Saturday, December 22, 2012

Arsenal Need a Lot of Small Victories...

...and One Big One

Wigan tomorrow, and with the Stephens' Day fixture postponed, the result will decide whether it's a happy Christmas or a depressed one.

There is a tentative sense of momentum, perhaps. The nadir of Bradford was followed by an easy, enjoyable win at Reading, and that by the news of new contracts for Gibbs, Wilshere, Chamberlain, Jenkinson, and Ramsey.

The rhetoric was familiar- it's paramount to keep a young team together. But there are some subtle differences this time around. Because the 03/04 title winning side was broken up so quickly, Arsenal's youngsters have often seemed to lack for guidance. But this squad has more experience.

In addition, these youngsters are British, and so, in theory at least, less likely to get itchy feet.

But Arsenal need to establish something more than rhetoric to build on. Rather than building on a position of strength, the club are in danger of losing what has become their habitual place in the Champions League, and unless they regain the habit of beating the league's also-rans, next summer could be a time of even greater than usual upheaval.

Wigan away is the kind of fixture that a serious team wins. It's one that Arsenal have slipped up in on a couple of occasions over recent years.


The Champions League draw threw up a welcome glamour tie against Bayern Munich, the team that should have won the competition last season.

In 2005/06, Arsenal seriously struggled with their league form, and spent a lot of the season outside the Champions League places. In the second round of the European Cup they were drawn against Real Madrid, and few people gave them a prayer. But at the Bernebeau, the team found a new formation and found a performance that got everyone believing again. They won 1-0, progressed to the final, and almost won the competition. They also clawed Spurs back and regained 4th spot. It all started that night in Madrid, and maybe rather than fearing what Bayern can do to Arsenal, we need to welcome what is a big challenge, and acknowledge that this Arsenal side might need a huge result to get everybody believing again.


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