I often find myself without the time to write regularly for this blog, to preview each match and review it afterwards, to analyse on a day-by-day basis and to react in a timely fashion to anything interesting going on. More often than not I find myself, as I do tonight, summing up a longer period of time, rather than an individual moment.
That can have its disadvantages – no-one really wants to read my take on the nuances of a game that happened a week ago, but it does also have the occasional benefit, such as the forcing of analysis over a longer period of time than ninety minutes.
The last ten days have been telling, both on and off the pitch. After the Man City game, an excellent performance in which we matched the champions stride for stride on their own turf, many believed us to be genuine title contenders. Fast forward a week to a home defeat against Chelsea, and the majority view was that we still have the same old problems and will challenge for nothing. But the ability and aptitude of the squad doesn’t change dramatically in seven days, so what gives?
The answer is simple – neither conclusion can be gleaned from a single match. Teams play badly and lose some weeks, yet raise their game on other occasions and pull out impressive victories. Both extremes are felt by every single team in the league, and neither sets the tone for the season or can be used as a barometer for overall success or failure. For the bigger picture, you have to look at a string of games to see whether the great or terrible performance was the oddity.
The defeat to Chelsea was only our first of the season, not that you necessarily would have known that from the reaction. Having already faced Man City, Liverpool, Stoke and Montpellier on our travels, that is actually quite impressive. Our ability to fight and come from behind has already been shown on a few occasions, while certain players, including new signings Podolski and Cazorla, have shone. There is also real evidence that from open play at least, our defensive stability is greatly improved.
On the flip side, our goalkeeping situation is still an issue, with the two incumbents being at fault for at least three goals already this campaign, and we haven’t yet found a way to effectively replace the goals of He Who Must Not Be Named. Giroud is taking the flak, which I think it unfair – if he manages fifteen goals this season then I think he has done his job, and it is also up to the likes of Gervinho, Walcott, Cazorla and Podolski to head towards double figures. Share the burden, and all that.
But overall, I think we’re doing okay. The ten days may only have gleaned one point, but there were the aforementioned excellent and poor performances, which could easily have resulted in a win and a loss, or two draws. Neither went or way. In between, we thumped Coventry in the
Carling Capital One Cup. Add those mixed days to a start that has been highly encouraging and I don’t think we should be sounding the alarm just yet.
For me, our main issue is that we need to cut out the stupid goals. The only one we have conceded that didn’t feel daft was actually the consolation Coventry managed last week – every other one has either been the result of a goalkeeping howler or an avoidable free kick. That needs to improve, and that it can be identified so easily will hopefully lead to such improvement.
But in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, Don’t Panic. Losing at home to Chelsea is always painful, and it wasn’t a good performance, but it also doesn’t mean that your eyes were deceiving you on every other occasion this season. It is how we bounce back that counts.
Champions League tomorrow, and Sam Allardyce at the weekend. Time to focus on what is coming.