Editor’s note: This article was penned by Lefty prior to the 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. I have to apologise, both to the readers and more particularly to Lefty, for not editing and getting this out before the game. Nevertheless, the sentiment of the essay rings true as we enter a crucial, testing period of the season.
After a turbulent–even rancorous–start to the season against Aston Villa, The Arsenal have come on like Gangbusters.
From the August 21st win against Fenerbahçe in the Champions League right up to the 82nd minute goal on the evening of October 22nd in the same competition, we had gone unbeaten. During that stretch the Gunners outscored their 8 Premier League and 4 Champions league opponents 27-7 and have been every bit as dynamic and dominating as those numbers suggest. It seemed for a spell that with our power, pace and fluency of movement we might sweep all before us. It happened–she waited
But on Tuesday night Borussia Dortmund called our bluff. Depending on your point of view or personal proclivities it came either as a shock or something expected. For me–and perhaps our players–it was more the former than the latter.
We had it seemed worked out a fine blueprint for success: an excellent if not outstanding defensive pairing at the back augmented by two quick and capable fullbacks; a midfield that in truth may have no equal anywhere in the world let alone the domestic league; and a strike force quite capably lead by one Olivier Giroud, whose goals, hold-up play and resolute willingness to hustle and help defensively have been magnificent.
There are a number of reasons for the reverse though, the most obvious being that we played sloppily in headless pursuit of all 3 points. Ramsey’s edge-of-the-penalty-box muddle was the most obvious transgression but there were other offenders too. Where were Gibbs, Rosicky or Sagna during that fatal sequence that resulted in Dortmund’s winning counter-strike? Even the usually super-reliable Mikel Arteta had gone missing.
The truth is it was a team failing. We had become too used to winning, too cocksure that if we piled on the pressure we would win even with bad passes (and there were plenty of them) and lax marking. Give the Germans some credit too. They are a tremendous team but had a light squad, played in a hostile environment yet held their nerve, shape and sense of purpose. In many ways it was a very Arsenal-like performance and in that respect quite deserving of the win.
I question now is: how will the Gunners respond? This group has shown a grit and stick-to-it-ness that goes back to the away win at Bayern last spring and they won’t lose it in a flash. The first team, though not totally healthy still have important contributors coming back into the side. Mathieu Flamini perhaps a key miss on Tuesday will be back this weekend and Theo in two more weeks according to the teams official website. Other like The Ox, Lukas Podolski and young Yaya Sonogo may still be a while yet. And even though his career will now never be a full or even perhaps a necessarily happy one, we do expect Diaby back before the next transfer window closes.
I’m always saddened by the thought of his circumstances and it bears reminding that his injuries are not of his fault and that his fate has been shared by many thousands of fine footballers who have been dealt unfair blows. This side of the game is often forgotten when the talk is all of goals and glory but is and always has been part and parcel of the game. The Arsenal will for sure be back and on the winning track. But if it is one thing we should have learned this week is that we may have to manage two things: poorly orchestrated attacks out of our midfield and perhaps, our expectations.