In the wake of their strong performance at Anfield, it seems the football world is convinced that Arsenal have what it takes to challenge for the Premiership.
A lot of football observers – myself included – saw the game at Anfield as Arsenal’s first big test of the season. But after fighting back from a goal down and outplaying the home side for long periods, the general consensus was that Arsene Wenger’s side passed that test in style, a conclusion that has somewhat surprisingly supported by Liverpool pair Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina today. Carragher revealed that, such was the movement of Arsenal, he felt they had an extra player on the pitch, whilst Reina also had some very positive things to say about Wenger’s side and suggested that Liverpool were fortunate to walk away with a point.
“I think it is a point gained because they were the better side. We tried to fight and to keep our level as high as we could but they were one of the best sides I have ever seen.”
You really have to give those two guys some credit for their honest comments about the match. It’s usually players from clubs at the bottom of the league who have such positive things to say about their opponents and I think that Wenger and his men should take confidence from the tributes paid to them by Carragher and Reina. The goalkeeper in particular would have had an excellent perspective on the match and I would suggest his statement that Arsenal were one of the best sides that he had ever seen will have been down to the away side’s ability to control the game for long periods.
Moving away from those comments for a moment, it’s been interesting to see the reactions that various supporters have had to the game against Liverpool. Some people seem to think that it was two points dropped for Arsenal after dominating the home side whilst others have suggested that it was a below-par performance against an out-of-sorts Liverpool side. I’ve had some time to reflect on the match and I have to say that, although I felt a few of the players underperformed on the night, I was pleased but not delighted with the result. Although a draw was not the ideal outcome the fact is that this was another point that was not gained last season, and a 1-1 draw was a huge improvement on last season’s 4-1 defeat. As long as the boys continue their nice little habit of consistently improving on last season’s results then I really feel that Arsenal will be near the top of the league in May.
More appreciation for Arsenal
The tributes for Arsenal did not stop there as two ex-players also had very positive things to say about the club’s great performances. Croatian striker Davor Suker suggested that Arsenal have the potential to dominate Europe for the next five years whilst Villareal midfielder Robert Pires had some kind words to say about the influence of Arsene Wenger. Pires, who left the club at the end of the 2005/06 season and has been having good success with his Spanish club of late, praised Wenger and Arsenal for their unique approach to the game.
“The club has a magic and it is called Wenger. To play how they want to do at Arsenal, Arsene is unique; simple football, fast, looking for goal all the time. For enjoyment, there is nobody like Wenger.”
He’s absolutely right, and that is why all the players that go through the club (apart from a few obvious exceptions) seem to love playing for Arsenal. As a supporter of the club it can sometimes be easy to take the football that Arsenal plays for granted and it is sometimes important to just stand back and really appreciate everything that Wenger has achieved. At other big clubs players like Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy just would not be found and players like Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini would have been cast away as failures before their time. That all four are such a big part of Arsenal’s unbeaten start is a testament to the patience and faith that Wenger has in his players and the football culture that he has created.
A big week to come
There are two more matches to come this week, the first being the Carling Cup game at Sheffield United (more on that tomorrow) and the second the huge top-of-the-table clash at Emirates Stadium against Manchester United. It’s hard not to look at the United game as a pivotal point in the season – a win to Arsenal would mean a potential six-point gap at the top while a loss would see the gap closed completely. One of United’s key players, defensive midfielder Owen Hargreaves, is well-aware of that fact and remains confident that his side have the ability to beat Arsenal.
“Arsenal have been playing extremely well and are playing some lovely football but I still think we’re the top club in England. It will be a fabulous game for the fans to enjoy but we are very confident going into it.”
When it’s all said and done, so they should be. There is no denying that Manchester United have been in exceptional form of late, winning their last eight matches (although I should mention that there have been no real ‘tests’ over that time), and have every right to travel to London in a confident mood. It doesn’t mean that they will win though and if Arsenal can field a similar team to the one that drew with Liverpool then I really feel that it will be Wenger’s side that take the three points. I’ll talk a little bit about why later on in the week and in the meantime I hope that everyone out there is feeling as excited and confident about the game as I am.
That’s about it for today. Just a reminder that if you enjoy the blog you can subscribe to it via RSS or e-mail by clicking here. Before you go I also encourage you to check out Arseshirts, the major sponsors of the blog. Their site has undergone a bit of a change and there is now a very clever little ‘create-your-own’ shirt section that is well worth a look. Enjoy!
What do you think?
Have your say in the aftermath of Arsenal’s match against Liverpool by leaving a comment.