Three is the Arsenal’s Magic Number
I’ve always loved the first weekend of the season. Freshly cut green grass, teams in shiny new kits and the expectation of what the season might bring. It will therefore come as no surprise that I fully support Arsenal’s decision to begin the domestic campaign for a third time this Sunday.
The regular kick off in August didn’t pan out as hoped. Players left and the lack of timely replacements left the squad exposed. September was then heralded as the real start of the season as a flurry of late transfer window activity boosted the beleaguered squad. In hindsight, maybe September should be looked at as pre-season, a chance for the new boys to meet their team mates and get settled. It’s now mid October and time for a third crack at getting out of the blocks.
Joking aside, I think there is some sense in leaving the horrors of the first two months firmly behind us. We need to learn from the humiliations experienced in the North West but we can’t keep looking back at what might have been had we only done our transfer business a bit sooner.
What’s done is done, what matters is what happens from here.
Casting an eye over the Premier League table, it’s hard to set your sights on a team you’d like to play more at the moment than Sunderland. They are one of a slender band of clubs who are actually below us in the table, they’ve yet to win away and will be without the World’s Greatest Striker, Nicklas Bendtner. That might be a bit facetious but seriously, the Danish hit-man has looked pretty good in recent weeks, scoring and creating in his last match and bagging a goal for Denmark in midweek.
This fixture is the definition of ‘winnable’. Serious questions will be asked if we put in another risible defensive performance and allow Steve Bruce’s men to leave with anything more than an I Love London T-Shirt. This is yet another opportunity to put early season disasters behind us and rebuild confidence.
Finally we have more than one central defender to choose from and a few more options at the other end of the park. Bacary Sagna will be a huge loss but Carl Jenkinson now has a great opportunity to build on a couple of promising appearances and leave the understandably shaky moments behind him.
Former Arsenal youngster Sebastian Larsson was in the press suggesting that Arsenal no longer scare teams like they used to. This may be so. A team capable of shipping four to Blackburn is hardly going to set an opponent on edge, however I will be more convinced of this if Sunderland approach the game with real attacking intent. It would be my bet that they’ll still come to N5 looking to frustrate and hit us on the break or through a set-piece.
This is perhaps where the key to our recovery lies. We need to rediscover the fact that Arsenal are still a big club that most other teams still don’t look forward to playing, regardless of what might get printed. Ok, things are tough and there are areas in which we could improve massively, on and off the pitch, but let’s not get carried away. We are still a big name, with a fantastic stadium, a great manager and some great players.
You can’t just forget what’s gone before and blindly believe you are still the best side in the country but equally you don’t have to just roll over and accept that our days at the top table are gone. It might sound a bit odd but we need to stop going over the recent past and look at our history. What we need now is some pride in the shirt; to kick back against the idea that we are a former big club. Mikel Arteta certainly didn’t sign for Arsenal for a payday.
This is an ideal time to revisit some of George Graham’s thoughts (no, not the Crooknapp ones); he sent his players out there with the mantra: “remember who you are and what you represent”. He convinced the players that no one liked them and that they had to stick together.
League positions are temporary but the point remains that almost every other team in the country would swap with us in an instant. The sooner the players remember that – and take the handbrake off – the better. And what better time to instil a new belief than our third attempt at a first game of the season?
Keep The Faith.