Every week I seem to be saying ‘Well that was an excellent week for Arsenal’. I’m sure it’ll stop at some point, but right now all those pundits who predicted doom and gloom at the Emirates are looking mighty stupid. Let’s take a look around the country before we examine the absolute thumping dished out to Derby yesterday.
Down the road, Spurs were supposed to pip us into fourth. Well, so far they’ve won precisely one match, against Derby, been outplayed at the Lane by Arsenal, and today once again threw away a lead to draw with a poor Bolton side. Both teams sit in the relegation zone. Not only that, but Martin Jol has had his job offered to both Juande Ramos, and now Jose Mourinho.
Speaking of Spurs, Man City, our nearest rivals before the weekend began, managed to impersonate them beautifully, conceding three at Fulham to drop two more points.
Meanwhile, among the higher profile title rivals, nowhere is there more of a crisis than at Chelsea. Waking up to stories of how John Terry helped engineer the downfallof Mourinho wasn’t the best start to the day of a big match. Losing Mikel to a red card in the first half wasn’t a particularly good start to the match either. Eventually losing 2-0, without ever threatening the United goal, they already find themselves five points of the pace, having played a game more. To add to their woes, it has been confirmed by the FA that Avram Grant has 90 days to get his managerial license, otherwise he’s out of the job. Classic.
Over at Liverpool, their performance against Birmingham yesterday had all the penetration of a knife made out of jelly. A second successive league 0-0 draw sees them slip down to fourth, as Benitez insists on saving his best players for the Champions League.
At United things are looking more rosy. They beat Chelsea today off the back of some friendly refereeing – even Alex Ferguson conceded Chelsea were hard done by – but they are stringing together clean sheets and are now second.
But back at home, there is no-one playing better football in the country than Arsenal right now. And while that has been said for a few seasons, the difference is the end product. Three things stood out yesterday that would not have happened last year.
1) Diaby’s opener was an absolute piledriver from distance. Previously allergic to shooting from outside the box, this Arsenal team are reaping the rewards of some fine build up play and speculative efforts. No longer can a team take up camp on the edge of the box – they’ll see the ball fly past them.
2) Adebayor’s hattrick. All three goals – one round the keeper, one penalty, and the icing on the cake towards the end – were sidefoot finishes. Calm and collected. Ade has been much criticised for his finishing ability, but right now he doesn’t just recognise that he’s got a good chance, he knows he’s going to take it. His hattrick yesterday was ample reward for some superb play at the business end of the field. Many, myself included, said that this would be the season for Van Persie. We may have underestimated the big Togolese.
3) Fabregas scoring another scorcher from distance. That’s now, count them, six games in a row that he’s scored, seven in all this season. He scored in precisely three games all of last season, the double against Zagreb meaning his total for the campaign was four. He has seven, and it is still only September. And he has even more assists to his name than that – setting up both Diaby and Adebayor took his total to eight.
If this article has seemed somewhat gleeful so far, that’s because it reflects my mood as I write it. I should temper that somewhat by pointing out that Derby are potentially the worse side ever to play in the Premiership, but you can only beat what is in front of you and it has been exactly these fixtures that’ve been our downfall in recent seasons.
There is so much to be positive about right now. Nine games, eight wins, one draw, and stackfuls of goals. Spurs are close to managerless and utterly hopeless, Chelsea have an half empty stadium, no manager, and an owner who wants to bankroll a team playing sexy football. He should come watch us play.
Keep smiling, Gooners.