Can we all just fall in love with Arsenal again?

For four games in a row now, Arsenal have played pretty good football. I’m not exaggerating when I repeat the old warhorse that this is “some of the best football I have seen from Arsenal”. And I think we should just enjoy it while it lasts.

Everything is working. The Mustafi-Koscielny partnership has shown its strengths, which are speed, passing, and a surprising aerial strength. Wenger’s experiment in midfield, with Coquelin pushed high up the pitch to press and cover for players like Özil and Iwobi worked exceptionally well. The move to put Alexis as a center forward with Walcott playing beside him has also paid dividends, as Alexis is free to express himself and make runs that he wouldn’t normally make from wide positions, close down on opponents in a way he couldn’t playing wide, and create for his teammates in a way he couldn’t before.

Wenger has harnessed the strengths of his players and put them in a formation which best utilizes those strengths for the good of the team. And the team have responded so very well.

Walcott is the epitome of this response. After years of wanting to be Arsenal’s “number one guy” he showed tremendous humility to back down and accept a role which he had excelled at years before, as a wide support striker. That wide support striker position requires defense, something which Walcott has too often proved uninterested in doing but which he is gleefully applying himself to these days.  Wenger loaned out Campbell this summer because he must have seen Walcott playing defense in practice and thought that here he had a complete player on his hands and no longer needed Campbell.

And Wenger himself has seemingly come up with a strategy which may prove that the old dog has some new tricks. He has the team pressing, something they seemed to have abandoned last year, after it worked the year before. This is the perfect strategy if you have Alexis playing as a forward as his natural inclination is to press.

The big question is how long can all this last? How many games can Alexis press? Will Walcott play defense for 90 minutes for 50 games? How long before teams figure out what Alexis is doing up top? How many games before teams find a weakness in the center backs? And how will Wenger adjust for the inevitable injuries? Especially an injury to Santi Cazorla?

Arsenal have a long run of games ahead that are “winnable.” Games against teams that “Arsenal should beat”. From now until November 6th, Arsenal face Burnley, Swansea, Ludogorets, Boro, Reading, Sunderland, and Ludogorets again. This is the perfect time for Arsenal to get some wins under our belt. To consolidate the system and make adjustments as needed.

I’m looking forward to the month ahead as a time when we can see what this Arsenal team is all about. I’m looking forward to the team building on its strengths and playing the way that we have been in the last few weeks. This could be a time for us all to start falling in love with Arsenal all over again.



  1. Would it be preposterous to quote Derrida on an Arsenal blog? Can’t resist it. “One of the first questions one could pose [about love]… is the question of the difference between the who and the what. Is love the love of someone or the love of some thing? Okay, supposing I loved someone. Do I love someone for the absolute singularity of who they are (“I love you because you are you”)? Or do I love your qualities, your beauty, your intelligence? Does one love someone, or does one love something about someone? The difference between who and what at the heart of love, seperates the heart.”

    1. Preposterous? Not here, it’s actually perfect.

      As is this translation of part of the L’equipe interview with Pires by Redditor DTGG

      “What’s funny, is that in my second year at Villareal, we played Arsenal in the CL. We greeted each other with Arsène. It was intense. What’s weird, is that even though we lost (3-0), this match is my favorite memory at the Emirates. I’m at home but with another shirt. And the fans are all singing my name from beginning to end. I was so touched that I was terrible. Later, in 2011, when I came back to London after Aston Villa, I want to give back to Arsenal everything it gave me.”

      Go read the rest, it’s worth it.ès_on_todays/?ref=search_posts

    2. This is perfect, actually, because I saw Piers Morgan talking about Arsene Wenger and Piers recalled Arsenal winning the League at White Hart Lane. Piers was sitting in the Director’s box with Lord Sugar when he met Arsene Wenger after the match and said “I will never love any man as much as I love this guy right now.”

      In that same interview, Morgan shows how deeply he doesn’t love Wenger. How little respect he has for Wenger. How much his love was conditional upon gifts of trophies. So, I would ask Derrida, was it love that Morgan felt? Or was it a fascination, an infatuation, that basest of love feeling, was he just basking in the after-cum-glow?

      1. I feel the question very keenly myself because I’ve only known wenger’s Arsenal, which is of course very much HIS. If and when he shuffles off stage left, how much of the what will go with him (good and bad)? In all other terms, football support is the ultimate who – your team right or wrong, winning or losing, regardless of manager/players and other circumstantial factors. But when we fall in love with a club, we tend to do so at a particular moment, and at least in part because of that momentary manifestation. Still, the talk or mythos of ‘the Arsenal way’ suggests that this goes to the heart of the club, if you follow me. Makes sense, cos it certainly stimulates strange amounts of love in us, don’t it.

  2. ‘For four games in a row now, Arsenal have played pretty good football. I’m not exaggerating..’

    When I read that it made me laugh.

    I know you added more to that, but taking into account our style of football for the last year or so, it still kind of works 🙂

    I agree with you. We’ve been starved of scintillating football for a while now. We should enjoy this spell for however long it lasts.

  3. I was thinking the same. Despite being vocal about some aspects of Wenger’s management that I find wanting, I have no hesitation in praising him for his tactics and team selections, which have been spot on. I want to love the old boy, and he is giving me reason.

    One is his knack for unearthing gems. Last year it was Bellerin, this year it’s Iwobi. I absoluely love watching the Nigerian — his intelligence, his decision-making. With Marcus Rashford, Iwobi one of the exciting young talents in the premier league.

  4. You’ve jinxed it. Burnley to do us on the weekend now. Anytime Wenger waxes poetic in public about how well the Arsenal are playing – boom. Let down. I’m going to go with reverse psychology and point out the fact that despite dominant first halves against Watford, Chelsea and Basel we fail to improve our margins in the second halves. No killer instinct. Same old same old.


  5. In the first 45 minutes against Basel there were some moments that left me breathless. Those 45 mins and the first half against Chelsea was some of the best football I’ve seen Arsenal play in a long, long time. There is still room for improvement though. Let’s hope we can get stronger.

    Btw, I know it’s still early but damn that Xhaka can play. There was a moment in the first half when he let the ball roll by him slightly, faked passing back but instead played a brilliant forward pass which resulted in Nacho having a shot that was saved by the keeper. His game was very understated but effective.

    On another note, check out Wenger’s interview on Men in Blazers (the full version debuts tomorrow on NBCSN at 1230 EST):

  6. I think we’ll learn a lot about Arsenal in the coming month. Often in the past, we’ve seen a distinct lack of character, mental strength, grit, whatever you want to call it, when facing teams we ‘should’ be beating. I’m hoping this team has a little more drive in these situations than previous iterations.

    I do, however, think we should plan on doing some rotating (which adds a further psychological challenge in these upcoming fixtures, I know), because the season is long, and we can’t expect Alexis to be chasing lost causes twice a week (nor Cazorla to stay fit, etc.). I hope we can make good use of Elneny, for example, and Ramsey, when he returns. The success of our understudies will, I think, determine the success of our season.

    1. Wenger will definitely do some rotating. He now has a big enough squad for it. Besides, a number of our stalwarts are being repeatedly overlooked for selection by their national coaches e.g. Cazorla and Monreal. Also note that Coquelin basically never gets called up by France. Lucas Perez also has no international commitments. Thus, with the positive injury update on Coquelin, it’s very possible that the well rested pair of Cazorla and Coquelin, along with Perez and/or Giroud(not called up by France),will play from the off against Swansea right after the international break. This will probably be the pattern for the rest of the season. The early signs this season point to a Wenger that intends to use the breadth of his squad.

    2. Spot on.

      For this reason, do you think we’ll come to regret letting Jack go? It’s not unusual, as the season gets older, to have 8, 9 players out injured, and 2 or 3 dog tired.

    3. Rather, the sustained fitness of our best players and best partnerships will determine the course of the season, the play of Ozil and Sanchez, Koscielny and Mustafi, Cazorla and Coquelin (or Xhaka). We haven’t had a consistently fit first XI in just about 10 years. Maybe this is they year that happens. The champions of the past two seasons had in common and uncommonly consistent first XI and an uncommonly favorable injury report.

      1. Well, yes, Doc, but two things: 1) the sustained fitness of our best players may depend on how well we draw on the depth of our squad in rotation, and 2) I’m assuming that this year will be no different than any other year in terms of an annual injury crisis. Hey, if we somehow pull a ’15-16 Leicester and manage to have all our best players firing on all cylinders for the entire season, well, that would be something very…un-Arsenal-like!

        1. Even if the universe is nothing more than the cruel reality of numbers, it still seems like Arsenal should have a relatively injury free season at some point just owning to random variance. I realize it’s no more likely to happen this season just because of the horrific run that preceded it, but neither is it less likely for the same reason, now that we no longer have so many chronically injured players.

  7. An excellent Post, thank you.

    The Arsenal team has clearly been hijacked and taken to planet Xorba, and replaced with another team from a parallel universe. They have played the most scintillating football any Premiership team has produced for many a long year, and it mystifies me how it happened.

    Well, I have a theory.

    If I may, I would like to say I disagree with your view that Theo has played so well because he has knuckled down and accepted his right wing role, and given up on his desire to be a CF.

    Can I suggest instead that, perhaps because of Giro’s injured big toe, the forward line of Sanchez, Iwobi, and Theo, augmented by Nacho and especially Bellerin have played fast, interchangeable, slick football reminiscent of the Invincibles, and made possible by the creativity and defense grit of the rest of the team.

    As proof that Theo has not been asked to just stick with being a rightwing player again, just recall that he scored a beautiful header against Chelsea from the middle of the goal, and against Basle he scored from close in with a perfectly placed shot, and both would have graced any CF’s portfolio.

    Let it continue — please. 😀

    1. Tim Stillman explains Theo beautifully in this week’s column over on Arseblog. He has in fact accepted the defensive responsibilities that come with being a wide player, and that shows up when we don’t have the ball. When we do have the ball, he and Iwobi come inside to combine with Alexis and Ozil, with either fullback providing the true width. Walcott has been finishing chances from central positions as he preys on the space between CB and FB in the right hand channel. This works particularly well, as Stillman points out, because he has three players next to him who are all looking for the types of runs he loves to make and are capable of finding him. Added to that, there is the threat of Bellerin on the overlap which has to be honored by defenders… I read he is the most prolific assister from a defensive position in the premier league, and he is capable of scoring too. All of this plus a newfound determination to participate in both phases of play has combined to make Theodore James Walcott an unrecognizable player from last season. As with Arsenal as a whole, we’ve seen false dawns with him before so all we can do is hope he stays fit and hope his partnerships up front continue to blossom.

  8. Happily swallowing mouthfuls of humble pie over Walcott. I wanted him gone. I was finished. He had ran aimlessly into a full back for the last time as far as I was concerned.

    Wow. What a player.

    Maybe Wenger had him hypnotised into thinking he is in the constant scenario of having just 6 months remaining on his contract? He’s been superb.

  9. Even if it all goes to shit, I can happily declare that at no point last season did we look so smooth, so sublime, so damn sexy as we have in the last 3 games. Even if we fall apart, Theo reverts to being Theo, injures destroy us, and Mustafi turns into Vermaelen, we’ll have that.

    If only we had played half this good for the second half of last season, we’d have won the league. As it is now, even if we keep this up for quite a while, Man City will probably still win. And that’s okay – let your expectations of glory go, and you can enjoy the football. I just ask that we beat Mourinho, both in the matches we play and in the league table come the end of the season.

  10. Was just talking with my friend about fairy tale happy endings today and I commented about Wenger being a true stalwart of all the good things that mankind stands for, for doing things with dignity, class and faithfulness. The scintillating football played recently has certainly brought a smile back and I will certainly approach it in a manner which Wenger previously preached, which is to admire it with a passion like it’ll last forever, yet knowing that it wouldn’t. (I can’t remember the exact quote but he was talking about his love of Arsenal as a football club and how this relationship, of him being a manager and Arsenal, wouldn’t last but he has to try his hardest to make it work nonetheless)

  11. Lessons are clearly being learnt even if belatedly, witness Ramsey: Pressed into action possibly prematurely, and now being wrapped in cotton wool. My guess is that his 1st game back will be against Reading in the EFL cup. The same caution will probably be exercised with regard to Welbeck and Mertesacker. The imminent return of Carl Jenkinson also adds cover at the back. Clearly, we’re pretty well stocked in all areas. For now…

  12. That second goal against Chelsea reminded me of the old silk and steel counterattacking Invincible Arsenal team. I am slowly getting excited. As much as last fall’s Chelsea game demoralized me, this year’s Chelsea game is quite the energizer. But I think the true test will come against Mourinho’s ManUre. Will we break the mold and exorcise some demons? That game will be the better litmus test. If we can handle those jackasses, and we do not lose to Man Shitty, this might be THE YEAR.

  13. That second goal against Chelsea reminded me of the old silk and steel counterattacking Invincible Arsenal team. I am slowly getting excited. As much as last fall’s Chelsea game demoralized me, this year’s Chelsea game is quite the energizer. But I think the true test will come against Mourinho’s ManUre. Will we break the mold and exorcise some demons? That game will be the better litmus test. If we can handle those jackasses, and we do not lose to Man Shitty, this might be THE YEAR.

  14. That win was uuuuuuuuuugly as sin but it will still make the 2016-2017 season highlight reel.

  15. If we have any chance of a title this year it will be the kinds of wins that will be crucial to getting us there.

  16. Well. From what I saw of that game:

    1) Burnley did their homework: You could see Burnley players actively anticipate the types of passes Arsenal, and in particular, Ozil and Alex Iwobi wanted to make. They were quick to pounce on Iwobi’s favorite right to left switch of play and read the gunners’ cutbacks and 1-2’s all day. I think I counted 5-6 interceptions of Iwobi passes in the 1st half alone. Added to that, Dean Marney was on Alexis protocol, hounding him in midfield which gave Dyche’s team an effective strategy to avoid the CB’s being pulled apart. Ozil was shunted outside and Arsenal had no size in the middle for his deep crosses. Bellerin’s runs were nullified by extremely disciplined positioning by nominal wide forward Boyd. It worked very well. A similarly set up Liverpool outfit to us (lots of small, quick forwards) were beaten here 2-0, so it’s not just us. Burnley have a frustrating formula that’s working for them.

    2) Sam Vokes vs. Mustafi a highlight for me: Vokes is a big lad from the old school of English center forwards. All elbows and determination, not at all unlike former Wenger nemesis Kevin Davies. A perfect test then for continental new boy Mustafi. who Vokes and Burnley clearly targeted over Koscielny as a target for their clearances. It was a fascinating duel for the cultured Mustafi who must not have relished this brand of agricultural defending; but I thought he stood up strong, didn’t let himself get bullied and didn’t back out of the duels. Got an elbow in the face for his trouble too, with no card forthcoming (Vokes knew what he was doing!!) but after a brief show of dissent got right back amongst it. The clean sheet was required for us to have any chance today. A big test passed for Shkodran and Kostafi today.

    3) The goal of destiny: As I nervously watched the last 10 minutes, my only thought was: “WE HAVE TO HAVE this game.” I was down to prayers and supplications, and they were answered in the most bizarre fashion imaginable. After stoppage time, a short corner and Alexis cross was flicked on by Theo Walcott (!!!) to Alex Ox who improbably found himself onside and with the goal gaping, but was probably put of by the presence of Koscielny and his effort was headed off target (!!!!!!) only to take a deflection off of Koscielny’s arm (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and end up in the back of the net (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). After a goal like that, this has to be our year. I believe.

  17. If you study the replays of the goal, the trajectory of Ox’s shot could have taken it over the crossbar were it not for the inadvertent Koscienly deflection.

    1. From the replays it seemed to me that Koscielny kicked the ball, and Ox kicked Kos’ foot sending it on that trajectory. Not sure if the ball wouldn’t have struck Koscielny’s head if it hadn’t hit his arm, but does anyone really care? It went in and counted and after all the stuff we’ve had go against us for so long, that’s all I care about.

      Kudos to Koscielny though. He has this knack of being in the right spot to score some big big goals. Also a word for Walcott getting up to win that header.

  18. A battling 3 points one must say. There are days like that when a breakthrough from cultured interplay never comes and redemption will only come through persistence with what is available at the moment. It reminds me of a one nil win at Portsmouth during the Invincible season (?) courtesy of an anger-fuelled grounder by Sol Campbell on a day our offensive play was seriously off-colour…What I personally liked about the game at Burnley was that, although we badly needed a victory, we hardly left the backdoor open on the counterattack, even in the dying minutes. We kept our shape, hemmed them in and kept plugging away till we got lucky. As Wenger said on at least two occasions last seasons,” If you can’t win it, don’t lose it.” That’s a sign of maturity and I hope that mentality has come to stay.

  19. Well all over Europe teams seemed to suffer after a midweek CL fixture. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund all dropped points. Spurs beat a team at home who also played in the CL a day after they did. Leicester dropped points too.

    I was amazed at the reaction after the game online being something like we were shit… We weren’t. We weren’t great, or sharp or brilliant, but we kept ourselves in the game in what was a tough away fixture the way it turned out. Maybe if we had Giroud (or any other striker) available to cross to, it would’ve been different. Maybe Coquelin’s aggression or Ramsey’s running and propensity for finding space would have opened them up more.

    No matter. We kept going right to the end, and that concentration and determination was rewarded with a lucky goal. I was very pleased with our performance, even when I thought it would be a draw. Some games are just going to be a grind. That we won and are now 2 points off the top is great. What is also great is that the players and manager are still talking about keeping their feet on the ground and to be ready to go again after the international break.

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