Stone Cold Friday: Arsenal Must Focus On The C-Word
We judge people by many standards. Personally, I never trust a man, who when left alone with a tea cosey… Doesn’t try it on. Darius has a wardrobe full…
Wipe that dirty and perverted smirk off your face – I’m talking about ‘consistency’ here. With a quarter of the season gone, the report card has some pleasant and positive reading, with Arsenal deservedly perched in the top percentile of the various league tables.
The term report is also tempered with a ruthless reminder of the cost of not being clinical with our chances; or turning up for games and assuming certain teams will roll over, let us tickle them on the belly, pat them on the head and send them back up the motorway with a thrashing.
The points lost so far especially due to moments of mental lapses, should not cloud the individual and collective successes that the team has registered so far. It’s now time to build on this and show consistency in the achievement of positive results.
When I reflect on the season this far, the most pleasing aspect for me has been the maturity and patience the team has shown in knuckling down and getting on with a professional job. My sense is that part of this is because the players have collectively got more experienced in playing within the 4-3-3 system, and some of the kinks from last season seem to be fading away.
Personnel changes have also played a major part – in particular with Koscielny, Squillaci, Chamakh and Wilshere blending in like they’ve always been part of the furniture. The net result being that as a whole, the squad seems to be better equipped for this campaign.
Even with our customary roll call of injuries, there are fewer frayed nerves as we seem to have the personnel to cope with the absences. The individual improvement of certain players like Fabianski, Walcott, Wilshere, Nasri and Song – Arsenal’s new goal machine – has seriously reduced the quality gap between the first and second string players, massively improving the squad strength and depth.
Despite all these ingredients – it’s important that particularly at this stage, the team shows consistency by building on the positive results we have achieved so far. There used to be a time when certain games were bankers for 3 points. West Brom and Sunderland have shown that come match day – history doesn’t mean anything.
I think it’s also fair to say that individuals in the team still also blow hot and cold. Take Clichy for example who within 4 days, turned from hero with his assist for Song, to villain, for his ‘assist’ for Eduardo. This is not to say that Clichy has suddenly become a bad player – far from that. I think he’s one of the best left backs in the game.
But consistency demands that such Jekyll and Hyde performances are cut out. Perhaps it’s worth it that Gibbs is breathing down his throat in the same way that Szczesny is breathing down Fabianski’s throat; that Bendtner and Chamakh are breathing down Van Persie’s throat; that Rosicky is sweating Arshavin or Eboue is sweating Sagna.
If it makes individuals more ‘uncomfortable’ and hence more consistent – then all hail to a strong squad with hungry ‘breathers’. But it’s not enough that individuals are consistent. Our team performances have to also be consistent.
The fact that we’ll play at least 60 games this season, coupled with inevitable suspensions and injuries means that squad rotation is a given. It’s the consistency of the squad – despite any personnel changes – that has to see us through some tight spots, for there will be many more to come.
Watching Newcastle United giving Sunderland a good hiding last weekend made me wonder how it is we can beat the Toon and not Sunderland. I suppose it’s the same reason we can beat Man City who easily beat Chelsea a team we failed to beat, but City were beaten by West Brom who smuggled 3 points out of the Emirates – and then I start getting a headache.
The thing is that all teams will drop points, sometimes in the most unexpected places. The EPL has become a tougher proposition since we were last at the helm and there are stronger teams right across the board. The only way we will continue enjoying the position we occupy and move on to claiming the title is by building on the current successes and showing consistency.
Chelsea is not going to bend over and let us shaft them to the title. We’re going to have to violently wrestle it away from them. United will be hell bent on reminding us that they’re no mugs and didn’t walk into this title race from the cotton fields.
This Arsenal team has enough in the locker to achieve its ultimate potential and bring the first trophy home. But we’re not going to do that by not showing consistency. We need to get positive results in the next game, and the next and the one after that.
Consistency begets results; results beget confidence and as Peter Hill-Wood would say “woe betide any team that steps into the path of a confident, consistent Arsenal”.