No Room For The Laughing Cavaliers At Arsenal
International week concludes its business this evening with a host of pointless friendlies joined by a host of pointless second legs in the Euro2012 Play-offs with most settled already, the only debatable outcome is Bosnia and Portugal. Even then, if the latter do not progress to the finals that will constitute a major shock.
Not quite a shocking as the English media this morning deciding anything Marca carries is vaguely newsworthy. I was going to add truthful to that but since when has the truth had anything to do with the print media? Certainly the reliance upon verifiable facts is in decline, preferring to attribute spurious stories to ‘sources close to the club‘. Here’s a newsflash: those sources are supposed to be executives at the club not the Madrid Evening Post seller whose stand happens to be on the street corner opposite the Bernabeu.
Arsène is not worrying about that, instead focussing on keeping the players focussed on improving. Having endured all manner of opprobrium and ridicule following the poor start to the season, the climb to seventh place is a recovery with the top four within touching distance. Indeed, a heavy win at Carrow Road could see the club reach stratospheric heights by this season’s standards albeit for a fleeting moment.
Three points though will be the first objective and that will be achieved by the continued adherence to a more direct approach,
I would say we are a bit more controlled and less cavalier. We are less adventurous when the job is done, I must say. You can feel that there is some reserve there if needed…Overall I would say it is a more mature attitude. We were more functional. We did the job properly, with quality and, I must say, with seriousness.
There’s a lot saying going on there, I must say. The dynamic has changed beyond doubt, new signings in midfield are not direct replacements for those departed which leads to an adjustment of the playing style. When Jack Wilshere returns, that style will adjust again. It is not a philosophical change as such, more an adaptation to circumstance.
And that adaptation process is going well. The results might have been as expected, teams who should be beaten, beaten. That should not be used as a stick with which to beat the squad though. Many times in the past, those matches perceived as straightforward have been the undoing of title hopes. It is equally not a time to go overboard.
This is a hard squad to judge. They showed mental strength in overcoming Chelsea, retrieving deficits and punishing their supposedly stronger opponents on the counter-attack. They have relentlessly pursued victories, keeping clean sheets as well. They have ridden their luck and I suppose that the only real test they have to face is how they handle defeat. It will come and given that was the fundmental failing at the tail end of last season, this time around will be telling.
Recovering from defeats this season has probably been easier thus far. Liverpool’s win could be pinned on a red card, Old Trafford a freak result in a season of freak results. Blackburn? Profligacy in front of goal whilst Spurs is a derby that could go either way. Those defeats at the hands of close rivals are probably easier to deal with mentally, knowing that matches could go either way.
It is those like Blackburn that seem to take a bigger toll and that is what Wenger must deal with when the moment arises. It has been a weakness in the past but one that this squad seem more prepared to overcome. Perhaps it is the experience of older heads such as Arteta, Mertesacker and Benayoun. Maybe it is losing the emotional or sulky responses of others who have left. In all likelihood, it is a combination of both.
All this is not going to the manager’s head. In this case, he is a better man than I for having to endure the gratuitous “I know better than you” attitude of his critics, he is not going to stoop to their level,
At the moment I feel we are more focused – saying ‘look I am right’ is less important for me than trying to continue the quality of our team and our results
The Yardbirds summed it all up, Mister, you’re a better man than I.