City are the new pretenders, bristling with new found wealth. The 200 million quid the new owners have spent since the start of last season seems to be paying off. They won their first four on the trot. They have blipped since then, with only one win in five, but with the depth of squad they have, and a january transfer window looming, City are going to spend their way as far as they can.
Despite all of their spending, I am unsure as to whether they are playing as a team or as a group of individually talented players. Is it just me or do their goal celebrations seem forced or stage-managed? They are undoubtedly a team to be contended with this term.
Man United on the other hand are the old pretenders. Been there, seen it, T-shirt etc… Without a doubt the most successful team in England, maybe the world. But like all old things, they need regular maintenance to keep them performing at the top level. The cracks are beginning to show in the great machine that is United. Riddled with debts foisted upon them by their American owners they were forced to sell their prize asset and were unable to replace him.
United without Ronaldo are a desperate crowd held together only by memories of recent success. The have lost twice and drawn once so far, but they were lucky against City, Sunderland and Arsenal, picking up five points more than they should have. When they are not the best team, they are generally the luckiest.
Liverpool have had a shocking start to the season with the only silver lining being the demolition of United last weekend. Whether it was the carrot or the stick that Benitez wielded, it did the trick and the papers, fickle as they are, are now announcing a new resurgent Liverpool, ready to challenge for the title. I think not, Liverpool’s aspirations this year will be the same as ours last season; qualify for champions league and keep the cash coming in.
On the pitch they have looked very unsteady without Bill (Gerrard) and Ben (Torres). The rest of the weeds have looked increasingly fragile when left to fend for themselves. Gerrard is playing further back than he was last season and isn’t as useful as he could be. If the failure to qualify for Europe doesn’t scupper them, the banks will.
Having failed to secure 5th or even 6th place last season, Villa are again riding high at the beginning of this season. Beating liverpool at anfield as well as a home win against Chelsea as well as a decent set of results in their other games would lead you to believe that they are in with a good chance.
But if you look closely, there are uncertainties. Are they able to score from open play ? Is the most obvious question. They have scored 13 with at least 10 from set plays. This is ok at the beginning of a season, but opposition teams soon catch on.
Villa’s American owner, Randy Lerner, (probably the best made up pornstar name in the football world) is quite content to throw a few quid at the team every season, but it’s never quite enough. Many of their players will play many games this season and this will inevitably take its toll as the season draws to a close.
Chelsea are riding high again. Top of the league at home and played 3, won 3 in Europe. Their form is second only to their arrogance. The Lampard, Terry and Cole triumvirate that are the backbone of the English team endear this club to British press like no other. Even the two window ban on transfers was greeted by a couple of paragraphs buried between ads for incontinence pants and the like. They won their first six, and have only been beaten by Villa and Wigan. Although neither of those defeats followed a weekday CL or FIFA match.
As a model for buying silverware, this is the perfect one. Having invested close to ¾ of a billion quid, Abramovich has shown the world how to build a team of aging, gold plated stars that despite being able to win domestic titles find it impossible to crown Europe.
Arsenal have started the season well, scoring 10 and conceding just 2 in the first two games. The news of which was buried next to the aforementioned Chelsea news. Following a bitterly contested CL qualifier, and a double round of international matches, two Manchester teams, each playing with 12, stole points from us.
Our injury ravaged squad then proceeded to win the next four and suffer a draw at WHU.
This draw followed closely on the heels of a midweek away draw. At this point editors were told to hold the front page, the wheels are coming off. Steam has been seen pouring from the servers that host blogoshpere. The amount of negative ‘I told you so’ or ‘he will lose all the support he has recently gained if he lets this continue’ or ‘he didn’t make his substitutions soon enough’ pieces or comments that have surfaced is astounding.
Not as outstanding as the way our season has developed. True we dropped a couple at West Ham, but we’re above the Spuds, and three behind united with a game in hand. And we all know about the Suds yesterday.
Our injury situation is seemingly only on defcon 1 right now with only Wallcott, Denilson and Djourou being out for a month or more, although Bendtner is a further worry now. A week ago we were probably at defcon 2, and by the end of next week we probably will be again.
But that is one of the joys of being an Arsenal supporter, the best team this week isnt the same as the best team last week, but invariably they play sublime football and get results.
And this is what will see us through the season, the unerring ability to mutate and survive. As Villa and the Spuds and United lose their legs and city stage manage a disappointing end to the season, Liverpool having fallen by the wayside long since, Arsene’s vision and common sense will prevail.
Who are ya?… We’re the Arsenal.
Editorial note: 100 years ago Arsenal faced a deeper crisis and were taken over by Fulham (honest I am not making that up). The whole bizarre story, complete with the involvement of MI5 and Winston Churchill (home secretary at the time) is told in full in MAKING THE ARSENAL. )