Unlike previous seasons, no matter how bad we were, Arsenal always manages to get good runs of fixtures (by that I mean victories or undefeated) in spurts throughout the season. So far, we have not make that happen yet. After a couple of good away wins, we lost at home against our hated rival. Now, after 4 consecutive victories, we lost away at Old Trafford.
We have strung together a good run of results that is the hallmark of our past title winning squads. Yet, despite all that we are only 2 points off the top (5, if United win their game in hand). At this stage of the competition, it is not an insurmountable gap. We’ve won more games than anyone in the division, with the advantage still to play direct rivals all in home fixtures for the second half the season. We are the second highest scorers in the league and are 5th best team in terms of goals conceded.
Those are some pretty positive numbers to dwell on. On the other side of the fence, you can also argue about the quality of the league. That not one team is running away with the title, despite the early season prediction of many experts. Whether the top sides are stagnant or whether the mediocre and lower sides are improving are down to your own good judgement.
The point for me is that, it only means that Arsenal are still very much in the hunt for the title in spite of losing 5 out of 17 games already. There has not been any outstanding side in the competition thus far. If Arsenal do end up winning the Premiership, maybe you might ask did we actually win it or did the other team drop more than than us. If that day ever comes, I doubt any Arsenal fans will care about that when Cesc Fabregas lifts the trophy.
On this basis of our stop-start performance this season, there’s plenty of areas still to be improved if we are to come out tops in May next year. On that front, I’m a believer that our goal-keeping situation has improved since the start of the season. Manuel Almunia played well from the beginning but fell apart in the WBA game. Lukazs Fabianski took over the mantle and has won us a couple of games. Then Wojciech Szczesny came in and did the job against United. He looks a prospect for the future, provided he improves his kicking.
As it stands, that means we have 2 Polish keepers who will fight it out to be Arsenal’s no 1. In that respect, I understand Wenger’s reluctance to spend on a keeper in the summer. While we are lead to believe that a difference in price valuation between Arsenal and Fulham was the cause of the transfer breakdown, I’m beginning to think otherwise. Perhaps Wenger wanted to show his current keepers that he is willing to replace them should they not step up to the plate. Generally, that piece of reverse psychology seemed to have worked.
From Monday, Wenger seemed to have a particular tactical ploy, something which was mentioned by both Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri. Both stated that Arsenal’s tactics were to be patient and to hold out United, at least for the first half. Inevitably, that didn’t work. Surprise, surprise that we were not defensively strong enough or discipline enough to prevent the opposition from scoring. I’m not sure I grasp this tactic. Why sit back when we know that our attack are much better than our defence. Why not take the initiative and score first, to push United to open up gaps at the back in search of the equaliser.
Alex Ferguson got his tactics right while Wenger didn’t. Too many times have that happened for my liking. I believe that Arsenal is 1 defeat away from losing the fight for the league title. Let’s hope that we embark on an unbeaten run from now till the end of the season.