Weekly Round Up: The Carling Cup, the AGM and the Chelsea Five
Written by Jeff Patterson on October 31, 2011 9:00
Hi there, what a week it has been to be an Arsenal fan! I always assumed that “turning the corner” would be this philosophical, ‘moving target.’ Arsenal would show a character one week, then stumble the next, but that we would be moving more forward than backward as things went on.
I didn’t expect this. A lot of cliche’s come to mind to describe Saturday’s win. The one I will use, which is getting tossed around quite a bit, is “Statement Win.” Arsene asked us to judge this time by this game, and I have to say, a 5-3 victory at Stamford Bridge is about as big a statement as can be made. But I will get to that later. Right now, I’d like to take a look at what has been a HUGE week for this club.
Arsenal vs. Bolton, Carling Cup
First off, why does it always feel like Manchester United gets League One draws while everyone matched with EPL opponents? Always feels like we’re playing Bolton or Spurs, while they are playing Accrington or Macclesfield. Just saying.
A few quick points about this match: Arsenal showed great character to get back into the game after Bolton took the lead. It would have been easy to drop the head, but that didn’t happen and it was perhaps a sign of things to come (more on that later). Good character shown, from both youngsters and veterans alike.
Arshavin showed that his best role is probably in the middle, behind the striker. I have suggested this a few times, it’s the role he plays for Russia, to great result. Park Chu-Young showed exactly why so many of us have been begging for him over the last few weeks. The fact that he was in the squad against Chelsea, instead of Chamakh, suggests that maybe Marouane has run out of chances. Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain look like they still need time to mature a bit, but remain very promising.
I was nervous about this, and rightly so. From everything I saw and read about the event, very few people left the meeting feeling confidence in our board. I was specifically worried that all of that bad press could negatively effect the squad’s performance against Chelsea. Thankfully that was not the case.
The meeting did highlight something I was worried all summer, especially in August. I’ve been worried greatly about Arsenal’s board, and while Arsene has been by no means blameless for the clubs struggles, I have often wondered if Wenger has taken a bad rap for an ownership group which has left him high and dry. After the AGM, I am ever more convinced of this.
The Arsenal board put in the kind of shaky performance that would even leave Almunia shaking his head. Whether it was Peter Hill-Wood refusing to answer any kind of question by his own shareholders, Ivan Gazidis bragging about how many friends Arsenal has on Facebook, or Stan Kroenke admitting he was puzzled why anyone would care what he had to say …
If it hadn’t been for Arsene Wenger’s impassioned speech, the event could have turned into a Black Scarf rally right then and there. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when a member called for Hill-Wood to resign, that says it all, doesn’t it?
It left me wondering just how much we rely on Wenger. Not just as a manager, but as leader, an economic strategist, a figurehead, as a BRAND? I’m just going to say what I felt after that AGM meeting, and what I’ve felt for quite awhile: Arsene has been making this Arsenal board look good for years. I can’t think of another manager who is asked year after year to sell off his top talent while spending little in return, and expected to keep his club not just competitive, but challenging for titles.
Managers at clubs like that don’t last, because the fan’s expectations for success surpass what the team is realistically capable of achieving. A few weeks ago I was ready to ready to agree with the ‘Wenger Out’ crowd. Now, I am happy to admit where I was wrong, because I don’t think Wenger is the issue, at least, not the biggest one. Serious questions should be asked of Arsenal’s Board of Directors, but unfortunately, the only person who can challenge them Stan Kroenke, which is a bit like the inmates having the keys to the asylum.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea, Stamford Bridge
I have to admit, this match is one of my proudest moments as a sports fan. The struggles that Arsenal have had with Chelsea, with Stamford Bridge, with Big Teams, with showing fight … it was just a beautiful tonic, cascading down over all these past struggles and washing them away. We have to make sure we learn from the weaknesses we did show, but this, THIS. This is why we all support Arsenal. Because they can make us feel THIS good.
This is getting somewhat long, so I will be as brief as possible. The one thing that impressed me most on Saturday was the FIGHT. Chelsea would take the lead, and Arsenal would answer back. Chelsea leveled near the end, and Arsenal come right back. No one dropped their head, no one started to panic, no one made the situation worse with boneheaded play (Szczesny stayed on the pitch, so I’m leaving him out).
They believed in themselves, in each other, in the manager’s philosophy, and they were not going to be intimidated by the Blues. This is the first game I can recall in a long time where I felt like Arsenal could answer back every time Chelsea pulled ahead. That means something, something very exciting.
Defensively, it was a wide open game all the way through, but Arsenal came out in the second half and shut Chelsea down. Chelsea boast a big name backline that is supposed to be their biggest strength, but in the second half it was the Gunner’s who turned solid defensive play into counter-attacks and goals. And we did that with a back four that was filled with emergency replacements and new additions.
Early next week, I will break down a few individual performances from Saturday’s game that I found especially noteworthy, but for now, I am still just enjoying the moment. I still can’t stop singing, or grinning like an idiot when I recall John Terry falling over, and van Persie lazily rounding Cech while the Bridge stares on in horror. Life doesn’t get much better.