Being an Arsenal fan has always been a rollercoaster of emotion, but right now at this moment in time, it feels like we’re going through some kind of extreme. After our victory against Everton on Saturday, Leicester followed it up by scraping by a pretty poor Palace side, whilst the Spuds swept away a Bournemouth team who looked just happy to be clear of relegation. So whilst the joys of us getting back to winning ways were great, many Arsenal fans I follow on social media, were brought back down to earth with a bit of a thud when it was clear that we weren’t going to be gaining any ground this weekend.
In the space of about 26 hours we went from “we can do it!”, to “it’s not going to happen, is it?”, as a result of the points gained by the two main teams duking it out at the top.
I too was a little bit despondent that we’ve not got closer to both of those teams, but I suppose I needn’t be, not when you look at who they were up against and who they’ve played recently. The Spuds played against a pretty diabolical Villa side last week and then a Bournemouth side that probably feel they’ve done enough for their season, so they’re quite happy to knock the ball around a bit, not really needing a result. On paper Leicester had harder games with Newcastle scrapping at the bottom and Palace away, but Newcastle away from home couldn’t buy a win, whilst Palace’s form both home and away is atrocious in the league. So perhaps it’s understandable that both teams picked up points.
What Arsenal need to do, as clichéd as it sounds, is to just focus on winning the remaining games this season. Five at home and three away is the challenge and with United winning away at City yesterday, that game on the penultimate part of the season might not have as much significance on the league as many would have though, which I’m hoping will play in to our hands.
It did feel like the players had suddenly been released from some pressure on Saturday, didn’t it? Almost as if Arsène has had somebody in the Art Department mock up a league table that shows Arsenal mathematically unable to win the league, yet close to being knocked out of the Champions League spots. So as is the players’ annual ‘step it up for the fourth place trophy’ run in, the shackles came off and they were able to express themselves.
Or, if you want to look at it with a less psychological hat on, Wenger has finally found the mobility in his forward line to trouble teams. With movement in front of him Özil becomes even more deadly. With pace and good ball retention either side of him, Welbeck can make those clever runs in to the channels, or interchange with Alexis and Iwobi in the middle of the pitch. With players who know that a quick one two will result in the second player moving into another position as soon as he has released the ball, it creates more space by spreading defenders. Imagine being a defender and knowing that in a one-two build up only one player will be making a move – how we play when Giroud is up top – you only have to worry about one runner. But if the second player also makes a move, you either try to win the ball quick in the tackle, or you drop off, which leaves more space for the second player to make a decision.
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen that kind of movement a month earlier; we’d be probably six points off Leicester with a game in hand.
Perhaps the simplicity of the task ahead – win every game you play once a week – the team can get close. 79 points would be the maximum points we can pick up and to me that sounds like it could be close to the league. It’s normally won at the 80+ mark, but this season could be different, however unlikely it feels at the moment with Leicester winning away. We just have to keep doing our bit. Best Watford at home in two weekends time (I know – ha! Right?) and it’s Tottenham away to Liverpool in the evening gameand Leicester at home to Southampton on the Sunday. Who says we can’t make up ground there?
But we do need those two teams to be dropping points now. As every game goes by and they win, our chances become all the more unlikely, so somethings got to give. I just hope it’s the nerve of those two teams.
It’s the hope that kills ya, eh?