The Campbell Diaries
The Gunners remain top two points clear of both Chelsea and Liverpool. Today Jim Campbell begins his regular Arsenal reflections, doing his best to keep a tight hold on the hope.
The good people at bettingexpert have asked me to document the highs and lows of being an Arsenal supporter as the season unfolds. I suspect that this may be so that come May they can catch a man having a full on breakdown in the hope that it'll go viral because the end of the season has become a fraught, jittery nightmare for those of an Arsenal persuasion.
Recent campaigns have been characterised by everything falling apart during a tough run of games, leaving us to play catch up later on. There is a worry that after spirited defeat to Borussia Dortmund and a Capital One Cup exit to Chelsea at home that this could be about to happen again. We now face a formtastic Liverpool at home, followed by away trips to Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United, a visit of the formbulous Southampton and a Champions League game against Marseille in France.
However, despite it being so early in the season things feel different this time around. The Dortmund result came partly through overconfidence, with Arsenal guilty of naivety in leaving themselves open through trying to win the game when a point would have still been a good result, and such confidence is a trait of the current side.
There is a sense that this team is more likely to pick itself up, dust itself off and start again than some of our more recent sides, evidenced by the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in difficult circumstances given Mikel Arteta's red card. Part of that comes from the belief instilled by the signing of Mesut Özil but also from the all-action return of Mathieu Flamini and the vastly improved performances of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud in particular.
Regardless, it's no good to dazzle against teams you're expected to beat only to be ineffective against those you aspire to rival. We've been there before, too many times, and with the sheer size of Arsenal's fan base further frustration represents something of a public health risk. Imagine an Arsenal version of Falling Down, but on a massive scale. Of course, Arsenal fans being Arsenal fans this will just mean that we'll stop thanking the check out staff at Waitrose but to us that is very serious.
Flamini will miss most of this period and the intensity he has brought to the midfield has been a big part of Arsenal's bright start. I suspect that Jack Wilshere will drop back to help out Mikel Arteta to compensate for this, and that he'll practice this role by barking orders at himself in a mirror, as Flamini is known to do every time he catches sight of his reflection.
Here Comes The Hope
Talk of a title bid is premature, but it's bloody nice so I'd like it to keep going for as long as possible. Preferably the whole season until we actually win it, but one step at a time. The Liverpool game is a must win because of this. The players need to show themselves that they can take a big scalp, then go and take some more, because it's clear that they're capable of it if they focus on cutting out mistakes, some of which are coming from bad decisions based on overconfidence in the first place.
Many eyes will be on Luis Suarez given his form and our pursuit of him in the summer. If you're going to the game a word of warning on Suarez; don't boo him. He gets better when you boo him, he's like Cristiano Ronaldo in that sense, a pantomime villain who thrives on riling up those around him.
It's worth noting that there are a few players still to come back. This is often the case with Arsenal but the absences of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alexander Mark David Oxlade-Chamberlain mean the team have been playing with very little width, robbing us of crucial areas of attack. Once we get these players fit it'll add even more depth to a squad that are showing themselves to be the best we've had in a long time.
Let's hope they can prove that on Saturday.
Arsenal Odds - Odds as at 31st October 2013.
|To Win Premier League||12.00||5.50||5.50||5.00||5.50||6.50|
|Top 4 Finish||1.67||1.33||1.25||1.25||1.33||1.29|
|To Win Champions League||34.00||21.00||21.00||26.00||21.00||26.00|
Follow Jim on Twitter: @JimCampbellTFR
And listen to Jim each week on The Football Ramble