Having had time to reflect on the game against the Black Cats, I am feeling more and more positive about our performance on Saturday. As stated many times in previous blogs, Arsenal are going through a major transition this year, and our recent performances against Stoke and Sunderland are giving us a strong indication our boys have made further progress in the last few weeks.
Since Theo was reinstalled into the team, back in mid-December against Reading, Arsenal have made a huge step forward: played 13 (in all competitions), won 8, lost 2 and drew 3 – scored 30 and conceded 17. The two games we lost were against direct top-four opposition, but our second half performances against them should give us hope: we are getting quite close to being an equal match to these teams.
But the recent performances against Stoke and Sunderland are showing us that Arsenal is making further progress once more.
Five positives to take from the Stoke and Sunderland games:
- Arsenal are starting to rediscover their fighting spirit and the oh so necessary resilience again. Yes, against both teams we lacked clinical finishing as many a chance went begging, but the above scoring record indicates that we have started to score plenty of goals now, and however good a team is up-front, there are always periods in which the ball just does not want to go into the net often enough. During these sort of times, we need solid defensive performances; not just by our defence but by the whole team. Against Stoke, our defence was not properly tested, but against Sunderland the whole team had to defend with everything they got during the last thirty minutes of the game. A performance like that against Sunderland, does wonders for the team’s confidence and spirit, and helps it to gel as well. Let’s hope it is the start of a new phase in which Arsenal are resolute and resilient for the whole 90 minutes of the games we play.
- Szczesny needed a performance like that! With big home and away legs against Die Lederhosen coming up, we will need our defence to be at their very best. Our goalkeeper is an essential part of our defence and we need him to be ready and confident when we face Bayern. Although Szczesny did not have any bad games recently, he neither had any brilliant ones. That is until Saturday, when Wojcieh showed us all again what he is capable of – and boy did he perform well against the Black Cats. It was just the sort of performance needed by Szczesny and could not have come at a better time.
- Arsenal are creating chances again. Against Sunderland, Arsenal had 18 shots of which 9 were on target; and against Stoke we had 15 shots of which again 9 were on target. We only managed to score a single goal in each of the games and have simply been wasteful, but at least we are creating a great number of chances again: more goals per game are likely to follow soon once more.
- Arsenal are starting to show more healthy aggression now. Against Sunderland, Arsenal out-fouled Sunderland by 2:1 (13-6). Okay, Jenkinson went too far, but let’s just say it was rustiness and he did not expect to play on Saturday. In the games against Stoke and Sunderland, the players clearly anticipated physical battles and were mentally prepared for it. It was fantastic to see how our players did not accept to be bullied, and regularly were pro-active in bullying the opponents. Jack Wilshere’s role in all of this is invaluable, as he sets the example to the rest of the team in many a game.
- Only one more PL game North of Birmingham this season. During the last third of PL games this season, Arsenal do not have to go to the North-West anymore, and only one game awaits us in the North-East: Newcastle away on the last day of the season. We have actually done reasonably well in the North this season, only losing to the horrible Mancs, and winning at Wigan, Liverpool, and Sunderland; whilst drawing at MC, Everton, and Stoke. However, Arsenal will need a good run of games if we are to finish in the top-four, and not having to travel up North till the last game of the season should be a great help.
So, all in all some positive developments for our team; add on top of those our sick bay being relatively empty, and no current contracts issues to worry about – other than signing up Sagna of course, which is not extremely urgent right now – and there are plenty of reasons to be positive about with regards to the final third of the season for us Gooners.
Written by: Total Arsenal.