Arsenal: A look back at crazy October and what's in store for November
One of Arsenal‘s craziest months ever just ended. And the seemingly innocent fixtures made Arsenal work harder than they would have liked. Bad results happened, good fixtures took place and the ugliest fixture turned out to be an historic one! So, let’s rewind to the first week of October, where we took on the Greek Gods and landed a blow to their qualification hopes. On paper, a 3-1 win seems a dominating one, but there were times Arsenal could have lost it. Then during the weekend, West Ham were cooked perfectly by Le Chef Wenger and co. There was a time during the game when the ham wouldn’t let Wenger cook it up, but he added the extra spice (Walcott) and the West Ham challenge was another 3-1 success for Arsenal.
The international break came once again, but there was no break for the Gunners as they had to work harder for their respective nations. This was reflected in the 1-0 loss to Norwich City. Arsenal’s players lacked sharpness and never threatened the Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy. It could be also argued that there were too many Arsenal first-teamers injured, including goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski. And it again hurt Arsenal, this time against the Wall of Ruhr (Schalke). They played impressively and blunted the Arsenal attack before goals from the ‘Hunter’ and Afellay ruined the mood at Arsenal, just before the Arsenal General Meeting of 2012.
The mood at the meeting was understandably tense with Arsene Wenger trying to convince those present at the meeting that Arsenal’s first ever loss at Emirates Stadium to non-English opposition was a one-off:
“We have, last night, not produced a good performance but as well let’s not forget that it was the first defeat in 43 home games in the Champions League. First of all, not many clubs play 43 home games consecutively in the Champions League, and I think many teams don’t lose at all for 43 games.“
He also believed Robin Van Persie‘s departure to Man United wouldn’t matter:
“During the whole season, we had no Wilshere, no Diaby and of course at the end of the season, we lost Van Persie. We lost Song and we lost Benayoun. We bought Cazorla. We bought Podolski. And we bought Giroud.
We anticipated a little bit that we might lose Van Persie, because the talks were open but we didn’t know if he could find an agreement and that’s where we anticipated Giroud and Podolski to bring them in. Of course we lost 40 goals, but I think the three players we bought will be [a] success.”
Even though Arsenal have been playing tennis in the Capital Cup this season with a 6-1 win against Coventry City in September, Arsene Wenger still lists the League Cup below qualifying for the Champions League.
“That’s why I would like to come back to one thing. We speak about trophies. For me, there are five trophies – the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask: ‘did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you: ‘do you play in the Champions League?
I say that as well, because recently we had a meeting in Geneva about when a manager is in some situations, what does he do? For example, a guy came out with a problem. He said ‘I played the semi-final of the Europa League at home and three days later, I played the decisive game in the championship to qualify for the Champions League.
And I was thinking ‘what do I do?’ Do I go for the semi-final of the Europa League? Or do I go for the qualifier in the Champions League?’ And the whole meeting was about that decision.
What came out as a 90 per cent conclusion, is that all the managers said ‘if you take care of you, you go for the semi-final of the Europa League. If you take care of the club, you go for the Champions League position.’ And that’s what we do, always. “
Technically, qualifying for the Champions League may never be called a trophy, but considering the teams surrounding them spending bucket-loads of cash, it is not far from the truth. The very fact that Santi Cazorla at 16 million is Arsenal’s most expensive signing tells something. Yes, Arsenal have the highest ticket-rates, so the argument may be raised - Where is the money going?
With a desperate mood at the Emirates, Arsenal took on QPR but Arsenal were lacklustre in the first half. Infact, the very fact that Jack Wilshere, who was playing for the first time in 17 months, was the best player on the pitch, as was Bacary Sagna, just reflected what was happening at the Emirates. Arsenal were at their lowest since the season began. Arsenal played like they always do, dominate but never score. Finally, Arsenal’s 270-minute goal drought spread over 4 games ended in the least Arsenal-ish way when Mikel Arteta scored via a goal-mouth scramble. Even though QPR got two bright chances at the end, they got what they deserved when Stephen M’Bia pressed the self-destruct button for no reason.
And, in hindsight, the easiest fixture of the month turned out to be the craziest one. Arsenal’s youth failed to read the Reading attack and found themselves 4-0 down in the first 40 minutes. Theo Walcott and Maraoune Chamakh, who were outside the first-team plans, netted 6 goals between them as Arsenal staged one of the greatest ‘Sporting comebacks’ as Arsenal won by a tennis score of 7-5. The way the game was played reminded me of the way I play FIFA on my desktop! Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the game but the contrasting emotions throughout the game makes this game the game of the month.
Now that October is out of the way, we have got a tougher November coming up. First up, the Theatre of Dreams is the challenge of the season. Even a Manchester United with a patched-up defense and an ineffective midfield is enough to score against Arsenal. Add Robin Van Persie to the equation and now you have got a game on. Then, we travel to Schalke, who might get another good result against us, because German teams are almost invincible at home. Two London derbies against Tottenham and Fulham follow, both at the Emirates Stadium, which gives Arsenal a big edge over the opposition, but in a derby, you should never underestimate your opponents. And the same applies for the two games as they have game-changers in their sides, not to mention a certain Togolese striker who was rejected at Man City even when he was scoring goals for us.
Bradford City host Arsenal in the Capital One Cup quarter-final. Arsenal should be expected to win this game even though we scraped past Reading. Arsenal can easily win the Cup, provided that they can solve the Chelsea puzzle, if they ever have to do so. The Birmingham win was more of a lack of team morale than anything else, which is high right now, so Arsenal fans will be flying high.
Arsenal then play Montepellier at home. They are arguably the whipping boys of the group despite being the Ligue 1 Champions. Away games at Aston Villa and Everton wrap up the month for the Gunners who could find it hard to play at Everton, so I expect 4 points from those two fixtures and 7 from the first three (yes, I am an optimist). Arsenal will gain 11 points and might go up to 25 points, which I reckon will be good enough to put them in 4th position.
This month will be a trying one for Arsenal Football Club. But if they do well this month, they can show their title pedigree and show the world they are a force to be reckoned with.