I’m still not saying it
What was our aim at the start of the season?
For me it was to finish in the top 4. I have no doubt that for the club it was very much the same, so let’s examine where we are in relation to that goal.
In the table on the left is the number of points the team that finished 4th accrued over the course of the previous five seasons. On the right is the number that they had at the halfway point.
|2021 – 67||36|
|2020 – 66||32|
|2019 – 71||40|
|2018 – 75||35|
I think it’s fairly safe to say that we are well on course to meet the required tally, even if it’s on the higher side like in 2018.
Why we won’t ‘drop off’
Why am I so confident that we’ll hit 75+ points? Simply put, we are a very very good side. To be more specific, the players are coached with a method and style which is ruthless, relentless and effective. I know some claim that the best coaches and teams can adapt their style to any opponent. I respectfully disagree.
The best teams don’t have to adapt their games to the opposition, they make the opposition try to adapt to them.
When teams are forced to change their approach, they are put at a disadvantage as they are no longer playing their own way. Any work they have put in on the training field is (at least temporarily) put on hold. They must learn a new game plan and an alternate style in just a few days.
This is what teams are facing at the moment. They have just a few days to learn to ‘stop Arsenal’ but face a side which has been working on their style for roughly three years.
The best teams have variations, formations and tactical tweaks, but otherwise play a dominant style with players drilled appropriately. Look at the Arsenal side of the early 2000’s, the United team of the same period and the current City team. Now look at this current Arsenal team. We play every game with an advantage, and it’s not one which can suddenly ‘drop off’.
Even if we have an injury to Partey?
Based on what I’ve seen from both of our inverted full backs, both Ben White and Zinchenko are capable of filling in for TP should he pick up an injury. Zinchenko in particular has a similar ability to avoid a press and distribute the ball effectively. If he is moved infield there are very capable deputies on the bench in the form of Tierney or Tomiyasu. I’d rather this theory isn’t tested as Partey is the 2nd coming of Vieira, but if it is, it’s a test that can be passed. (Is anyone else reminded of how Pep used Lahm at Bayern when watching Zinchenko?)
My next point is oddly self-serving as a season ticket holder, but the fans in the ground have been as outstanding as the football and we’ve not always been able to say that.
I don’t believe that the reason is simply that the football is better. I think there’s a little more to it than that.
Two consecutive 8th place finishes weeded out the miserable/negative/entitled fans. We all know a few of the “I’m not paying to watch this rubbish” crew. They have been replaced by people who didn’t care that we weren’t in Europe, they just wanted to come to games and cheer the team on.
I fully understand that there were plenty of genuine fans who had other reasons to give up their tickets, but the change in atmosphere at the ground is unreal and I don’t think that the turnover of supporters can be ignored as a reason.
The elephant in the room
It’s simply too early for title talk as we’re only at the halfway point in the season, so I prefer to focus on the initial goal, which I’m hoping we have wrapped up by April. Then, and only then will I feel comfortable turning my attention to higher goals. In the meantime, I’m loving watching the football Arteta has us playing and what makes it even more special is knowing that this team will only get better.
I’m a lifelong Arsenal fan. I got my first kit at 3 years old and my dad put a nail in my wall and hung it there rather than in my wardrobe. Mum was furious.