With Arsene Wenger's men sitting just two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, supporter Aaron Ong reckons a place in Europe's elite competition is well within reachIt’s now well and truly in our hands.
We haven’t been able to say that for a while now but this weekend’s results saw us come within two points of Spurs, having played a game less. It wasn’t too long ago when we lost the North London derby to fall seven points behind our rivals, so this has been a crystal-clear demonstration of how fast things can change in football.
We have some real momentum right now, winning six out of the last seven league games, and this last win over West Brom Albion (WBA) was arguably the most satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong, I would take 4-1 wins over Reading anytime (probably better for my heart too!), but the more crucial and memorable wins are the ones earned while under immense pressure and somewhat against the odds.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Arsenal were favourites to win, weren’t they?” Yes we were, but anyone watching the last 20 minutes would have thought it a matter of time before WBA grabbed an equaliser. In the end, the only thing that mattered was the home team running out of time.
As is often the case, we were almost the architects of our own downfall. One lapse of concentration led to Mertesacker’s last-ditch tackle and sending off, and from then on it was backs-to-wall stuff.
We didn’t seem interested in keeping possession, instead inviting wave after wave of attacks from WBA. Thankfully, a combination of resilient defending and profligate finishing earned us a precious away win.
I would also argue that we deserved the three points thanks to the good work done in the first 70 minutes. In fact, this was a continuation of the fine form we have displayed in the past few games, starting from that win over Bayern Munich. Rather strangely, this form might well be due to some blessings in disguise.
It has become fashionable to bemoan injuries suffered and first-teamers performing poorly, but our replacements have been a breath of fresh air. Fabianski and Koscielny have brought stability to the defence, while Rosicky and Gervinho have been inventive and energetic upfront, ensuring that Szczesny, Vermaelen, Wilshere and Walcott have hardly been missed.
Which is why I hope we retain the majority of the same team in our next game against Norwich. Apart from replacing our suspended German defender with Vermaelen, I do hope Wenger holds back on the two W’s. There’s no need to rush them back after injury, and there’s no need to fix something that ain’t broken.
In particular, I think Gervinho deserves an extended run in the first team. Not everything he tries comes off successfully, but our Ivorian winger simply doesn’t stop trying. He seldom disappears in games (which you can’t say about all of our players), and you can be sure he’ll be featured somewhere in the highlights. It’s a real joy to see him in full flight dribbling towards the opposition goal, unless you’re the opposition defender of course.
So I say “More of the same, please!” If we show the same attitude for the rest of the season, we won’t need to worry about missing out on the Champions League spots. Our closest rivals have already displayed the tendency to drop points (and they have to play each other too!), so we just have to keep up our end of the bargain.
The common rallying cry at this point of the season is to treat every match like a ‘cup final’. We’ve done that to great effect in recent games, but it begs the question: ‘Why can’t we treat every game like a cup final?’ Or maybe the question could be: ‘Must we wait until we’re out of the title picture to come good?’
We’re clearly good enough as shown in recent games, but this attitude could have come in handy earlier on in the season. Regardless of how this season ends, we do need to put in a lot of work to ensure we start the next season in a competitive mood and remain that way throughout, or else we could well be seeing a carbon copy of these past two seasons.
Come on you Gunners!
Aaron has been an Arsenal fan since the mid 90's, and is currently a member of Arsenal Singapore, the official Arsenal supporters' club in Singapore. He is also a passionate Lions supporter, and he still dreams of seeing Singapore compete in the World Cup someday.