Something is not quite right, I just cannot for the life of me shake the feeling that something is not quite right. I don’t know what it is but the Arsenal universe is out of kilter but what is it…? Got it, there, THWACK! The nail is being hit firmly on the head; there is not whining, whinging or complaining being done; whooping and howling is being left to Cumbrians on the dancefloor. To claim serenity is prevailing would be as daft as, well, claiming Arsenal will win the title on the basis of four unbeaten games played in August and September.
I have no issue with optimism and my joy is has shaken its bridles with the results and performances so far. I have hope that we are going to witness a great season but let us get to troubled times and see how we deal with them first before we lodge any claim on silverware. Even the manager whose job, let’s face it, is to be the public face of optimism at the club, is urging caution,
We will know after 10 games. I think we have a chance to develop well and keep our attitude. At the moment I don’t know how strong our opponents are.
Curiously enough, our tenth game is on November 3rd at Old Trafford; ten is not the random or convenient number plucked from the air as it might have seemed initially. It means that Tottenham will be the only club from last year’s top four that we will not have played. In other words, the toughest tests will have been endured.
The players are quite rightly confident, their performances merit such an attitude. Since Lukas Podolski opened the scoring at Anfield, Arsenal are entitled to ask, “Robin who?” and still have Olivier Giroud to find his scoring boots although it is noticeable that the Frenchman’s second season at a club is usually a lot more productive than his first. Too much expectation was the reason given – or one of them anyway – for his absence from the starting line-up on Saturday. If Lukas Podolski continues his vein of scoring form, I would suggest the pressure on Giroud ought to ease but perversely, he will suffer by comparison. The slings and arrows of ill-fortune offer no hiding place although all the while results are good, such issues can be camouflaged.
Positives are in clear sight. Thomas Vermaelen has been performing at the level seen prior to his injury. The responsibility of the captain’s armband no doubt requiring this but also, as he acknowledged, a better disciplined and organised team makes defending easier, for want of a better word,
All the team has worked together. We have only conceded one goal and Southampton did not have a lot of chances. This means the shape of our team is okay. Steve Bould was a centre-back and he has a lot of experience. We have done a lot of tactical work and every day we are working on our shape and organisation. You can see this on the pitch. It is something we need. He brings a lot of experience and has a lot of ambition – you can see that on the training pitch. He puts a lot of effort in.
Indeed it is better and there is no way that this can be denied. You feel that the return of Bacary Sagna can only improve matters, with the full back having been the most consistent defender over the last five years. Young Jenkinson has played well but is still learning his trade; plenty of reasons to believe he will be the Frenchman’s successor nor should there be any worries about him dropping in at right back as needed in the meantime.
The real key is Vermaelen’s observation about the team, it’s shape and working together. The balance of the team at the moment is better than last with Podolski offering cover defensively, leading the forward line by example and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right giving more protection to the back four from the front. It was an observation I made regularly last season; we were not particularly good at defending from the front. If you look at the personnel and their style of play, that is not hard to see. That change has negated the need for an outright defensive midfielder, why Arteta has been able to drop back into the deeper-lying role seamlessly. Or one of them anyway, the Spaniard is just a very good and intelligent player which is the principle reason.
Optimism is compounded with Jack Wilshere’s progress, the October timeline for his return to footballing action is seemingly well on course and the apparent riches of selelction will then become a headache for the manager. At the moment injuries have not yet taken their tollen masse as they have in the past. We will then see how deep the squad is, how good the team is when pressure is on them. Until then, I am going to enjoy the serenity…