It has been a while since I last blogged for Dev, but I am pleased to provide you with my review of the season up to Christmas. I have been busy with a temporary relocation to Australia and, I must admit, too upset to write about Arsenal for the first part of this season. Anyone who makes the effort to write about this great club on a daily basis deserves a lot of credit. The same goes for all the bloggers out there who share their views and opinions with us every day. I have been at Dev’s flat late at night after a game, ready to go home to bed, only to see him open his laptop and start writing a blog for the next day. We are blessed with a team of smart and dedicated writers at WOA and they deserve a special Xmas congratulations for providing yet another year of good reading.
I have found a bit of time, and distance, to gather my thoughts on the ups and downs of the season so far. It started badly. Late in the transfer window we saw Cesc and Nasri depart, leaving us with a squad lacking in depth and quality going into the new campaign. And we paid the price for that. In our opening fixtures we lost Gervinho and Frimpong to suspensions, which rubbed salt into a very sore wound. Looking back now you can see that we never really stood a chance in our games against Liverpool and Man Utd. The only positive note in August, results wise, was the victory against a good Udinese side. As disappointing as our results back then were, the two games against Udinese gave me confidence we would come good.
August culminated in ‘that’ defeat against Utd, which I was unlucky enough to witness in person. Utd were on fire back then. The champions always have a strong start to the following season, tending to thrive off the buzz of the last. And we played them on one of those days where everything they did turned to gold and everything we did resulted in a red card, free kick, or goal conceded. It was a terrible result but, as I will explain below, possibly a blessing in disguise.
A few days later came the end of the transfer window. After the Utd game it was clear that we needed reinforcements desperately. Would a draw or win at Old Trafford have convinced AW otherwise? We’ll never know. By now though, what we do know is not to assume that he’ll make any signings in a transfer window. The defeat at Utd made sure of it though, and in the final days of the window we signed Mertesacker, Park, Benayoun, Arteta and Santos. All of whom, perhaps Park aside, have impressed highly since.
Mertesacker, while painfully slow on the turn, is an experienced international who seems to have found a great understanding with Koscielny and Vermaelen. Benayoun is another experienced player who will prove to be important for us this season. His work rate is excellent and AW clearly trusts him enough to bring him on late in games to seal a result. The OX was signed in early August and is going to be a gem of a player, waiting to explode on to the scene. Arteta is a top, top class footballer who should have been at Arsenal a few years ago. His play is more subtle than Cesc’s but he has formed a formidable partnership with Ramsey and Song in the middle. Santos was unfortunate to have been injured recently. After shedding a few pounds he made the LB position his own, driving forward at every opportunity and prodding a leg in when it was needed defensively. To Arsene’s credit, his signings at the end of August were top draw, and yet again he paid reasonable fees for all these players.
The problem with signing players that late on in the window is that they still need time to settle and gel. Going into September this was an Arsenal side I hardly recognised. We hadn’t bonded with our new acquisitions and it all felt a bit strange. Fast forward to now and this team is one we can really identify with. We have our boys in red and white back again.
Still, we needed time to gel and our defensive instabilities were not yet rectified. We lost at Blackburn, undeservedly, but due to frailties at the back and an infuriating inability to convert four or five golden opportunities in the last few minutes. Despite this defeat, we won every game in September apart from the draw in Dortmund, which came courtesy of a wonder-goal conceded in the last minute.
October started with a defeat to Spurs which I was unable to watch due to the death of my grandfather. From what I was told by biased and unbiased friends, we were unlucky to lose this game. They scored with a possible handball and a goal which Chezzer ought to have saved, I thought. We also had spells where we tore them to pieces. Nonetheless we lost and it represented a bad start to the month. We more than made up for it though.