I had a good feeling ahead of the match at the Emirates on Saturday. Last season, we fell apart in these early kick-offs against the big teams but it felt different this term. After a few sluggish displays, I could not wait to see how the team would cope with it’s strongest challenge yet; the reigning Champions. We had beat Manchester City back in August to lift the Community Shield but Pellegrini and co. claimed that it was not a serious competition (I wonder if his post match comments would have been the same had the result been different?) so it wouldn’t be a comfortable 3-0 victory this time.
Both teams were certainly fired up from the start this time and were fighting for every ball. The only problem for Arsenal was that they were trailing 1-0 at half-time eventhough Arsene Wenger’s men had dominated for large periods and were creating chance after chance .I am confident that if Danny Welbeck dink over Joe Hart early in the match had gone in instead of hitting the post, the Gunners would have gone on to have comfortably win the match as man city were playing a highline and could not cope with our pace. However, it didn’t and that is football. A matter of millimetres.
The players knew that they had played well in the opening 45 minutes but the score line meant that they still needed to up their game. Jack Wilshere (who for the first time in a while had a superb game in the middle of the park) scored the equaliser with a great bit of combination play with Aaron Ramsey that resulted in a neat goal from the Englishman. Shortly after, Alexis put Arsenal into the lead with an outstanding volley and cemented the fact that the team has definitely got some fight in them, compared to last year. Our need to be ruthless in front of goal and kill off matches was reiterated when Demichelis snatched a draw with eight minutes to spare.
I’m not going to dwell on the Dortmund match on Tuesday because it was quite frankly awful. None of the team played well and they all had an off day so we have to hope that this is a one off. We lost 2-0 but it easily could have been worse so the result wasn’t that bad in the end. Home form in the group stages of the Champions League has always been crucial and this season is not different. As long as we can pick up nine out of nine point at the Emirates, we should be okay. Once again, our defence looked shaky but injuries were perhaps an excuse (we had to play an 18 year old at right back). There is little that Wenger can do now the transfer window is closed but I wouldn’t mind signing a free agent just as cover.
The draw with the Champions was decent and gave me much to be positive about. Obviously, Tuesday night brought me back down to earth but I’ve got to be realistic and say that we can’t win every match. We have had a slow start but now have a run of games, which could define how we will do this season. There is a game every three days or so from now until mid October so it will be a testing period mentally as much as physically but one I’m sure we can get through it if we see more Jekyll and less Hyde.
By Glen Shorey