Now that was tasty. Video features clumsy celebratory run down the stairs.
What’s that? A blog post. I know, I know, I’ve been absent. Neglectful, even. But a lot’s gone on. I broke my arm, for one. I’m going to keep trotting out that excuse until it enters myth.
So here it is: a first post of the season on Gunnerblog.com. Feels appropriate really: after Alexis and Arsenal burst into life at Leicester, it feels like our 2015/16 campaign has finally started.
I’m used to finishing matches between Arsenal and Chelsea with a feeling of immense frustration gnawing at me. It generally floods in to replace the dread that’s accompanied the build-up to such games.
However, this time round it’s been different. Heading in to the match I was actually excited. We had such a weight of momentum behind us that I was convinced we stood a really good chance of ending Arsene Wenger’s ugly record against Jose Mourinho. If there was ever to be a time to end the hoodoo, this felt like it — 13th time lucky.
It wasn’t to be. I do feel frustration now, but it’s not the hair-pulling, hand-wringing hysteria that previously accompanied our capitulations in these top-of-the-table clashes. I think Arsenal did most things right. Game-management has been Arsenal’s undoing on so many occasions, but they were largely able to negotiate this fixture with intelligence and maturity.
Nevertheless, they couldn’t shake the Mourinho-faced monkey from their back. We did most things right, but he clung on to preserve his record. This was an Arsenal team ready to win, but they faced a Chelsea team who weren’t ready to lose. The scoreline may have been a draw, but only one manager left with the result they came for.
At this point in the season, Mourinho has given up any pretence of trying to appease Abramovich with attractive attacking football. He abided by that decree in the first half of the season, but on this home straight he’s reverted to type with some execrably pragmatic displays. It’s regression to the meanest of footballing philosophies, but it works.
For Arsenal, there’s no shame in drawing with the champions elect. It’s actually a very decent result, especially in the light of Manchester United’s defeat at Everton — but it also feels like an opportunity missed. Chelsea might be weaker in future, but with eight consecutive wins behind us I’m not sure we’ll ever be stronger.
The fact we still couldn’t break them down suggests that when we do eventually beat them, it will require the rarest of defensive lapses. As John Terry marshalled Olivier Giroud into subordination, his hilarious slip at Stamford Bridge felt like an awfully long time ago.
This game was understandably talked about as an opportunity to lay down a marker for next season, but the reality is that Arsenal do not need to beat Chelsea to win a Premier League title. Far more important is to avoid the sort of disastrous start to the campaign which handed Mourinho his insurmountable lead.
Arsenal didn’t get the landmark win they craved but they gave a good account of themselves nonetheless.
Traditionally, my exasperation has stemmed from the fact Arsenal have humiliated themselves. This time, it’s due to the fact that we weren’t able to humiliate Mourinho. I’m choosing to look upon that as progress.
Here’s the On The Whistle video after a 1-0 win over Burnley that could be described as ‘gritty’, ‘niggly’ or plain ‘ugly’ depending on how generous you’re feeling. After eight league wins on the spin, I’m feeling pretty generous, so I’ll say it was ‘unusual looking’. Maybe it could be a model – not like a model who’s actually attractive, but one of those ones that looks a bit like an alien.
There probably won’t be a longer write-up of this game as there’s really incredibly little to say. I don’t know what we’ll talk about in the Arsecast Extra on Monday. Probably whether we’d rather be a goat or a hammer. Tune in to find out.
This might seem like the hyperbolic tubthumping of the deluded fan, but I’m not sure there’s a better team in England at the moment than Arsenal.
Before you say it, it’s not Chelsea. They might lead the league table, but friends behind enemy lines assure me they’ve played well just once since Christmas. The January signing intended to reinvigorate their tiring team, Juan Cuadrado, is currently looking like the world’s most expensive Gervinho impersonator. They should just have bought this lovely curtain set:
The game against Jose Mourinho’s men is beginning to feel like our cup final (apart from the actual cup final, of course, which remains very much a possibility). It’s a one-off opportunity to lay down a marker for next season, but more than that it’s an opportunity to make this season infinitely more memorable. You can’t win a trophy every year, but you can ensure you leave behind several glorious results enabling you to lord it over your rivals.
Arsenal finally seem to have got the hang of that, with victories over both Manchester clubs and now Liverpool in 2015. Beating the Anfield side isn’t particularly new, but the emphatic nature of this victory is. Arsenal approached this game with confidence rather than trepidation. That’s a delicious novelty.
I really hope they can do the same against Chelsea. The fact that Arsene Wenger has never beaten Mourinho is both bizarre and embarrassing, and this seems like an ideal opportunity to put it right.
We’re undeniably on a roll. The numbers prove it: we’ve won seven on the spin, Olivier Giroud has 10 in 10, and we’ve just put four past Liverpool.
It can’t be coincidence that the upturn in form has coincided with having a full contingent of outfield players for the first time in years. Shad Forsythe has taken some amusing stick this season, but perhaps we’re finally be seeing the benefit of his inaugural year at the club.
This is now the strongest Arsenal squad in years. It’s not perfect, but there is depth in every department. The fact that Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby all made a successful return to training during the international break yet were not needed for the bench tells you something about the variety of options at the manager’s disposal. Calum Chambers, who was entirely fit, was not even named in the matchday squad.
Of course, all this positivity comes laced with regret. After leading the league for so long last season and ending the wait for silverware, this should have been the year to mount a serious title-challenge. Unfortunately, our quest for the trophy was over before Autumn was out. Sadly, the emergence of Francis Coquelin and acquisition of Gabriel – both obviously required back in August – came too late to challenge Chelsea.
I’m proud that Arsenal are 2015’s best team, but enormously frustrated that they won’t be 2015’s champions. It was there for the taking.