A 2-0 defeat to West Ham United on opening day was a surprise for many Arsenal fans, mostly because of the flawless pre-season and the fantastic run towards the end of last season. It was a shocking defeat. In fact, whenever Arsenal do lose, it tends to be shocking!
Arsenal seem to have a few good games and then a defeat out of nowhere. Totally unexpected, unthinkable. In fact, this is the type of consistency Arsenal have displayed over the last few years that has prompted fans to be always at a touching distance away from the Premier League crown.
It was a similar case when the North London club faced Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb in the opening game of the Champions League when Arsenal slumped to another SHOCKING defeat. It was unexpected, unthinkable, that a club of Arsenal’s stature would lose to a side that has never in its history progressed to the Champions League knockout round; to a side whose presence in the group stages itself is a huge achievement for it and helps the manager there keep his job; to a side that finishes at the bottom of whichever group whenever it does manage to make it to the group stages; to a side whose biggest ever achievement and the greatest night in the history of their club might very well be beating the Gunners in their own backyard. They may even produce DVD’s of the game that may sell in bulk in Zagreb.
It all comes down to perspectives in the end, really. From Arsene Wenger’s perspective, “We were a bit unlucky”. He may be right. The first goal was as much offside as Ozil’s disallowed goal in the second half. And if Giroud was to be sent off for an accidental trip, the game could have been abandoned for all the fouls that both sets of players committed.
Wenger might have been right, the referee was too harsh on the Arsenal players. Or it could have been the long, tiring trip to Croatia, or the difference in temperature as compared to London. It could have been Wenger’s lack of “tactics” or it was just another case of over confidence from Arsenal having gone three games without conceding a goal and having an almost immaculate record away from home before this game. There were a lot of persepectives for a surprising defeat.
The question which arises now is, does it get any easier from here, or do we always have to feel the same about the Gunners? Much like the U2 song, “One”. Although, when it comes to love, you can never really know. But, thanks to the fixture lists that we have been provided at the start of every season, in Arsenal’s case, we do know!
The answer is, it doesn’t get easier; at least not with the set of fixtures Arsenal have lined up in front of them. It starts off with three away games in a row against Chelsea, Spurs (Capital One cup) and Leicester City; and then face Olympiacos at home in the Champions League which has now become a MUST WIN game; followed by Manchester United at home, Watford, Everton, Swansea, Spurs again and Bayern Munich twice. These are all the fixtures in exactly two months up till mid November for Arsenal.
The fact of the matter is, none of these games are going to be a walk in the park. Last year, we could have written off games against Leicester, Everton or even Swansea as just another regulatory three points. But, this season has been a completely different story.
Leicester’s King Power Stadium, has become somewhat of a fortress. Last week, they stunned Aston Villa by coming back from 2-0 down and deservedly winning it by scoring three in the last 20 minutes. The speed of their counter attack was scary, to say the least. Everton have just dismantled Chelsea at Goodison Park. And the Swans are flying high with consistent displays week in week out.
So far, we’ve only described the current superior state of the supposed “smaller teams”. Playing Chelsea, Man United, Spurs and Bayern has always been a daunting task for Arsenal. Their record in the league against Chelsea and Man United has been quite abysmal.
Arsenal haven’t beaten Manchester United in the league since getting thumped 8-2 by them 4 season ago; nor have we beaten Chelsea in the league for four seasons, since that Robin van Persie hat-rick at Stamford Bridge. Plus, both clubs seem buoyant for different reasons. Chelsea have finally managed a more than satisfactory win against Maccabi Tel Aviv, while Mancester United simply cannot get enough of all the signings they’ve made, especially that of Anthony Martial, who’s been called the next “Thierry Henry”.
Games against bitter North London rivals Tottenham have always been tricky and Spurs managed to beat Arsenal deservedly last year, thanks to Harry Kane. A North London Derby with Spurs always is a fixture that the fans wait for. And, every year it promises to be a cracking affair and this season would be no different.
Every football fan wants their club to win week in week out. The supporters of all top clubs EXPECT their club to win week in week out. At Arsenal, if they don’t win, then “Wenger Out”. Such whispers amongst the Arsenal faithful should be expected in the coming weeks as well. After all, the tough task that lies ahead for Arsenal promises to be both physically exhausting and mentally draining. Yet, at the same time, mouth-watering.
Arsene Wenger already knew it, which is why he decided to let Bellerin and Ramsey rest for the trip to Zagreb. Mid-November would provide a more realistic look at Arsenal’s position in terms of title challenge on all fronts. Since, the run in seems like such a mountainous task, it is now upon the Gooners to show their unconditional support for the men in Red & White.