Wenger’s Boys finally showing maturity

We’re over half-way through January and still sitting top of the league. I don’t know about you, but I’d have taken that considering the run of games we have had! The negative? We’ve picked up just two points from our previous two fixtures and only lead the way on goal difference.

Before we get any further into this, let me address one issue. We are top of the league; we aren’t joint top! I’m fed up of the media and supporters constantly referring to us and Leicester as ‘joint top’. If the league was to end tomorrow, we would be crowned Champions, so let’s not have anymore of that please!

Now back to the actual football. We picked up another point last Sunday with a hard-fought 0-0 draw away to Stoke City, a point which has divided the opinion of many. My immediate concern was that a return of two points from a possible six was not the kind of form you’d expect from potential Champions.

But as I said on Twitter following the game, we traveled to a place where Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have all lost (admittedly, the latter is not saying much seeing as everyone except us seems to be beating them!) and come away with a point. Add to that the fact that we went there without Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin, and a draw looks like a fairly decent outcome.

It has frustrated me that this fact continues to be omitted by everyone who argues that Arsenal do not have it in them to win the title. Out of the list I mentioned above, you could argue that six of the seven are first-team regulars. Our two record signings and our first choice midfield duo are all missing, yet this does not seem to be justification for a slightly depleted and jaded attack. If you were to take the respective key players out of any other side in Europe, they would of course struggle.

The argument against this will of course be that we should have signed players in the Summer. Even had we done so, we would still be struggling without such an array of talent on the pitch. Whenever Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany are absent for Man City, television pundits are always quick to highlight how much they have been missed, yet I don’t often hear or read anything remotely similar about us.

With a completely depleted squad, we’ve managed to get through two difficult away games. Yes, we were all disappointed by the late goal we conceded at Anfield, but in the grand scheme of things, we’ve got by okay. While we would have been better served winning one of these fixtures and losing the other in terms of a points total, the importance of remaining unbeaten seems more significant than a single additional point. We have shown that we can go to these grounds and not be bullied, even with important players missing.

In previous seasons, we most certainly would have lost that game on Sunday. Last season, we lost 3-2 and ‘supporters’ proceeded to berate the team and the manager as they boarded their train home. We’ve come a long way since then.

This is a team that has matured. Prior to the turn of the year, there were of course blips. But since 2016 has arrived, we seem to have developed a stubbornness and refusal to be beat. Even in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool, it would have been easy for Arsenal to have been blown away in the opening 15 minutes, as we have done in the past. But we dug in, and were able to claw our ways back into the game.

We are in a title race, and there will of course be ups and downs between now and the end of the season. It is time to give the players who have so admirably performed in the absence of others the credit that they deserve, and really start getting behind this title charge. We as fans are in this as much as the players, and it is down to us help give the boys the support that could push them over the line.

Chelsea is a massive game on Sunday, not least because we will more than likely no longer occupy first place before kick off. A win will see us regain our place on top of the pile, and possibly send Chelsea closer to the relegation places!

If that isn’t incentive enough, then nothing will be!


Gooner Ramble

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