When Lukas Podolski thumped the ball into the net in fifth second of added time against Anderlecht, he just may have provided the turning point that this Arsenal team needed. Arsenal’s injury-riddled start to the campaign has, after all, been incongruent with the newfound optimism surrounding the current FA Cup (and Community Shield) holders. Before the trip to Belgium, Arsenal had not yet managed to win two consecutive games. Since Prince #Aha’s late winner however, Arsenal have followed the smash-and-grab, sleeper-turned-thriller Champions League result with wins against Sunderland and Burnley. We’re on the up.
Though the results have started to go our way, the performances against Anderlecht and against Sunderland were largely uninspiring. Clearly, the squad has some problems. Our backline can be likened to Frankenstein’s monster, for mismatched pieces have been grafted together. We have a right-back in Calum Chambers who, to me, looks like a centre-back. We have a temporary centre-back in Nacho Monreal who, to me, looks like a shrunken Peter Crouch, and also like a left-back. There’s also Hector Bellerin, who despite being a go-to of mine in FIFA 15, is a player who has not yet earned Arsene Wenger’s trust. It’s as if Wenger thinks he knows more about managing Arsenal than me just because he does it in real life. Pfft. There have been problems in other areas of the pitch too. Currently, Santi Cazorla couldn’t hit a barn door if he was fastened to Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball and swung in the Canadian prairies (you’re welcome for the imagery). Aaron Ramsey too, has struggled to find form. Further, the double-pivot of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta is lackluster and inexplicable to me, especially against “lesser” clubs (read: all other clubs). I could go on.
As a result, we needed two goals in two minutes late against Anderlecht, and two goals from shocking errors against the lowly Sunderland. I have already spent too much time on the negatives, however, for this is meant to be a positive post. I’m happy we’re winning, I swear.
In fact, today I’m happy for a number of reasons.
First, this weekend’s match against Burnley was among the best Arsenal performances of the campaign thus far. A clean sheet was kept, albeit unconvincingly (I’m looking at you, Flamini). Nacho was competent in the middle, though generally unchallenged. Kieran Gibbs once again proved that he is in great form, producing in the final third without sacrificing his defensive responsibilities. Chambers got his first Arsenal goal, and his first Arsenal assist, in a span of just two minutes. Arteta played an “easy” game, which can only help his progression towards full fitness. Danny Welbeck was strong on the ball, he passed well, and he was unlucky to finish without a goal. Across the board, it was a decisive victory.
Second, we have the best player in the Premier League in Alexis Sanchez. I read a statistic that the Chilean has scored one million goals in the last five years, and because of what he has done so far in an Arsenal shirt, I believed it. He is that good, but you already know that. There’s really no need to go on about Sanchez. Failing to see his quality would be like failing to appreciate bacon. Unfathomable.
Third, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain was incredible against Burnley. See what Bobby McMahon had to say on Twitter:
If not Sanchez and his general otherworldliness, Ox would have been MOTM. He dribbled defender after defender and was an absolute joy to watch. Indeed, highly regarded Arsenal writer, 7amkickoff, reports that Ox dribbled successfully five times in seven attempts, and created four Arsenal shots (see the full article here: link). Perhaps he heard Theo Walcott’s footsteps on the sidelines and wanted to give Le Boss another selection dilemma. An in-form Ox is such an asset to the football club.
Fourth, it’s hard not to smile at the appearance and performance of the two 80th minute substitutes. Theo Walcott returned after being sidelined by injury for nine months. These are early days, but he looked hungry to contribute and to impress. Theo was our top-scorer in the 2012-2013 campaign, and if his comeback is managed sensibly, you can expect big things from the speedster. For now, it’s just nice to see him on the pitch again. Lukas Podolski also entered the game in the 80th minute, and he nonchalantly tried to pop the ball with two separate powerful shots. He certainly deserved a goal for this effort. His personality is so jovial that it’s hard not to smile when he’s a part of an impressive performance, swinging his left foot at will (tough luck, Will).
When Arsenal is winning, it’s easy to see all of the positives and ignore the negatives, sure. But that’s not being fickle, that’s football. We, I, spend plenty of time pulling our knuckles to our palms as Arsenal supporters. Us lot have been through the lot, so to speak. Undoubtedly there’ll be trouble again eventually. For now, let’s savour the positivity, clink beers, and hope that the run that began with Poldi’s winner in Belgium continues.