Well I’ll be damned.
If my figures are correct then Arsenal are now 16 games unbeaten in the Premier League.
And I’m not sure what I’m surprised about the most. Because the first few months of this season were shambolic. Seriously, it was agonising to watch. There was no desire, no effort and we were losing to teams like Hull City, Fulham and Stoke.
Amazingly now we’re in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup and in 4th place in the Premier League, 3 points ahead of Aston Villa (albeit they have a game in hand).
And we are actually 10 points behind Manchester United, who many people have been calling ‘untouchable’ throughout this Premier League campaign. Now I’m not saying we’ve got a chance of winning the league, but if you consider the amount of stupid points we’ve dropped (with sloppy defeats and unnecessary draws) then we’d be right in the race.
The gap between us and the other top 3 teams has seemed mammoth at times this season but are we really that far behind?
It’s an old clichÃ© but football really is a funny old game.
Because only a few weeks ago things looked so bleak for Arsenal, where we were minutes away from being 8 points adrift of Aston Villa.
So why have things suddenly started to look up?
The first reason is the arrival of a certain Andrei Arshavin. Seriously, this guy is quality.
He is truly a world-class player and I love him. He’s intelligent, energetic, full of skill and already has a handful of assists to his name. He’s also got an eye for goal (unlike previous midfielders who now warm benches in Barcelona) and adds a new dimension to this young Arsenal side. His arrival at Arsenal was a much needed injection of hope for the club and it’s no co-incidence that his arrival would coincide with our best form of the season.
The only downside is that we can’t use him in Europe, because he has the ability to make the difference in these kind of games.
But we also can’t ignore the recent form of Aston Villa.
While Arsenal have been solid in defence (although you wouldn’t think it if you saw some of the goals we concede), Aston Villa have been leaking goals and have literally been in free-fall. They haven’t actually won a game (in all competitions) since February 7th, when they beat Blackburn Rovers in the league.
Since then they have been knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton, threw away the UEFA Cup against CSKA Moscow and drawn 1 game and lost 3 in their previous 4 Premier League matches.
And this weekend they have to face Liverpool (who are as of writing trailing 3-0).
Then there is the faith Arsene has put in his players.
Bendtner, Song, Denilson, Diaby and Eboue have been the main focus of debate among Arsenal fans and I guess that even now most people are still undecided about these particular players.
Eboue has to be one of the most infuriating players Arsene has ever had during his time at Arsenal. We know he explosive pace and has the ability to take on players but his form has been too inconsistent. He is certainly the player with the most highs and lows this season and you just don’t know what you’re going to get. His form of late has been good though so that would have kept most fans onside, for now.
And I’ve always liked Nicklas Bendtner.
I can’t fault his workrate and he is far more intelligent than Adebayor. He is more of a team player and while his touch can be poor it’s still better than the Ade’s. And the key for me is this kid is improving all the time and is hungry. On the other hand it seems like Adebayor just can’t be bothered anymore. His body language and behaviour haven’t been the best and since his pay-rise it would appear that he has lost his desire.
But hopefully he’ll prove me wrong when he returns and goes on to help Arsenal finish the season strongly.
How about Song, Denilson and Diaby?
Personally, I’m not a fan of Song. As a squad player I think he’s adequate to fill in now and then but he’s just not good enough for Arsenal. When you talk about players like Cesc and Arshavin then Song isn’t really fit enough to clean their boots.
Denilson is a tough one, but overall this season I’ve been impressed with him. Whenever I’ve watched him play he’s been solid and done a job for the team. Not very glamorous but keeps the side ticking over with simple passes and protecting the back four. It’s not his job to make things happen so to an extent some of the criticism he’s had is unfair. He’s still very young and you can see that Denilson is a player who will improve with more experience.
And then we have Diaby. I’ve liked him when he’s played out wide or in the hole because he’s not afraid to shoot and he has the ability to pick out a dangerous pass. I think he’s a good player but you wonder where his place in the team is if Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri and Arshavin are all fit.
The final thing to say is thank you Arsene for setting up a potentially exciting end to the season.
Because during the first half of the campaign I (like many others) doubted the ability and desire of this current squad.