It’s the last day of 2015 and as many people do, it’s a good opportunity to look back on what has happened in people’s lives, as well as what has happened at The Arsenal.
It’s hard to argue that the team haven’t really been consistent over the course of the year. Sure, there have been some frustrating blips, but in the main it has been a good year for The Arsenal. More points than any other team in the division, an FA Cup and Community Shield in which a ‘hoodoo’ was broken by Arsène with his nemesis Mourinho, as well as an end of year finish that sees us top the table. We’ve beaten some big teams both home and away and in terms of the squad as a whole, whilst injuries do seem to have reached comical levels, the strength in depth of the side is there for all to see with the fact we’ve continued to pick up points.
We’ve done this before. I seem to recall 2013 was a good year, but unfortunately it wasn’t followed up by 2014 being equally as good, despite winning the FA Cup that year. Last season it was effectively the first half of it that cost us any real chance of a proper go at the league title, so whilst the first half of this season has seen us play well and drag ourselves to the top of the league, we need to replicate our consistency by picking up more victories, especially away from home in the big games. In 2016 we have United, Liverpool, City, Spuds and I’d even put Stoke into the bracket of difficult fixtures, given our shocking record up there. So it won’t be easy, but I’d say ten or 11 points from all of those games will be a good return and providing we can be consistent against the other teams not mentioned, we’ll have a chance of winning the league.
That starts on 2nd January with Newcastle at home and in preparation for the game Arsène had his usual press conference in front of the assembled hacks. The team news doesn’t really surprise anybody, with only Flamini back from the Bournemouth game, which is expected given the quick turnaround of games at this festive period. The only other bit of good news is that Alexis ‘might’ be back for next weekend against Sunderland. The important news for me is on the fitness of the current talisman – Özil – who Arsène described as a ‘leader‘. It’s interesting because in this country you hear the media continuously crowing about leaders in the mould of John Terry or Vincent Kompany, shouting and barking orders at teammates, yet as Arsène has proved historically with his choice of captains, sometimes you can have a different type of leader. Fabregas was like that for us. He led by example by driving the team forward and having everything go through him. Özil is a leader in that mould too. He is at the centre of all of the positive build up play we have in an attacking sense and at this moment in time, with players injured and those fit being so fatigued, he continues to drive this Arsenal team forward. I said to Billy during the Bournemouth game, that he’s going to win us the title; I have seen nothing to suggest otherwise as yet. It’s a team game, but sometimes individuals need to shine for the team to be successful, and at the moment Mesut’s star is burning brighter than ever before.
Arsène was also asked about the league and he gave an answer about it being the most exciting Premier League ever. I’m sure for the neutrals it’s great fun, but you and I would prefer a different type of league, one in which we are about ten points clear by now. It’s probably the topsy-turvy nature of the division that is the reason why I see so many Arsenal fans still unhappy that we are not more points ahead. I get it – they’re nervous about our difficult matches approaching in January and February – but whilst we can always wish to be a little bit better, sometimes we just have to appreciate where we are. Right now we are top of the league and I’m happy with that.
There were loads of other comments picked up by the manager yesterday, but it’s New Years Eve and I have a house party to prep for, so I’ll bid you farewell and hope you have a good’un.