Theo Walcott's importance to this team misses the point... Anybody who knows me or who has read this blog knows that I am far from a Theo Walcott fanboy. Yet even I, in the giddy aftermath of the North London Derby was moved to declare that he had improved a great deal.
- It is profoundly odd to argue this Arsenal team is not a mediocre Arsenal team. That we were an incredibly poor side in the 1950s and 60s somewhat misses the point, for two reasons: it's not short-term thinking to compare the team with the last 20 years - that's a reasonable data-set - and this is the worst Arsenal side in that period, at least on form.
Since Man City became a top team, a trip to Eastlands has become a real acid test. Arsenal's 3-0 win at Eastlands in October 2010 was impressive in its own right, but it's particularly noteworthy in light of the series of close results between the two teams since. City dropped just two points at home last season and to pick up a positive result on Sunday would be particularly impressive.
1) If we insist - rightly - on giving new signings a chance, then it's pretty inconsistent to jump
to extensive conclusions too quickly. Have Arsenal looked better defensively in the first three
games of the season? Yeah, absolutely.
But to argue that this mean we now have the best defence in the League is not so much over-egging
the point as scrambling it (if you'll forgive the terrible metaphor).
In a few years people will probably look back on this summer and wonder what was different from
previous years at Arsenal.
If and when Van Persie and Song are sold, the club will once again have sold two of their best
players late in the transfer window.
But it has been a very different summer.
The weight of expectation on Chamberlain is bewildering
Considering I often complain about the crowd getting on players' backs, this might seem perverse,
but the cheering for Chamberlain is ridiculous and unhelpful to the other players.
While the game was still going on with Arsenal on the attack, Chamberlain went over to the bench to
get ready to come on.
Watching Arsenal play Wolves on Wednesday night was the clearest indication yet that Robin van
Persie is the only striker Arsene Wenger trusts. 3-0 up away from home against ten men, with Van
Persie the victim of one or two bad tackles, Wenger still didn't introduce Park Chu-Young.
Apart from the home game against Stoke in October - where we huffed and puffed before Van Persie
was introduced - the Dutchman has started every Premier League game this season.
People tended to mock me in previous seasons for complaining about poor refereeing, but I moaned
because I felt the decisions had a decisive impact.
It's one of the reasons the 'seven seasons without a trophy' line doesn't bother me. Go back to the
2008 season: with some better decisions we could easily have won the League and the Champions
It's undoubtedly been a bad few weeks for the club. Speaking to a friend before the United match I
suggested that the previous five weeks had been the worst I'd seen us consistently play as a team
in the 15 years I've been going to Arsenal. And after the match, we remain pointless in 2012.
But I do think people have suffered from raised expectations.
The thing which everybody forgot was that it was hardly a great Arsenal side which challenged so
strongly until March last season.
Tears were spilt on deadline day 2010 over a refusal to buy a veteran keeper; the centre half whom
everyone insisted we signed turned out to be not much cop; the side as a whole was very dependent
on Marouane Chamakh and Samir Nasri in the first half of the season, Robin van Persie in the New
For all I said that it was time pressures which precluded me from blogging as much as I used to,
it's also that I don't really see the point of writing the same thing over and over again,
especially when other people are also writing the same thing.
A terrible, terrible performance brought a terrible, terrible result. Make no mistake, this was the
nadir of Arsene Wenger's time in charge.
For an hour we were outclassed but somehow were in the game at 3-1 down. Then we removed our
holding midfielder and put an attacking player on to try and get a result, and conceded five goals
in half an hour.
It's not as bad as some people are saying it is, but it sure ain't great either. By my reckoning,
the choice for the holding midfield role against United is between Francis Coquelin and Craig
Eastmond. It's hardly encouraging.
But equally, if you wanted an example of why spending tons of money isn't necessarily a good thing,
look at Liverpool on Saturday: for 65 minutes against a very poor Arsenal side all they created was
a couple of headers which were easily saved by Szczesny.
Let's get one thing clear: the media reporting of this match was distinctly odd.
We were without our best player through suspension, and Arshavin didn't play. We had to deal with
two defensive reshuffles in the course of the game because of injury. And crucially, Udinese played
very well, with Chesney making a string of excellent saves.