It has been a crazy, weird week of football for the Arsenal. We played Anderlecht on Wednesday and faced off against Sunderland in the Stadium of Light on Saturday. While both matches were wins, the manner of both wins was unconvincing to say the least. I am thrilled we took the points from both matches but we still seem to be far off of the standard of footballing excellence we expect from Arsenal.
I am unable to watch the matches in midweek live because I am in the office, so I generally keep tabs using Arseblog’s Liveblog, which is a great tool from Andrew Mangan at Arseblog. BBC Sport usually is full of anti-Arsenal chowder heads who claim to be experts as they spout out their hateful drivel. So in the little downtime I get at the office, I check the score and read comments and commentary about how well we have been playing. All I kept reading was how dreadful we looked and how we were going to lose. 1-0 down heading to the 89th minute and it looked like this was the case. Then Gibbs showed up with that wonderful volleyed goal. It was a really well taken strike from the left back and suddenly we were level. I was happy with the equalizer and then after a quick phone call I see the words appear on the screen “Podolski!” “2-1!”
I fell out of my chair and yelled out in joy. I threw my hands to the sky and said to my coworker (a Liverpool fan, sad right?) Podolski scored. He was in just as much shock as I was. Of course it was a win, a lackluster, pathetic showing but we got the points. Podolski was the hero of the day with the match winner, and I felt that it was good for him that he walked away with that goal because I always feel that if he gets a chance, he will take it. There is no hesitation from him to shoot first, which I feel is lacking from our game right now. Wenger doesn’t want to play him lately but the gamble paid off and I am ecstatic for it.
Moving to the weekend, the match against Sunderland was a relatively dull affair as well. I hate saying that because we got 2 goals and a clean sheet. How can that be bad? To be fair, it isn’t. Our thin defense was actually solid, Monreal wasn’t looking out of place in the center and both full backs were making good runs and tracking back well. Mertesacker may be finally clearing the cobwebs and oiling the joints because he appears to be the organizer again. This time it was the attack that was guilty of not doing enough, bar one player: Alexis Sanchez.
There aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe how good he is right now. I may have to make up a few new words. So if anyone has any ideas, email me or send me a message on Twitter. The Chilean superstar has not appeared to suffer any World Cup setbacks. He is tenacious, fast, tricky and can score from anywhere. Both goals he got because of that ability to hound defenses into making errors. Wes Brown and Vito Mannone both were victims of the Sanchezinator. Every match that comes and goes, with the exception of a couple, we can pick apart the team and say why every player is playing like they are in quicksand, but Alexis is the one player who works his short shorts off. He is a winner, through and through. He never gives up, on a tackle, dribble or shot. He is doing everything in the power to keep this team afloat as we sort out or injuries and defensive woes.
Alexis is the kind of player that can pull you through a bad performance and put the icing on the cake of a great one. Our problem is that we aren’t supporting him enough to make our performances great. Wenger continues to rotate our attacking players almost as if he has a dart board with the players’ pictures on it and one by one, throws darts at them, blindfolded, to determine the staring line up. The squad doesn’t seem to have the chemistry that we would think they would have. Many of these players have been together on the same team in some capacity for several years, barring the new ones. Yet, we cannot string together any number of convincing performances. Injuries have been a problem, I know that, but we have experienced players in almost every position to field a decent team.
We can argue and gripe about how bad we look after every match until we can’t speak anymore, but I would rather take a step back, look at the matches with a cooler head and try to take whatever positives out of it we can. Lately, it is just Alexis, but a positive is a positive.
We have Burnley this weekend and that is a match we should be winning. Alexis will have to step up again, but hopefully after two poor to average performances where we took away maximum points, we can start to get some consistency in our game and not struggle to beat teams lower than us in the table. I am banking on a 3-0, call it the blind optimism that I have about this team but even the naysayers can’t deny that we are more than capable of beating Burnley. That being said, we could easily be the instrument of our own destruction. Onwards and upwards.
Come on you Gunners!
PS: Sorry for the shorter blog this week, but I have been a bit under the weather these past few days and my writing brain is blocked with sinus congestion. I will have an improved blog next week when we beat Burnley.