Seeing the positives at Arsenal has been easy, so far


By Fishpie

To enjoy: to derive pleasure from, or take delight in, an activity or an occasion.

And with the first-quarter stage of the season now completed, we’ve seen 15 competitive occasions in which Arsenal have endeavoured to play great football for us to enjoy. They’ve endeavoured and, in a good proportion of those games, succeeded.

I can only think of two games actually (away at Leicester and at home to Middlesboro) where the magic got lost on the way to the match and didn’t turn up at all. In all the other games, win, draw or lose, there were either long swathes of full-on flowing Wenger-ball or, at the very least, some tantalising glimpses and periodic snatches of the magic brewing. 

And we’ve had results to go with the performances too: 7 Premier League victories, 2 draws and just 1 defeat. In the Champions League, 2 victories, 1 draw and no defeats. And 2 EFL Cup victories for good measure.

For a fan who vowed to turn over a new leaf this season, having promised myself I’d enjoy watching Arsenal regardless of the frustrations, inconsistencies and any disappointing results, its obviously been, for fans like me with a low patience threshold, a bit of a doddle

If you can’t enjoy your team in this kind of form, when can you?

Clearly my new “positivism-rules” philosophy has not really been tested but I can honestly say I didn’t get stressed or upset about Liverpool at home, or PSG away or indeed the dropped points against Middlesboro. I took those games as just part of the trip. Sure, I was disappointed at a few things that we did badly on the day or didn’t do at all, but as the final whistle went in each game, I just hoped we’d do better in the next game. Which, to be fair, we did.

It also has to be said that even the Middlesboro result (a result that would have got me well riled up in the past) was easier to take, basically because pretty much every other leading team had been dropping points over recent weeks too. So unnecessarily dropped points at home to a struggling side we would expect to beat, didn’t test me at all. Even when the points mattered.

To add to the smooth ride for Arsenal fans so far this season, we have accumulated 3 more Premier League points than we had gained by the same stage last season. And we are equal top, second on goal difference only, to the money-rich, “best-manager-in-the-world” equipped Mancs of the City persuasion. 

Perhaps more importantly, the fact that we are joint leaders is not really where I’ve derived the greatest pleasure from my team this year. Less fixated on the chase for the title and the stress that goes with it, I have found myself just enjoying how we are playing. 

What I’ve particularly enjoyed this season has been this sense that we, in quite a few games, have returned to something of what Arsenal, at its best, can be; pacey, fast passing, plenty of movement, high skill levels, intricate combinations, a few tricks thrown in, and great team goals. Aided and abetted by a higher level of midfield endeavour and composure, and a bit more “ummph” in our defending, it’s been joyful just to see the team perform. 

I don’t know whether ultimately it will be enough to win us the league but its certainly been enough to have restored my ability to actually just enjoy watching my team play. Something I found very difficult to do last season.

Not that every game has been scintillating or worry free. Sunderland this weekend, for instance, was a mix of delight at some excellently executed goals, some puzzlement about why we were not going for the jugular to kill off the game, the deflation and sense of inevitability with the Sunderland equaliser and the renewed faith that comes with 3 killer goals in 7 minutes.

We are not always as convincing as we might want, or need, to be to win the title. But I feel reconnected to the team I love, partly because they have made it very easy to love them again and partly because I have excepted them for what they are capable of. Which is a lot of course but I don’t worry about them matching my over-demanding ideal. If they do, great, fantastic, everything overfloweth but if they don’t, and they probably won’t, its ok, I’m cool.

Interestingly, the traditional season of wobbles is about to start. November is a month many commentators and bloggers cite as often being a difficult time for Arsenal, where the cold sets in and we somehow lose our way. I’m anticipating this will happen again and my resolve will be more severely tested. 

However, on the other hand, the return of November this season coincides with the return of Ramsey and Giroud from injury and the return of Xhaka from suspension. Often, if my memory serves me correctly, we seem to hit this part of the season with key players crashing out rather than coming in. Cazola is of course currently sidelined (not too sure how long for) but overall we just may be better equipped than in the recent past to deal with this second phase of the season which concludes at Christmas. 

We are, I think, better equipped in having Elneny and Xhaka rather than Flamini and Arteta. Based on his regular appearances at centre back, we are also better equipped with Mustafi  alongside Koscielny. There are still signs of vulnerability to crosses and mishaps but I haven’t seen an Arsenal centre-back pairing so “at it” in a long long time. Mustafi plays with an intensity and desire combined with an ability to read the game and he actually talks to the others.

We may be better equipped more deeply at CB too in that Holding is looking very good to my eyes and a lot better than Chambers. I also like the fact that Wenger has played Gibbs recently following a number of games in which Monreal was getting exposed by faster or physically stronger wingback or wingers. The problem was noticed and Mr. Wenger acted decisively. 

And going forward we feel better equipped too. Alexis’s performance against Sunderland for the whole game was superb and his overall form as a centre forward has been a joy. Our front four of Alexis, Ozil, Awobi and Theo has, for the most part, been very effective. The Alexis, Ozil and Owobi  threesome, when playing well, seem to be on exactly the same wavelength and Theo has discovered determination and work rate. To his credit, Mr Wenger has been able to get more out of these players than last season.

And in the more recent games our other attacking options, our Plan B players as others have called them, the Ox and Giroud, have made strong impacts. Ramsey too may have to settle for being a Plan B impact player, coming on from the bench if defences are holding out against us.

So yes, not everything is absolutely nailed down but an awful lot has been superb.

Let’s see how things are by the halfway stage at Christmas. How will I handle the normally troublesome month of November? More importantly of course, how will the team handle it?

Recent tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Arsenal always do worse than everyone else in November, and other myths.

10 things we learned about football in the last week which the media won’t admit

The Football journalists education programme. A public service commentary.

Sunderland – Arsenal: 1-4, Welcome back Giroud and Ramsey

Wonderloaf v Arsenal. The preview, the teams, the stats, the score and the bland bread.

Arsenal to change the line up for Sunderland game: the tactical preview.

From the Arsenal History Society  

March 1935: beating Tottenham by a record score but losing one of our greatest goalkeepers

You can find an index to all the series to date on the Society’s web site.


10 Replies to “Seeing the positives at Arsenal has been easy, so far”

  1. In reference to our one defeat this season, I’ve noticed of late how everybody seems to making a huge deal of Liverpool! and citing their narrow victory at the Ems as evidence of their greatness. Not once have I heard one mention of the fact that we had not only a weak team because of those still not back from the Euro) but at centre back we had what would probably be considered as our fifth and sixth choice in that position and that they had never played together before. Yet more propaganda designed to undermine AFC and big-up the opposition.

  2. Sorry folks, I think I made a mistake in the piece above. We are just one point ahead of where we were this time last season, not 3. Still good though.

    Also, agree with you Goonermikey about our Liverpool defeat. Part of the reason I felt ok about that result was precisely because we had a weak team out. Having said that, Liverpool can look pretty formidable to me. As we can too.

  3. In that Liverpool match they played the best 15 minutes of the season when all went their way. As Fri us with our weakened team we still scored 3 goals and should have equalised from Theo’s penalty. You just felt that with a full team we might have won that one. Injuries during the match to Aaronand Iwobi also didn’t help our case

  4. “I have found myself just enjoying how we are playing”

    With none of the usual failings that seemed to haunt us every 3-4 games, the team looked different, more solid, more concentrated and resolute.

    Most fans are willing to cheer the team on when they see that, win or lose.

    What fans do not like to see is the team losing it, unconcentrated, not trying etc.

    So lets wish this is another corner turned for the team and no looking back.

  5. my only worry is that the usual pigmob treatment will kick in
    we’ve seen glimpses of it in the last three matches and only by miracle escaped serious injuries in the last match
    otherwise the team looks good and the opponents beatable

  6. OT:

    I see a twit at, that the team had at that point made it to Sofia. Google says that it is 278km from Sofia to Razgrad. Would Arsenal stay in Sofia and take a bus in, or would they stay closer to Razgrad?

  7. Well done, Fishpie. I’m enjoying this year’s squad also. Good competition at every position. As much as I’ve enjoyed Alexis, Ozil, etc. up front I think what’s impressed me most has been how Mustafi has really stabilised the back four. There’s skill and grit with Mustafi and Kos in the middle. And while they may not be fast they have enough pace to get back. This team will get better over time as long as they stay away from injuries. They deserve their place in the table. Kudos to AW.

  8. Yes , Fishpie , just sit back , relax and enjoy the show. Don’t worry too much about tactics and others’ opinions – you eyes don’t deceive you.
    Put your faith in AW and the team and enjoy the ride !
    PS- wine does help !

  9. I’ve tried many times to improve my attitude, without much success so far.

    Sunderland was a case in point : the football we played was excellent from the off, but until we can get into a commanding position, from where it looks almost certain we’ll win, enjoyment is always in a titanic fight with anxiety and the like.

    I have this hope that when the day comes that we finally win a title again,it’ll act like a reset button for me and I’ll be able to accept the old slings and arrows better afterwards.

    Daft, i know, but that’s my hope. Until then I’ll try to improve anyway and to get as much enjoyment as possible from our good football.

  10. I’m sue it’s nothing new when I’m saying that Middlesbrough match was the low point so far, and the result was of our own making. But, if that’s the kind of low point we’re going to have through the season, when we get a draw in a match we might have been losing in the past years, I’ll gladly take that. Even in that match, for once having the perspective from inside the stadium as opposed to from the pub, I could see that little extra grit and determination being more obvious, courtesy of duels won and being the first to the ball more often than a physically rested opponent, plus the absence of mistakes at the back, even when stretched by fast breaks. Looking forward to November, to bust another myth 🙂

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