I’ve been weary for some time whether the ‘good-fallout’ surrounding Arsenal is leading to disproportionate hype. Admittedly, there’s enough Setanta in the world to balance it all out (there’s enough Setanta to balance everything in the world out, really), but erring to the side of caution can still leave sweet tastes in the mouth should success come our way.
Naturally, speculations rise with Fabregas’ absence in the Aston Villa game, leading many to suggest that there may be more depth in the squad than first appears. Wenger, more of a realist than a party-pooper you would hope, allayed that assumption, saying:
“No, because what’s true in one game is not over ten. In a one-off, of course you can do well. But we want Cesc with us. He’s a big player.
We might even be better with him. Cesc is world class“
Adebayor reiterates the fact that Arsenal, as well as they did play against Villa, still need Cesc back in the side. The long-legged striker says:
“If Cesc isn’t playing, we have to do the job for him. We knew he was watching at home on television and we had to do the job for him. We played for him. He’s one of the best midfielders in the world, there is no doubt about that. If we had him today, the game would have been much better.“
Which gives the injury crisis a bit more perspective. Hleb is confirmed as out with a ‘recurrance’ of a hamstring problem – oddly, no achilles problems are mentioned – with Cesc still not fit enough to play against Newcastle. The usual absentees in Diaby and van Persie remain out.
What I really do not like is the continual talk of ‘when Arsenal’s bubble will burst’. Arsenal will not go the season unbeaten, this much is near-certain. To even entertain the idea will lead to a massive dissapointment, and repeating endlessly that ‘we’ll pick ourselves up from this, don’t you worry’.
If any games are to be lost in this season, December is both the time to do it, as well as the most likely time for it to happen. This is not unnecessary doom-mongering; more-so, a realism dabbed with a slight sprinkling of hope.
The idea that Arsenal is a ‘bubble’ is firstly mislead. This team is the result of three-seasons of calculated risk from Wenger, culminating in the maturation of several players like Hleb, Fabregas and Flamini, and the rethinking of others’ roles – Eboue, Adebayor, Rosicky – leading to a greater versatility in some quarters and outright brilliance in others.
No team is without its frailty. But the term ‘bubble’ is veiled doom-and-gloom – also known as ‘Viva le Man Utd’. Manchester City’s start to the season was a bubble, as was Newcastle’s. Arsenal cannot be said to be a bubble – they have played the same way they have been playing for the past two seasons, with a little more tinkering and jettisoning of players like Henry and Ljungberg.
Essentially, the side’s motor remains the same. Just a little older, more experienced, and as a result – defying formulaic expectations. Arsenal continue to win in tough fixtures, now without Fabregas and Robin van Persie.
Will they win at Newcastle now, without Hleb? Changes will need to be made, and it might rely on players like Toure and Gallas to give a real barnstorming performance at St James’, but as far as momentum goes: Yes, Arsenal can win at Newcastle.
Frankly, the bubble-bursters are forgetting that as early as mid-December, or – at the latest – in the new year, Arsenal should, fate permitting, have all three of Hleb, Fabregas and van Persie back. A team with those three returning would be strong enough to pick themselves up from any burst-bubble.
Momentum is strong, right now. And the returning players should be strong enough to pick up where they left off. Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry has fittingly praised the players at Arsenal, hailing their talents as ‘unbelievable‘. There are some weary of hype. I myself am one of those people. But the first-half display against Villa was phenomenal, and a microcosm of how well this team has been playing thus far. Let’s hope it can be maintained for some time yet.
A quick wrap-up to finish: Lehmann may be off to Wolfsburg in January, as a number of clubs finally come out of the woodwork to link with his name. Coming into Arsenal, the club has been linked with PSV’s highly-rated Ibrahim Affelay, and Bruce Springsteen will be the first to perform in concert at the Emirates Stadium.
En daes my al, as they say in South Africa. Newcastle preview tomorrow, with all the usual bells and whistles. Until then, stay safe but willing.