Three Matches and an International Break

By Patrick Grove

So it’s been well over a week since the last time I wrote an article about Arsenal and the withdrawal final reached a point I could not handle. Thoroughly going through all three matches since the last writing would take far too long and so we’ll glance through the recent happenings of the club before moving onto topics in the near future.What more can really be said about the match at Stamford Bridge? Already so many superlatives (both good and bad) have been spewed out about the match. I’ll just try to add one or two. The team spirit of the Gunners was absolutely excellent on the day and something we, as fans, have not seen in a while. Down twice and then equalized late on, the boys managed to dig deeper time and time again to find a win against the blues. In the not to distant past I could see us collapsing to defeat after Juan Mata’s 80th minute wonder goal, but not on this day.

Also, the confidence and swagger returned. You could see in our movement, our passing, and our creativity that finally after the abysmal start to the campaign, the team is really starting to find its form.

Finally, RVP. Hat trick. What else can you say? Startling, memorizing, captivating, motivating, enthralling. All these words fit our captain and his form at the moment and this performance just cemented him in Arsenal Football Club history forever.

Marseille in the Champions League at home was a bit of a humbling experience.

After the win at Chelsea, in which so much energy was spent both playing the match and in the celebrations that followed, a game against a strong French side three days later was always going to be difficult to win. Marseille are a quality side and not one to be overlooked, but home games in the Champions League are vitally important and three points would have seen us through to the knockout stages already.

I think we could have used a bit more of a shuffle than was seen for the match, as the legs used in the match at Chelsea were clearly weary especially in midfield.

And I completely agree with RVP being rested. Yes, three points would have seen us through. But if that came along with an injury to Van the Man (which would likely last a full season with our medical staff) the qualification would not have been worth it. In fact it would have been disastrous. Park looked poor but it must be said that this was his first game in Europe (probably nervous) and he got very little in the way of good service from his comrades.

At the Emirates on Saturday, the match against West Bromich Albion showed that the game against Chelsea was no fluke. It also showed that some of the demons from the early season debacle truly have been erased. There wasn’t a moment in the game when the result was in question. From the first whistle to the last Arsenal put on a very professional, assured, complete performance. At the halftime whistle, the boys had more than 70% possession and a two-goal advantage. Plus with the amount of energy WBA used chasing shadows in the first 45, there was no way back for them in the second.

Once again RVP showed his class with a goal and two assists. Vermaelan and Koscielny looked calm and composed at the back. Carl Jenkinson did a superb job both defensively and going forward. The midfielders never looked troubled. It was the type of “sweep the other team away”, “completely dominant” performance that many media folk had thought Arsenal were no longer capable of.

Speaking of Carl Jenkinson, was anyone else absolutely humbled by his performance against the Baggies? We have all (myself included) given him a good bit of stick since his arrival in the summer. Having only played about 15 games for Charlton Athletic before transferring to us in the summer and having only played about 10 games in the red and white of Arsenal so far, people (again, I among them) really thought the boy was not up to snuff. So I feel obliged to give the kid a shout for making me eat a huge helping of humble pie on Saturday.

Defensively, his positional awareness was sound throughout the game and he made some great tackles. Going forward, he gave Theo a great outlet on the overlap and the crosses he was providing were some of the best I have seen from an Arsenal player this calendar year. Let alone from a defender. I’m sure Maroune Chamakh was wondering where that kind of deliver is whenever he is on the pitch.

I daresay for a 19-year-old whose played less than a full year of professional football, he does seem to be learning and adapting fairly quickly. And yes I understand this was just one performance against a side that didn’t pose much threat, but certainly the way Arsenal (and Jenkinson) played had a great deal to do with making the Baggies look sub-par. If he can continue to grow and mature (and if Bacary Sagna can give him a few lessons on consistency), we may have a very solid future right back on our hands.

So, on nineteen points, level with Liverpool, and only three back of Chelsea and Tottenham for the coveted 4th place and final Champions League spot. Not bad for a club supposedly “fighting for relegation” a month ago. A club in “crisis.” A club with a relatively friendly run of fixtures coming up after the international break.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have come a long way in the last few weeks and look a different team than the one that took a hiding at the “Theater of Dreams.” However, we must not get complacent as a club or as fans of the club. If we can keep that early season form, that disaster, that utter shambles in the back of our minds as a reminder of just where we have come from, then maybe we all can approach every match with the concentration and the desire (and the support of our beloved club) that is required to be a top footballing club that is respected the world over.

On the subject of Arsenal being respected as a club, I read a very interesting article written about comments made by Marco Van Basten about AFC and Robin Van Persie earlier this week. The former Holland coach was full of praise for both player and club and feels that Van Persie has found and is already playing at the perfect club.

“Robin must not leave Arsenal. You can’t compare my situation at Ajax. The big difference is that Robin is already at a big club. Robin has been in London for six years. He can’t help it that Arsenal have won nothing in that time.

So much has changed in those six years in the Premier League. Chelsea have become a big club and have massive financial resources. Manchester City have become a big force and are richer than any other club. The amount of money which is flowing to these clubs for transfers is unbelievable. Arsenal operate differently. I admire that.

I still think Arsenal are the most beautiful club in England. At Man City and Chelsea, they will never have that class and style. Arsenal have the most amazing stadium, they have a style of play, they have a beautiful shirt – in every way I consider Arsenal as the ultimate football club. It is the club where Robin belongs.”

And last but not least, if you haven’t read this yet you should. I found it on the Arseblog news site earlier this week. Little Jackie Wilshere pledging his allegiance to AFC for the rest of his career. I’d call that priceless.

That’s it for me. Keep praying to whomever it is you pray to that the boys go away and come back from the international break healthy and fit. We will need our full complement of players to continue this seriously good run of form and a trip to the Canaries of Norwich City will require our full concentration.