By Walter Broeckx
Maybe some will call me paranoid. That could well be the case, but this year’s fixture list is a bit strange to say the least.
To play your major rivals for the first four places in four consecutive matches is something we never have witnessed before. In fact I doubt that it has ever happened before in the PL that a team gets so many tough games in so little time.
But one could say: Okay those things can happen and maybe the PL didn’t pay any attention to it when they made the fixture list. That could well be the case but then there is another strange thing that I would like to bring to your attention.
Two seasons ago, remember Hleb and Flamini still playing with us, we had a great run until this time of the year. We then got vital players injured for long spells like Van Persie, Rosicky and the terrible injury with Eduardo. Those were not only physical blows but also mentally we cracked and the way we lost Eduardo could have cost us the title that year.
It was hard for those young players to witness such horror scenes and it could have slipped in to players mind and that you get a little bit more cautious when you step on the field. But it was in this period of the year we lost it and got hit hard.
Last year we didn’t have a good start and had some disappointing defeats early on. We then lost Cesc in December but the boys did their best to cover him and we went on an 19 games run without defeat.
But in that run we had, and again in this time of the year and the season, a rather difficult spell. We found it hard to score goals, and we played too many games that ended 0-0. I particularly remember the last weekend in January when we drew 0-0 with West Ham when I was sitting in the Emirates in the freezing cold.
So it was clear for all to see that for the last two seasons from halfway through January until the end of February it was the most difficult time of the season for The Arsenal.
So lets just presume that is was a coincidence that the fixture list gave us the last four games in a row. (You see I’m not that paranoid after all).
But what is the chance of those 4 games just falling in the period that every football follower knows is our most difficult time of the season and this for years now?
I really wonder how the thinking was in the committee that makes the fixture list. Was it : “They always struggle in that period, lets give them games against their rivals and they will fall again?” Or was it : “They will be out of the top 4 according to all the pundits, so lets give a helping hand and give them a difficult list of fixtures in the time of the season when they struggle the most in recent years.”
I’m not a great mathematician but I really wonder what the odds are to come up with a sequence of fixtures that we had right now in this time of the year.
And yes it proved to be difficult. We got 4 points out of possible 12 in the last 4 games and like Wenger said: “You can not believe how difficult it was for us mentally to get over the two defeats”. I think everyone who knows football knows how difficult it is and how important confidence is for a team. For a young team like ours it is even more difficult to overcome defeats like that. Our game is build upon players who play with confidence in their skills and self belief. And losing games in a row is not good for the confidence.
But those four games are behind us now. We face a six point gap and I’m sure yesterday’s win against Liverpool has done the lads a lot of good. The way all the players fought hard was heart warming to see in a rather cold looking London. (Too right it was cold Walter, my car was covered in ice when I got back to it after the game – Tony)
Remember Arshavin battling, with great determination, around his own penalty area in the first half helping out defence when required? Remember Song keeping Gerrard quiet for most of the game apart from taking free kicks but other wise he bossed him? Remember Diaby running around with big strides helping out where ever it was necessary be it in defence or in attack?
Remember the best defensive tackle made this season from Gallas when he blocked Ngog’s attempt in the second half? Remember the front man chasing the Liverpool defenders during most of the game? They all did what they could to secure the win.
And maybe there should be a special word about our captain. I think he suffered the most from the two defeats. Some bad decisions by his team mates had angered him in those games and yesterday he still looked unsettled when the game started.
He made some bad passes unusual for his standard but what he did was fight, fight and lead the team by example. I think there wasn’t a square meter on the pitch where he didn’t set a foot to lead the attack or to help the defence.
When we were 1-0 up he even did things that we hardly ever saw before from him. Every free kick Webb awarded to Liverpool was followed with Cesc making some kind of trouble to delay a possible quick restart of the game. Asking the ball to placed on the right spot, doing a bit of arguing with the opponents and the ref. It even got him a yellow card at the end.
But it showed his commitment in a game when he didn’t play at his best but he did what he could to help his team to a vital win.
What looked an impossible big gab on Tuesday has become a “well you never know-gap” after yesterday’s game. It does look possible with the games we have to play and which we can win if we are at our best we now have the easier run in on paper. The other top teams have to play each other and will drop points in those games.
Remember August? What were they saying then? Arsenal out of the top 4 for sure. Arsenal maybe not even qualifying for the Europa League. Arsène Wenger had the faith, the players had the faith and we over here on the Untold had the faith. Well this Gooner still has the faith and is enjoying the ride so far. Not every single game but the season in the whole, yes enjoying the lads proving the critics wrong.
12 games to go. 36 possible points to win. Still a long way to go. Anything can happen as yesterday’s results have shown. Come on Gunners give it your best shot. Let’s just concentrate on our own games and just try to win them and then we will see what happens come May. It isn’t over till its over.
THE IN’S THE OUT’S THE SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT’S
(and other whatnot from the edges of reality)
- Arsenal 100 years ago – read the rather amusing and quite adventurous MAKING THE ARSENAL novel click here
- Arsenal prepare to meet Blackburn Rovers 100 years ago.
- Arsenal and the Cult of Personality – read it here
- Arsenal v Liverpool – how Billy the Dog peevishly compared the game to a jousting competing.
- Want to write for Untold Arsenal? Send in your idea or your piece to Tony@hamilton-house.com. Please send as a word document, include your name as you want it to appear in the article, and please assert that the article has not appeared and is not on offer anywhere else. Articles must be in keeping with the style, wisdom and general elegance of this site.
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- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate