In the weeks that have passed since I last penned my thoughts, three successive home victories followed up by two successive away draws, has resulted in the team staying in contention for the league title as well as progressing to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where we will face a home tie against Burnley, a positive return in the eyes of most Arsenal supporters.
Sadly, not even this unbeaten sequence of results that included a potentially tricky visit to Anfield to face an unpredictable Liverpool side and a notoriously difficult away clash at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium, all with several key players missing through injury, could prevent the now habitual bitter exchange of opinions taking place between members of the clubs fan base on social media sites, with many seemingly intent on continuously attempting to justify their views and prove those belonging to fellow supporters, wrong at every available opportunity.
It has become increasingly evident in recent months, that some supporters are content to change their judgement on Wenger on a game by game basis, a statement supported by reading many of the comments posted on Arsenal fan sites. However, my own views on the manager are ones that have been formed over a number of years and therefore remain consistent despite a positive or negative result occurring in any singular game. Should we finally land the league title for the first time in more than a decade, I would still consider my past criticisms to be more than justified, regardless of the obvious jubilation a title success this year would bring.
There will undoubtedly be supporters who would consider winning the title to be the perfect response from Arsene to those of us who criticised him for the lack of transfer activity in the summer. However the reality is that not even a man who some believe ‘knows’ could possibly have predicted just how below par the campaigns of some of our expected title rivals would be and whilst it is true that we can only beat what and what is put in front of us, were we to go on and win the league this season, it would be have to be put down to a variety of reasons. Yes an improvement in some areas on our part but also being heavily assisted by the poor campaigns being experienced by other clubs. Last season’s champions, Chelsea, currently sitting twenty two points off the current league leaders, Leicester City, in fourteenth place as well as Manchester United failing to deliver once more, offering clear evidence of that.
The most obvious areas of the side where I can acknowledge that improvements have been made this season are unsurprisingly associated with the form of Mesut Ozil who has finally become our Mr Consistent after two seasons of inconsistency where his displays were either brilliant or simply anonymous. Of course in between the posts, where Petr Cech has performed admirably in a position that some of us had frequently criticised Arsene’s failure to address an obvious weakness that had, up until recently, existed since the departure of Jens Lehmann at the end of his first spell at the club. Whether a replacement first choice goalkeeper would have been targeted this summer had the opportunity to sign Cech not been presented on a platter to Wenger, remains a subject open to debate.
The continued improvement and consistency displayed by Olivier Giroud and the unsung hero that is Nacho Monreal is also deserving of praise. As is the team and managers new found realisation that we don’t necessarily need to dominate possession in order to achieve victory and at times a more pragmatic approach to proceedings can be equally beneficial.
Another situation that has become predictable and increasingly tedious is when the same players are continuously targeted for criticism or abuse by supporters whenever the team has failed to secure victory, with Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud being the biggest scapegoats. Whilst I accept that both players have their faults, most noticeably Mertesacker’s obvious lack of pace and Giroud’s inability to convert some of the openings that come his way, I do feel that some of our supporters lack the understanding of the game which would enable them notice the qualities that both players do bring to the side. Per regularly makes vital interceptions due to his ability to read the game and Olivier’s hold up and link up play is superb, quite simply neither are anyway near as regularly culpable for disappointing results as some would have you believe.
Whilst criticising individual players should perhaps be discouraged, it is neither Mertesacker or Giroud that have been failing to perform at the required standard in recent weeks, with both Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain putting in very disappointing displays of late and looking the players most susceptible to losing their places in the side when the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin begin to return to full fitness. Both England stars have arguably fallen behind the steadily improving Joel Campbell in the pecking order due to his far greater work rate. Fingers crossed that both players are quickly able to rediscover their confidence and form.
On a final note, it is time some supporters realised that criticising the manager, or the players come to that, does not make anyone less of a supporter and none of my criticisms of Wenger have never been of a personal nature or ‘hate fuelled’ as some suggest about those of us who dare to point out his mistakes and although I am of the opinion that further successes could and perhaps should have been achieved during his tenure when you consider the players and teams he’s had under his guidance. I will always be grateful to Arsene for what he has achieved and may yet still achieve during his Arsenal career, moments that I count not only as my happiest days in football but some of the happiest in my general life too. At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for the club, we just have different views on how to achieve it and for me it’s quite simple, if the manager makes the decisions that I perceive to be right, then he will regain my support.
Time to stick together and, as always, get behind the team, starting with this weekend’s visit of Chelsea….