I knew it wouldn’t last you know. It simply couldn’t. There was only so much time that could elapse before people started to realise. There was only so long that people would spend salivating and frothing at the mouth over the two Manchester clubs, before they started to pay attention to teams like ours. I just foolishly hopes we’d be 25 games in, having been left to go about our business and winning games, before we’d start to attract the attention of the footballing world and the hacks particularly.
But yesterday I was travelling back from the North East, listening to a few of them on the radio talking up Arsenal’s title chances. I suppose an away thrashing of an opponent – any opponent regardless of how poor they actually are – was always going to draw their gaze, so I should have been prepared for it.
It’s not that I don’t like people talking up Arsenal’s title chances. Far from it, it makes you feel all warm inside, but it’s more that I’ve trodden this path of hope before, so I was hoping we’d walk a slightly different route this time. Perhaps one that would see us fly under the radar until the end, when we’re too far from anybody else to worry about being caught.
But in reality that was never going to happen. We’re one of the biggest clubs in the league and we have history. History that dictates that we could never ‘fly under the radar’.
It seems a commonly held belief that after ten games the table starts to take shape, so perhaps that has something to do with the fact I’ve seen websites, TV programmes, radio and print media talking up Arsenal. To be fair to them, they’re also talking up Liverpool too, but I prefer not to pay much mind to that kind of chatter. Even if Liverpool are one of the teams that scare me the most at the moment. They’re playing well, winning football matches, scoring goals and with no European distractions, will most likely not need to draw on as many other squad resources as the teams in European competition. Yep, Liverpool’s form is something that actually worries more than City, who have shown a level of vulnerability after their opening dominance.
Everyone thought that under Pep this team could be unbeatable, but he was never going to walk the English league like he did the Spanish or German one. There simply isn’t any ‘B team’ games in the Premier League, as he’s realised, which means f*ck ups happen. The trick in our country, as Pep is learning, is to minimise the f*ck ups as best as possible.
We had one on the opening day. We were well under-cooked, we hadn’t properly addressed squad issues in certain positions, and we suffered at the hands of the scousers. Were we to play them next week, however, I reckon it would be much more of a ding-dong battle and I’d fancy us to get more from it that we did on the opening day. But it is what it is, and the most important thing about above all, is that the team responded and has played itself in to some serious form at the moment.
Maintaining that form for the next month will be essential. The dreaded November month is now upon us, in which we traditionally suffer a hiccup or two, so we need to navigate through it and out the other side to December with as little collapses as possible.
That starts tomorrow with a trip to Ludogorets, in which Arsène will no doubt give us an update today on who’s ready, who’s not and how we’re going to approach the game. It won’t be easy, because of all the travelling the team has had to do, but we need to keep our form going in all competitions. Success breeds success and we all want to see us hit that magical ten points mark as soon as possible, so we can focus on winning the group (for a nice change) and keeping our form in the Premier League.
Thereafter, we have the north London derby against them, who are unbeaten and have only conceded a single goal from open play. None of us give a friar tuck about whether we score from set pieces or open play, just that we get the result, but it would feel a little poetic if we could end their unbeaten run and score a few in open play too. More on the build up after the Champions League action has finished though. For now, I’ll just hold my tongue and let the players do the talking tomorrow night, for which I’m sure we’d all like a repeat performance from the players from the last time we played the Bulgarians.
Catch you tomorrow.