Since I last posted on here, Arsenal have qualified for the group stage of the Champions League for the 17th year in a row, scraped a 1-1 draw against newly promoted Leicester City and signed another striker in the form of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Yet quite a few Arsenal fans are behaving as if we are out of Europe, got thrashed by the Foxes on Sunday and sold a key player (Aaron Ramsey is the best example at the moment). I just want all my fellow fans to stop panicking and remind them that there is much to be optimistic about.
Our record for consecutive Champions League qualifications is only second to Real Madrid but the achievement is nothing to be baulked at. While we haven’t ever won the competition, hearing that famous theme music on a Tuesday or Wednesday night is something that I will never get tired of. People speak of Arsenal’s dark days of not winning a trophy for nine years but I would’ve hated to be a Liverpool fan when they were no longer at European’s top table. The same applies to Manchester United this season. It is an amazing feeling just to be in the Champions League even if you don’t reign supreme and I can proudly say we are in it yet again.
After scraping a 2-1 win on the opening day, fighting back to a 2-2 draw against Everton and only managing a 1-1 draw against Leicester on Sunday, a lot of Arsenal fans have lost a grip on reality and have started to panic. Only picking up a point at the weekend was immensely disappointing but we’re only three games in. Only three other teams (Aston Villa, Swansea and Chelsea) are unbeaten so far, which just goes to show how completive this league will be (the so-called smaller teams can pull off some big shocks). The start could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse.
Manchester City proved last year that having a target to chase rather than looking back at the teams below is a more preferable position to have in the title race. I’d be more than satisfied if Arsenal went the whole season in touching distance of the top but only pounced in the last few weeks. Another positive from our results is that we haven’t crumbled. Last season, we would have not gone on to win that Crystal Palace match after going a goal down. It was 2-0 Everton at half-time last season and we went on to lose 3-0 (should’ve been more) so our resilience is definitely better. Sunday would have ended differently last year as well. Being pegged back to 1-1 probably immediately after scoring would have knocked the stuffing of the team and they would have lost but there is a special fighting spirit around the squad at the moment.
As for the Transfer Window, which closed shut until January on Monday, Arsenal had a very good one in my opinion. Obviously, the £35 Million signing of Alexis Sanchez was the highlight and he has looked impressive so far (let’s just hope he doesn’t dip in form after a few months like Mesut Özil). Then there are the signings of Mathieu Debuchy, Callum Chambers and David Ospina who have all come in to replace three summer departures. All are improvements on Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Lukasz Fabianski who departed in the summer. Yet, numerous fans still demanded more.
I have to be honest and say that I thought we should’ve signed a CDM but Wenger obviously believes Jack Wilshere can make that position his own in the future. Everyone else was desperate for a striker but with Alexis proving himself up top against Besiktas and Joel Campbell’s world cup displays, I was content with the situation and more concerned with conceding goals as scoring goals has not been the issue. However, Arsene Wenger’s philosophy has always been ‘attack is the best form of defence’ so our sole deadline day swoop was for 23 year old striker Danny Welbeck.
Whether this calculated risk will pay off remains to be seen but things definitely feel different to last term. Only time will tell whether we’ve improved and are Champions come May.
By Glen Shorey