this time around giving us successive home games against Swansea, Bolton, Sunderland, Stoke and WBA; the Carling Cup draws throwing up Shrewsbury and Bolton (again); even the Champions League offering of Olympiacos and Marseille was generous.
Teams need direction, motivation and cooperation between colleagues to make the most of their individual skills. For a football team, that means getting to know their manager, developing an understanding with colleagues and, in Arsenal’s case, absorbing the culture of a club that has been around for 125 years - all of which takes time. The group of players representing Arsenal FC earlier this season who were humiliated by ManUre and caved in at Blackburn barely merited the description “team”. In truth, they were an utter shambles, so disorganised and demoralised that even the possibility of relegation could not be ruled out. How quickly things have changed! What seemed a motley collection of disparate individuals has since lost only one of eleven games and even scored five at the Bridge.
This run of comparatively easy games has not only given the players time to programme London Colney and The Grove into their Baby Bentley SatNavs. More importantly, it has provided the opportunity for them to develop a mutual understanding on the pitch, a luxury which may not have been offered by games against, for example, Man City, Everton, Aston Villa or Bayern Munich. And gel they have. RVP has grown immeasurably as captain, while the togetherness of the squad was there for all to see after the Chelsea victory and in the composure against West Brom.
So how has this l a s t - m i n u t e - t r a n s f e r deadline-rebuilt Arsenal gelled so quickly? I think luck has played a massive part. Legend has it that the ability of Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal back in the 1930s to grab goals on the counter-attack led to the “Lucky Arsenal” tag, which survived into this century. That term vanished, I suspect, because a team experiencing the harrowing injuries to Eduardo and Ramsey could hardly be described as “lucky”. I dread the resurgence of the term, but cannot help feeling that the dice have fallen our way when most needed: like Arteta deciding at the very last minute to accept a smaller weekly paycheck to join Arsenal; like the much-hated Premier League computer, which usually sandwiches our Champions League games between league visits to teams with European aspirations,
Howard Lamb thinks good fortune has helped to build team spirit
Above all, however, I think M Wenger has been, as Monty Python’s Terry Jones might put it, “not the Messiah, he’s a very lucky boy”. Following the disastrous start, many fans were, u n d e r s t a n d a b l y , calling for Arsène’s head for failing to use the money at his disposal during the summer, when he knew that Cesc and Nasri were likely to leave. The 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford was, ironically, lucky for Wenger, in that even he could no longer deny that his youth project had failed - something Arsenal fans and the whole football world had been trying to tell him for years. Wenger was fortunate that the players who joined us in those last few panic days had the chance to gel quickly and were experienced enough to take that opportunity. While I’m pleased for Arsène in many ways, I was amazed to hear him extolling the virtues of a mature spine to the team in one of his recent post-match comments. Quelle surprise! Surely Arsène, you cannot take credit for that.
The real tests of course are still to come, but at least we now have cause for optimism. And, by the time of the January transfer window, is there perhaps a chance that Wenger will make some astute purchases to land us that long-awaited silverware?
6 onlinegooner.com In the Away End - Chelsea David O’Brien is our man in the opposition chatrooms
e are all Chelsea fans and I can only hope that on Saturday we all get together, support this club and beat the crap out of Arsenal.” No, not the words of a Chelsea fan on a forum, but the words of their chairman, Bruce ‘Uncle’ Buck. Hmm, and they wonder why they are accused of having no class. “I can’t go today; I’m having patio doors fitted.” “Arsenal have ruined three days in spectacular fashion for me. I need revenge for the Winterburn screamer, the Kanu heartbreak and ‘it’s only Ray Parlour’.” Prior to the game all the Chavs were optimistic of a win, and in some cases a BIG win: “finally a proper derby, none of this QPR s***. RVP is the only fearinspiring player left in their side. This should be a strong win, possibly 4- or 5-0.” Fast forward to the kick-off and the view has very much changed: 3-2: “We are s***, we are absolutely s***, get Mikel and Bossy off and start playing, we are absolute s***.” 4-3: “I’ve had enough of this JT legend s***. Will he ever stop making mistakes on and off the pitch? He didn’t slip; he fell so as not to expose his lack of pace.” 5-3: “I’m disgusted with this team. Disgraceful performance. This is the most pathetic piece of s*** I’ve ever seen. It comes to something when Arsenal can come and score five goals against us. We have been outplayed by an utterly useless side.” At full time I was concerned that we could have a mass suicide on our hands: “Time to burn my Chelsea shirt, this is not Chelsea anymore.” Bit extreme I thought, and so was this: “I’ll never forget or forgive what this team has put me through today. They are the f****** team I hate to lose to the most. It is arguably the worst Arsenal side in the last 15 years yet they have bossed us completely today.”
Then there was the post-match celebration: “Look at the Gooners celebrating. It is a compliment to Chelsea that they think they’ve all died and gone to heaven. Enjoy your victory because Van Persie will be gone at the end of the season which equals relegation. You will have no Premier League football in 2012-13. You will be battling Wigan and QPR for 17th. Wigan are dire so you should make 17th at least.” Amidst the Chavvy Burberry and Reebok Classics I did find one Chelsea fan who spoke a little sense: “I think Arsenal deserve our respect right now. They have sold their best players, they didn’t buy any expensive ‘superstars’ and still they humiliate us. Yes humiliate, we couldn’t even get in their box.” While I am here, I am not going to be drawn into the ‘John Terry/Anton Ferdinand’ argument. I saw nothing on any Chelsea forum that suggested their fans were racist. “F*** off Van Persie you Dutch piece of s***. Die you c***.” Indeed RVP was the talk of the forums. “Did you see his Nazi gesture?” It wasn’t. “Seriously though, can we not just go and buy him in January?” No you can’t, f*** off. In the end when your world is filled with sadness, some turn to drink, some turn to drugs, some turn two rings of the gas hob on and kill themselves. This Chav however, turned to song: “Sell em all, sell em all Malouda, Bosingwa and Cole Cos we are the Chelsea and we are the worst We’ll be fighting relegation You heard it here first” Inevitably, when you are facing relegation the manager is under the spotlight: “AVB needs to go, he is not the man to take this team forward.” In the end I think AVB might have to go. In fact, I give him 3-5 months – see what I did there! Twitter.com/DavidOBrien49