Listening to the last moments of Sunday’s match against Sunderland, I had resigned myself to dramatic thoughts of Arsenal’s Premiership hopes being over.
Three defeats before mid-October would have been a disaster. No one could seriously claim that we are performing at the peak of our game, so a point earned may not be the end of the world.
Arsène Wenger always says that the key to success is the title, since it underlines who has been the best, and clearly the most consistent team over the course of a year.
Looking back at how the Gunners have played this season, it’s fair to say that we’ve flitted from grim to glorious, from despair to delight.
Wenger talked about yesterday’s match being the second half of their redemption after last week’s debacle against Hull, and I wonder what he will make of his team’s chances now?
I was speaking to a friend of Phil Brown, the Hull City manager, on Friday, who said that by stifling Cesc Fabregas, Brown believed Hull could come away with something from Emirates. Apparently they believed that when he was allowed to come forward, Fabregas often fails to track back, providing space for the likes of Geovanni.
If that was not post-rationalisation, it worked perfectly, with Geovanni doing his job with that screamer that drew Hull level. Interestingly, it came on one of the rare occasions where Cesc had got forward, having been forced to play much of the game far too deep in his own half.
And so it was yesterday that, with Theo Walcott slumping back to last season’s form – despite providing the cross for a perfectly good goal to be disallowed, we relied on Cesc’s imagination to win us the game.
Apart from running our prized asset into the ground, it also makes us one dimensional. How ironic that Cesc ended up drawing us level with a header – surely his first goal in that manner at senior level
It’s all very well for Wenger to lament clubs playing a stifling game which relies on long shots and counter attacks to earn points, but as a so-called master tactician, it is up to him to show his players how to overcome that.
We cannot expect every side to play like a Kevin Keegan team, leaving wide open spaces and inviting us to play our dream football while they thank us very much for the footballing lesson.
While it may have been wise to insert Alex Song into the team to win the ball, leaving out Samir Nasri was a strange strange decision. Unless he is still recovering from his injury, it made no sense.
We have already seen enough this season to know that Robin van Persie is not an effective left midfielder and Saturday’s performance underlined that. If Nasri was not fit enough to start, we should have played Eboue (did I just say that?!). As Wenger hintd afterwards, we looked much better with to upfront.
Perhaps we will look back on the Sunderland result as a turning point, where parity was snatched from the jaws of defeat and self belief comes flooding back.
But if this system of ours is to work, we need more than one creative outlet on the pitch and we need to realise that we have to earn the right to play, rather than expect sides to open themselves up to us just because of the football we play.
In Nasri, Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and Eduardo, let alone Carlos Vela and rookie Jack Wilshere, we have players who can do that. Sadly, with Theo not at the peak of his form, Cesc was our only option for inspiration. He cannot be expected to do it all on his own.
Despite hating internationals most of the time, the next break cannot come quickly enough so we can get players such as Diaby back and get Eduardo closer to a recall before the Premiership season becomes nothing more than a sideshow.