The Train Keeps-A-Rollin’

By on November 8, 2009

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The headline pretty much sums it up… as headlines are wont to do. Another 4 goals for the Arsenal, another late consolation goal for our poor victims. Wanderers came out into the amped up atmosphere of Molineux and really took it to us for the first 25 minutes. Until a Arsenal went ahead, completely against the run of play on a Zubar own-goal, that is. By the time the dust had settled on the first half, Arsenal had a 3-nil lead and were as good as second in the league.

As distressing as the opening spell of the match may have been at the time, it is emblematic of a change in the Premier League over the last season or two. What we are seeing is lower-table sides resolving themselves to come out and try to play attacking football and this has favored the Arsenal so far this season. Of course, we still occasionally see a side just completely park the bus, but it is becoming a bit less common than in years past and Arsenal are taking advantage.

Of course, Wolves may have taken that a bit far in pushing for their first goal after going behind 1-nil because Arsenal’s next two goals came from lightning-quick counterattacks. I have long said that the biggest difference between the Invincibles and the current team was their desire and ability in the counterattack. There has never been a more devastating team on the break than the Arsenal side of 2002-05. Previous incarnations of the current side were so committed to an intricate passing game that they routinely passed on opportunities to counterattack, especially the 2007-08 side.

EduardoHowever, with Arshavin and Walcott, when healthy, this team has shown themselves much more inclined to hit teams quickly on the break. When these lesser sides have come out and tried to throw some men forward, Arsenal have been more than happy to hit back with quick and efficient counterattacks and that is a welcome change over the last few seasons.

There is no team in Europe playing more enjoyable football than Arsenal at the moment, and, even more satisfyingly, results are reflecting that. Also, Arsenal themselves play their most enjoyable football after they’ve gotten the lead. When this team goes up 2 or 3-nil, they play without so much as glancing at the handbrake with a complete freedom that is just breathtaking to behold. Even United fans are beginning to admit that Arsenal could pose a major threat to them and Chelsea, as are the pundits.

Those in the media who wrote us off after the twin defeats in Manchester are now having to reconsider. Arsenal have faced two hurdles this season, the trips to Manchester and the consecutive draws in which they lost the lead late, and have come out of both seemingly even stronger. As a side, the club seems to have matured greatly. Sure we still have a ton of youngsters but, no matter what Ronald Koeman says, this team is not inexperienced. A majority of the players have played in a Champions League and FA Cup semifinal, some have played in Champions League and Carling Cup finals, and a fair amount have been involved in run-ins for the League.

Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs both started and turned in solid performances. Fabregas continued his campaign to be considered the best player in the Premier League and van Persie also continued the type of form that has Holland ready to switch him to the kind of central role he now plays at Arsenal rather than out on the right wing, where he has regularly plied his international trade.

The depth of the team can no longer be questioned when we are walking over teams with the likes of Walcott, Vela, Bendtner, Wilshere, and Arsene WengerClichy out; not to mention, Denilson and Johann Djourou. When a team can be destroying numerous other Premier League sides and while being able to bring Tomas Rosicky, Alex Song, and Samir Nasri on as substitutes, the latter for the club’s number four striker, that shows a depth that cannot be matched by any other Premier League side and it has been achieved not by buying “experienced players” but simply by letting the players we had mature. Arsene was right all along… who would’ve guessed it?

The other issue from Saturday is the consolation goal. Surely, the anti-Arsenal media crowd will focus on the fact that Arsenal failed to keep a clean sheet again and talk about how we won’t win against the “big teams” by conceding goals like that. Though I have to tell you, I could care less about conceding a late goal when we’re up 3 or 4-nil. Yes, it’s nice to have a clean sheet, but the team defended well when they needed to. I would hardly expect the same concentration level from the defense when we’re 4-nil up on Wolves than when we’re even or 1-nil up on Chelsea or United.

Arsenal have now scored 2 or more goals in 9 of 11 league matches, 16 of 19 overall. We’ve scored 3 or more in 7 of 11 in the league and 10 of 19 overall. 55 goals in 19 matches, 36 in 11 league matches. These are impressive numbers. On the other hand, it is a bit worrying that we have conceded more goals than either Stoke, Fulham, or Birmingham City, but I believe our defending will get stronger as the season goes on, considering that the Gallas-Vermaelen pairing is still brand new.

And so it’s on to the international break. We’ve done all we can do and anything but a Chelsea win tomorrow means we are essentially level with the two sides, expecting that we will get a result at home to Bolton in our game-in-hand, which has been temporarily postponed due to the Carling Cup Quarterfinal with Money City at the Middle Eastlands. Even if Chelsea secure maximum points, we trail them by 5 with the game in hand and will hold second place over United with the game in hand on them as well. All we can do now is pray… for a draw tomorrow and a healthy return for all our boys from international duty.

Arsene Wenger Post-Match Press Conference

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