International breaks can often disrupt the rhythm that a team have, especially nuisance ones so early in the season. So it was a concern when, after a controlled and impressive victory at Anfield, the squad dispersed to various locations around the world to represent their country. Would the promising signs still be there when they got back?

Turns out we needn’t have worried. Since the domestic season restarted, we have seen a 6-1 demolition over Southampton followed by a 2-1 win in Montpellier in the opening exchanges of the Champions League. The former was a reminder of how difficult we are to play against when ahead – Southampton’s entire gameplan was destroyed by the early own goal that gave us the lead, and had no answer to the multi-pronged onslaught that followed. Montpellier, meanwhile, represents a more interesting mindshift to me – early in the season, particularly after the sales of Van Persie and Song, many were exceptionally pessimistic about the campaign ahead, but just a few short weeks later, there was a considerable amount of criticism after a victory at the home of the French champions.

For me, that is extremely interesting. The bar has been raised – we are not so wary of this team’s ability that we’ll snatch any three points with relief, instead we will look with a critical eye over things that may cost us those points in the future, even though they didn’t on the night. It is certainly no bad thing to analyse in this way, but it certainly shows a change in expectation level brought on by that impressive victory at Liverpool. An understandable shift – the defence looks more solid, while the seamless integration of Cazorla and Podolski must surprise even the most hopeful. We knew they had quality – watching them slot it so quickly and effectively has been a sight to behold.

Tomorrow, the season takes a turn for the difficult, with a trip to Eastlands to play Man City, themselves unfortunate not to win in the Bernabeu midweek. It is already being described as the acid test of our season, of how far we have come since the summer, and a marker for how well we can expect to do this season.

I say that is nonsense. It is a single match, nothing more, nothing less. A big match, no doubt, but a single match all the same. Our recent encounters with City have all been close, all able to change on a single moment, so to draw too many conclusions from tomorrow, irrespective of the result, would be erroneous.

If we win, it will be a fantastic three points, and further evidence that this team is moving in the right direction. But do not forget that we have had spectacular results in big games before – last season we scored five at Stamford Bridge and another five at home to Spurs, with a crucial late season win against City also fully deserved at the Emirates. The issue is consistency – if we are to move forward it isn’t by winning those games, but by not screwing up so many ‘simpler’ games, as we did last season. In short, consistency is what we aim for, and what we need to turn into genuine title contenders. Tomorrow doesn’t give that – more performances like the one against Southampton could ironically prove more important.

Likewise, if we lose then we should not react by throwing our hands up and claiming that nothing has changed for the better. All that would have happened is that we would have lost at the home of the champions, something that will happen to most clubs this season. The positives from the last few weeks would not suddenly be eradicated, the players who have made forward strides would not have regressed, we would simply have lost a football match against a very good team.

That might sound boring, but it is true – tomorrow really is about three points, and nothing more. The team should be judged over a longer period than ninety minutes. If, over the next ten games, we win seven or eight, then we might just have ourselves an excellent season. If we win two, we’re likely to be waving hello to Liverpool in the standings.

The point is – we could win, lose or draw tomorrow and it wouldn’t enormously affect the bigger picture. The squad is growing together and has an efficiency I haven’t seen in a number of years, so I’ll remain optimistic even if the result doesn’t go our way.

Tomorrow is a big game, no doubt. But a barometer for the season ahead? Nonsense.

Enjoy the game.

  17 Responses to “Man City is just another match, not a barometer”

  1. Did you think the same when the Mancs thrashed us 8-2, just another game instead of the worst defeat in living memory and no apology from the dictator, if we are beaten we will do what we always do go on a bad run as the dictator has no plan b we have been stck in limbo for eight seasons because Wenger and the board put profit before success and fans. Nothing will change til the egomaniac goes

    • The 8-2 defeat was only on the back of having two of our best players leave and a not 2 good preseason.

    • Completely different situation. The squad was in utter turmoil, people didn’t know who was coming and going and the squad was riddled with suspensions.

      In fact, that match had absolutely nothing in relation to tomorrow or the current situation of the squad.

    • the 8-2 was also a three point game, ain’t it? we eventually ended a spot behind the victors of that day, right? and we weren’t barred from playing in Europe due to the fact that we once lost 8-2, right?

      f**king troll… try to make sense next time, ok?

      • @pizzy
        a spot behind the victors… and 19 points behind them. Actually.

      • Why resort to insults, getting pissed off and calling someone else names over an opinion makes even less sense ok? Think before you write and end up looking silly

  2. arsenal are in better shape than last year with players that are exciting to watch,hope to get something out of match, great team put together by mr wenger

  3. Exactly n u have gotten it well-documented!

  4. We wil win 2-1 COYG

  5. TBG, love your piece.

    I wasn’t planning to comment (will be difficult to type “multiple nodding” out, right?), but then I read the first comment on your piece coming from a troll, one of those who obviously cannot understand the point in your article. I wonder if he read the article at all…

    The truth is that tomoro’s match is nothing more than a three pointer game. Yes, the gaffer (if some think he’s a dictator,then so be it: he wasn’t voted in anyway) has said it is going to be the ultimate test of our title credentials. But then it is also the truth, a game against the current champs and the ‘biggest boys’ of the league will show us how much we have closed the gap on them. However, the result will only tell us who moves further up the table by 6pm tomoro, nothing more. I only ask for a performance that we can all be proud of, and one that can be sustained over the course of the season, nothing more.

    well, I’m done. Hope this comment suits your intelligent piece better…

    • Thanks – and agree completely. It is a big match, for confidence as much as anything, but I think too much stock is put in these games, particularly early in the season. The winner of the ‘big team mini-league’ doesn’t often win the ultimate prize – it is the one that can put together a consistent run on wins that grinds the others down.

      Mind you, I won’t sniff at three points if we can get them….

  6. Lookin 4ward 2 d encountr though… N 1 tinz 4 sure: it’s reli gonna b nterestin… wit d euphoria of confidence d team’s baskin in rit nw, definitely tinkz dis is wat we need, 2 put tinz n perspective goin 4ward @ such an early point in d season… ”Such a test is welcomd”… Cheerz matz!!!

  7. At last. Someone who can write with a little sense.

    I for one am not getting carried away with all this pre-match build up. So far I’ve read that this is the best time to play shitty, but at the end of the day it is still only three points. Which in truth is not going to show that we are going to end our trophy drought.

    I said at the beginning of the week if we come away with three points over the next two EPL games will show that we can keep in touch with the favourites, anything more is a bonus. But I am never the optimist but more realistic.

    The way I look at it is that compared to two years ago this is a brand new team. Maybe except TV5 and TW14. (would include BS, but he is injured) so I still believe it will take time for the team to for fill their full potential. And I thought this was highlighted on Wednesday, especially in the second half as we completely lost control of the game.

    So win, lose or draw as long as we give a good account of ourselves then I won’t be losing any sleep. COYG

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