Can failure spark a new beginning for Arsenal?
Last time round I stated that the “next six games will define Arsenal’s season”. Indeed, at the end of February the club were still in all competitions save the League Cup, and looking forward to a home FA Cup tie against Blackburn followed by Bayern.
March 22nd, 2013
One month has passed and the outcome of those six games was:
Blackburn: lost 0-1
Bayern Munich: lost 1-3
Aston Villa: won 2-1
Tottenham: lost 2-1
Bayern Munich: won 2-0
Overall this makes rather dismal reading, with the club essentially going out of the Champions League and FA Cup at home, and losing to the team placed above us in the league. In one way this will define Arsenal’s season. The team clearly will not progress to win further silverware, and may disappoint in the league.
However, the promising performance against Bayern Munich in the Champions League Second Round second leg game gave hope to the team, and the fact that they kept a clean sheet is impressive when placed in the context of the run prior to the game, not to mention the fact that it was Bayern’s first defeat in all competitions since last October.
After the postponement of the Everton fixture, the sixth match of the sequence became Swansea away which the Gunners won two-nil; again keeping a clean sheet away from home and putting in an impressive performance – the last four games seem much more promising when looked at as WLWW.
Combining this away win against Swansea with a defeat for Tottenham against Fulham, and suddenly Arsenal are only four points off fourth place but with a game in hand.
The rescheduled game against Everton still holds great significance; Arsenal has perhaps only postponed their sentencing. But should the club now face them on the back of a good run of form, it might make all the difference.
In some way the run of games discussed might define Arsenal’s season in a different manner. Arsenal did not pass the test, they showed that they still cannot cope with the crunch fixtures, but when all seems lost they have the ability to salvage something from this season.
The fact is that the squad possesses talented players, and many of the issues, organisational and defensive aside, stem from a lack of confidence within the group. This is a persistent issue with many of Wenger’s sides since the Invincibles, but when they do play with confidence the team can shine.
Wenger’s reshuffle, switching Vermaelen and Szczęsny to the bench, may have paid off, and revitalised the defence, furthermore this has been achieved whilst missing two key players; Podolski and Wilshere through injury.
In either case, the performance this season has not been great, but not out of line with previous years. The bleakness of the outlook has been lessened by the recent results, but as ever only the most determined performances by this team will allow any real improvement. The coming run of fixtures may appear less daunting than those already played, but football is never that simple.
James writes about Arsenal on Arsespeak.com where you can find many more in-depth analytical articles on tactics, statistics and players.