The Bigger Picture

Yes, the result against Alkmaar was a frustrating one. Seemingly, we never got out of first gear. Alkmaar actually possessed the ball more than we did, although they did relatively nothing with it. Compare how Alkmaar did nothing with the ball to how we do when we dominate the play and fail to score a goal, two markedly different types of performances that put to shame simple dissections by English pundits.

Of course, the headlines wrote themselves. The press said it exposed our soft centre once more, ignoring the fact that neither of our centre halves were particularly to blame for the goal. “You just have a feeling about Arsenal, don’t you?” Those words could have come out of any assortment of pundits. While it’s true that we shouldn’t have conceded that goal, I’m seeing a big difference between the defensive performances of last year and this year. That’s not to say that things are perfect, but it’s to say that the boring articles about our team still having the same chinks in our armor are incorrect. They’re just being lazy.

Bacary Sagna claimed that we lost focus near the end of the match. That comment would have only been revealed in these types of circumstances. To that end, such a thing should not happen, but oftentimes does, even with the best of teams.

Consider our position in the Champions League at the moment. We’re top of the group, have two games to play at home, and are not afraid of anybody in our group at all. Dropping points in a Champions League group doesn’t mean very much if you’re still expected to top the group. The only thing you lose is the financial reward for winning a Champions League match.

If the draw against Alkmaar teaches us a lesson about focus and needing to be ruthless with teams like this, then that financial loss will have been well worth it.

And that’s not mentioning the fact that Carlos Vela was clearly fouled in the box late in the game. The draw is not worth getting too upset about, as frustrating as it was.

You cannot afford to lose focus and drop points in the Premier League though, and the team must recognize this.

Playing West Ham at home is never a cakewalk, and this is a classic trap game. As an Arsenal fan, while I fear nobody, I do wish for teams that we play to get a result in the week before our game. That way, they might not necessarily go all out for the crucial result that could turn around our season. That didn’t happen with West Ham and with them being in the relegation zone, they’ll be fighting tooth and nail for a result tomorrow.

Zola is a good man. He was a magician on the pitch, and he wants to be the next Arsene Wenger, something that is much, much, much easier said than done. He said he wants to stick to attacking principles, but luckily for him he has a shrewd tactician in Steve Clarke. Clarke must recognize that they must try to neutralize Arsenal instead of outplaying us, he did operate with Jose Mourinho after all.

Tomorrow may come down to one or two moments, but with Arshavin on the pitch, that may be to our distinct advantage.


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