In a week that saw Arsenal get knocked out of the Champions League, it still turned out to be a rather good one for the club. The 2-0 win away at the Allianz Arena restored battered pride and proved that we are capable of matching with the best in Europe. It also served to highlight how badly underperformed Arsenal have been this season.
The opportunity was then to ensure that there was continuity. That win over Bayern Munich is without a doubt the biggest win of the season for the Gunners. Not in terms of the score but definitely in terms of the prestige. We’ve fared rather miserably against other top sides in the domestic league and this could well be the catalyst for the club to push until the end of the season.
The immediate fear was complacency; that the players would revert to thinking all is better once again, after the win in Germany. Thankfully, that didn’t materialise and the win over Swansea on Saturday proved just that. It was obvious that we wanted it more than Michael Laudrup’s side and the three points would put us in good stead for the rest of the season.
The Liberty Stadium is not an easy place to visit and come away with a win. Just ask Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool – who only managed to draw there this season. There is no doubt that this is a huge win for Arsenal. With the international break coming up and the next game not until the end of the month, it will not be good for the players to wallow in a negative mood for the next 14 days or so.
That would exactly be what Tottenham will be thinking though. Our win put pressure on them and they choked against Fulham yesterday. That defeat leaves us only four points away from Spurs with a game in hand. Tottenham will be spending this break pondering on their loss and remain mindful that the point gap has been reduced.
Arsenal were truimphant against Swansea in the weekend, winning 2-0.
Having won our last two matches on the road and kept two clean sheets along the way, any team would want to continue that form and play. The international break has come at the most inopportune time. With that said, behind every cloud, there’s a silver lining. For us, that would be the recovery of the players who are currently out injured. That means if Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna recovers well, for the first time this season we will have the entire squad fully fit, for Reading’s visit.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the improved results have come at the expense of some players being relegated to the bench. There’s no reason to sugar-coat it; Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen have been dropped and that has seen a turn in our fortunes. It’s not that they don’t possess the necessary qualities to play but it revolves around the poor form of these two.
In the past, there has been a certain level of protection from Arsene Wenger towards his players. Some call it favouritism while others see it as the manager’s incompetence to see the truth. As with most things, the problem doesn’t lie at the extreme ends. The hard-line taken by Wenger with Szczesny and Vermaelen is a welcomed change of approach.
Players need to know that their place in the team is not guaranteed. No bigger action can be taken than to drop the club captain. That sends a strong message. To wake up the Belgian over his poor form and to serve as a reminder to the rest of the squad that complacency will no longer be tolerated. It’s a far cry from the days where Wenger gives out a ton of excuses over the poor performances. However, it’s still too early to tell whether the changes are permanent or only serve as warning signs to the non-performing players.
As with many things with life, time will tell on this one.