View From The North Bank: Man City 1 Arsenal 1
One of the most encouraging aspects of our result on Sunday was that we actually took something away with us. I don’t mean that as if we were lucky and that we should be grateful for anything, rather that we went up there last year and made a lot of the running but ultimately came home with nothing. Here we got the absolute minimum our efforts deserved. That in itself is an important development for us.
I’ve spent a lot of time in years gone by arguing a poor result wasn’t the end of the world because the performance was there. Of course, there have been plenty of costly non-performances too but time and again we’ve dominated but lost out on the one statistic the counts. The truth is, if we want to win things again we need to convert performances into results. We don’t need a big afternoon from one player to drag us over the line, we need consistency as a unit. Sunday showed that we are moving towards that faster than many thought we could.
Consistency is achieved not only by hard work and organisation but by continuity in the side. Look at our back four, this was the first time we’d had to change our back four all season. Contrast that with 12 months ago when each of our opening five games had seen a different back four. There’s competition and depth back there now. When our captain was struck down with flu we could call upon last year’s best defender. It makes a massive difference to bring in a player you can trust rather than hoping a youngster or new recruit can manage the steep learning curve.
Another statement in favour of continuity were the performances of Mertesacker and Jenkinson. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve argued in favour of both. Unfortunately judgements are made all too quickly in Football as much of the commentariat seek an easy answer. Why was Arsenal’s back four so bad last season? Mertesacker was new and Jenkinson was plucked from the lower leagues. It all adds up, they must have been useless.
A slightly more nuanced reading of both suggests that positive performances this season shouldn’t be such a surprise; neither were as bad as it had become commonplace to state. Sure, both of them had tough times but generally they both worked hard and showed signs of fitting into a new environment.
This leads me on to my next point, that of perseverance and the need to show faith. Good players very rarely become bad players overnight. Just as Wenger saw something in Jenkinson and Mertesacker he also did in Ramsey, another of our best players at the weekend. In the fickle Football world many wanted him dumped in the summer. Thankfully our boss has the courage of his convictions and doesn’t see the benefit in writing players off as soon as they hit a turbulent patch. Of course, I don’t want to go too far the other way and laud this team, or these individuals, as good enough to sweep all before them, I just think it’s worthwhile to support them when evidence appears in their favour.
Of course, the time for us to judge our improvement is with 10 games gone at the very least. If we are still in the hunt then, if we still look solid and able to get results then we can ratchet the confidence up to the next level. At the moment it would pay to remain cautious and allow things to develop without too much expectation. We have yet another stiff test next weekend.
Talking as I have of continuity and consistency, the one place we haven’t had anything like that is in the final third. It hardly needs stating that over recent years we’ve lost Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor and Van Persie whilst this season Walcott’s approach to contract negotiation sees him quite rightly marooned on the naughty step – or bench as some people insist on calling it.
This season we have another new look attacking group. Cazorla looks incredible, Podolski is tireless and clinical whilst Gervinho looks confident but retains a tendency for rash finishing. Add to that Giroud who despite having failed to score yet has actually looked a decent target and valuable cog in the machine. The problem is that three of those players are new to English Football and the other only has one season under his belt. It is going to take time until we see the glimpses of undoubted quality become the norm. As we’ve seen in other areas, a bit of patience and perseverance will surely see them fulfil their promise too.
Keep The Faith.