Gooners should be forgiven for indulging in optimism. With 36 goals in 11 matches, talk of Arsene Wenger’s gun slinging side has done much to impress, and you can sense the Frenchman is a few wins away from making some sort of bold prediction, ala the Invincibles. To be five points from leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, and especially with such a heavily-populated injury list, the Professor must believe his seemingly eternally-young side has the best shot at a domestic title since the Gunners’ monumental collapse two years ago.
Two years ago, Eduardo’s injury, William Gallas’ tantrum and a successive streak of draws dismantled the North London side, and Arsenal fans were left with an empty, sick feeling in their stomachs, a bit like the minute Jens Lehmann got sent off against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League Final. Only, this time, there was the horrific nature of the Croatian’s injury and the realization that Arsenal were a young and callow team that crumbled to pieces. Now, and the Gunners are playing some of their best football. Robin van Persie has become more of the striker he was when he first became a first-teamer for Arsene Wenger, Cesc Fabregas is a seasoned 22, and Andrei Arshavin can only be labeled a success, especially considering Wenger sold Kolo Toure for for about 2 million less to Man City.
36 goals in 11 games is impressive, reminding us of the old Arsenal, just after “1-0 to the Arsenal” became ironic after Wenger’s arrival. But the Gunners still seem a bit thin on the bench, especially in that back line. Thomas Vermaelen has been more than excellent, as Gallas seems to maintain his level of play despite all the distractions of having a crap personality and age. Once one of those two pick up an injury though, and Wenger is left to pick from Phillipe Senderos and Mikael Silvestere. Perhaps Senderos picked up incredible knowledge and quickness while he warmed the bench at Milan, and perhaps Silvestere will defy age and the two will be able to pick up the slack at times for the rest of a long season. Either way, the Gunners will have to keep scoring at will to catch Chelsea, who seem to be much tighter defensively, or at least don’t seem to fall asleep on set pieces as much.
It would be nice to see Arsenal regain a little bit of it’s luster, at least to break up the monotony of Manchester United and Chelsea. With Liverpool their own worst enemy, and struggling with a thin bench, they’re seemingly out of the picture. There’s very little staking-of-claims on the title going on between the Blues and the Red Devils, and the clash between them last weekend was akin to a pair of battering rams knocking each other senseless in the middle of the park, with a few little handbags thrown in. A push into the top four by Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur has seemed to have fizzled out, as the former spend their time performing in front of ownership in Qatar, and the latter deal with well, being Spurs.
The Gunners have yet to hold their own against a tough side. The season’s only a third of the way through, and who knows how durable Fabregas and Arshavin will be all season long. Perhaps we’ll know a bit more at the end of November, when Chelsea come to North London for a visit. With Jose Bosingwa, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole out, now’s the Gunners’ best chance to make up a bit of difference and become a threat for the title.
Arsene Wenger likes to talk about being patient, letting his young team develop, all the while holding that belief is the central tenet to winning. Gooners, do you have belief that your team can win the title this year? Have they matured enough, and does Wenger have the right pieces to bring some silver back to North London?