Feb 102012

For all the crisis talk, it hasn’t been a bad fortnight for Arsenal. At half time against Villa, we were staring down the barrel of a fourth successive defeat, and an early exit from a competition that was beginning to open up thanks to some high profile ties that we had managed to avoid. Since then, we have seen actual mental strength (as opposed to the professed type that leaves us scratching our heads in disbelief) in that comeback win, a match against Bolton which, while frustrating from a result point of view, was a sharp improvement in performance on those that had come before, and a thumping seven goal win over a Blackburn side that inflicted perhaps our most painful defeat of the season back in September (yes, I count that 4-3 loss as worse than the United hammering).

That win made the rest of the weekend highly enjoyable – we knew others would drop points, and a combination of draws meant plenty did. After emerging from a horrible run of form, we are still just three points from fourth, with the goal difference deficit almost eradicated. To top it all off, our next opponents, Sunderland, fielded a strong side in their midweek cup replay and were taken all the way to extra time. Lovely.

Of course, that counts for little unless we find some consistency over the next few weeks. For all our flaws, those around us have plenty of their own, and are dropping points with a regularity that ensures any kind of decent run would elevate us back into the top four. It is perfectly achievable.

It seems this Arsenal team performs best when out of the spotlight. When rivals drop points at the start of a weekend, we often fail to capitalise, and when eyes are on us, we can falter. So it is in our interest to quietly accumulate the points while waiting for those around us to slip. In short, we have no interest in being ‘the story’.

And after the week English football has just had, we are in no danger of grabbing any kind of spotlight. All eyes are now on Spurs, after Redknapp was first acquitted of tax evasion and then installed as overwhelming favourite to take over the England job from the departing Fabio Capello. The coverage of the latter event was almost laughable – Capello described as a hopeless case, while a manager who has won just 6% of his managerial trophy haul (1 FA Cup vs 16 major trophies) is being touted as the saviour. Where is the sense?

Still, it can’t do us any harm. I was looking at the odds on us finishing in the top four on Wednesday, to see what effect the Redknapp judgement would have. As it happened, the odds changed very little when the jury found him not guilty, but what was more interesting was the immediate shortening of our odds as soon as Capello resigned. To put it simply – the bookies believe we are now much more likely to finish in the Champions League spots.

Personally, I don’t think it will make much difference. There seems little doubt that Redknapp will get the job, but I would be extremely surprised to see him leave Spurs before May. I do, however, find it quite entertaining that Spurs are crowing about how big a club they are becoming, and yet their manager wants to leave to bigger and better things.

With all that going on, plus the small matter of United-Liverpool tomorrow, complete with Suarez-Evra subplot, we are likely to be out of the spotlight for some time to come. And that suits us just fine.

Bring on Sunderland.

  6 Responses to “Arsenal happy to continue flying under the radar”

  1. Hi, your take on Redknapp and the Spurs looks plausible. As for your views on our prospects – l think myself that I will until after we have played Sunderland away – Arry’s tiny Totts at home and Liverpool away – with a couple of cup games away thrown in – before deciding that a facial win at home against relegation fodder Blackburn suddenly means that we are doing fine.
    Some point to the fact that Rover’s had put together 3 good results before we beat them -however you could point to Sunderland also doing well since O’ Neill came in – Tottenham are in good form and so are Liverpool – hopefully we will win these games and the cup ones also -it seems unlikely though unless we really have hit top form – we will need to have done so -because we can’t afford to drop points in the league and rely on others doing so.
    The games are running down now and before you can say Jack Wilshere , Easter will have come and gone. And unless we pick up plenty of points in the league by that time , then so will our top four place. It’s comforting to know that the club will show a profit though as Wenger pinted out the other day – he runs us has a business first and a football club second.
    I hope he’s right that he had no need to sign any new players in January – this however relies on keeping players like Van Persie fit and in form. All a bit risky really with the games coming thick and fast between now and the end of the season.

  2. Your very good point that this team do better when not ‘the story’ illustrates that they do not have that mental strength the manager endlessly goes on about. Indeed, I’m sure he doesn’t believe it either, he is just trying to invest it in them via repetition. But it no longer works. Unless you are one of those who still think he’s doing a brilliant job of course given our ‘resources’ i.e. 5th richest club in the world.

    • Yeah, we’re a bit fragile, that’s hard to deny. Would like to see the whole team take beta-blockers, or something similar, to stop our on-field panic attacks.

  3. Just a bit of a segue here, but how on earth, I mean on what basis does Wenger give Djourou a contract extension?

    Just cannot understand that one. Some people are saying that oh, he’s committed to Arsenal. I mean, come on, so are thousands of overweight bar-flys, but you don’t slot them in at CB! It seems the fans need someone to commit themselves to the club so badly that even poor players will do.

    Rant over. And please continue the blogs, Pete, this is my group therapy…

    • Djourou is a very good 4th choice CB, certainly much better than most of the 4th choice CBs at other big clubs. Most of his performances this season have been poor but he clearly has talent, remember his run of 28 games or so without a defeat last season? He’s still young for a CB, he’ll get better.

  4. djruo is a waste of space,n this team will defnatly falter sooner than later. wenger has no guts n you can see it on the layers. out of touch with reality n teaching the boys maths instead of footy

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