Arsenal are fourth! Arsenal have gained their previous three league video games in a row! Arsenal have beaten Tottenham Hotspur and are actually above them within the desk! Arsenal have gained seven out of seven at dwelling this season!
Arsenal defeated Huddersfield Town 5-0 on Wednesday with all three of their costly forwards scoring! Arsenal are 4 factors off second! On the Emirates Stadium, goals are – tentatively – being dreamed once more.
However Arsenal are nonetheless Arsenal. The contract conditions of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil stay unresolved. There was some odd shift within the calendar this yr and November has been good to them however everybody is aware of what occurs subsequent. That is the second within the cycle at which the extra excitable followers begin questioning whether or not Arsène Wenger does have one final wonderful title in him and even the calmer ones begin feeling that the specter of Tottenham was all the time overstated (which can flip out to be true if Mauricio Pochettino actually has adopted the Hoddle‑O’Leary Protocol of self‑immolation by sick‑suggested diary).
And that, in fact, is exactly the second at which Arsenal Arsenal it up. Even worse, waiting for Saturday, there is no such thing as a supervisor within the league extra prone to stamp on the sparks of Wengerian hope than José Mourinho. In 17 conferences between the managers, Wenger has come out on high solely twice. Each of these wins, admittedly, have come up to now two and a half years, however then each include an asterisk: one was in the Community Shield and one came in May after Mourinho had successfully given up on the league to give attention to the Europa League.
However this is a matter that goes far past the strain between Mourinho and Wenger. If that have been the one downside at Arsenal, it wouldn’t be a lot of an issue in any respect. The far higher situation, the one which lurks behind all different analyses, is Arsenal and an inconsistency that has dragged on for greater than a decade, a way of indecisiveness that percolates down from the highest.
Özil was, in very alternative ways, excellent towards Tottenham and towards Huddersfield. He stays, at his greatest, a massively efficient participant. He has registered 5 assists and scored two objectives within the league this season. He racked up 28 assists over the earlier two seasons. Towards Tottenham he galloped up and down the flank, defending with gusto. However that solely served to present the mislead the notion that his model is just too refined for regular requirements to use: when he needs to work onerous, it seems like he’s working onerous. He isn’t some ultra-sophisticated ergonomic sprite, working by not working, his diffident wandering disguising a livid efficacy; all these video games when he drifted round ineffectively in a reverie, he was simply drifting round.
Mourinho was properly conscious of Özil’s limitations at Actual Madrid, which was why he so usually consigned him to the flank. It’s onerous to consider he won’t be focused on Saturday.
Özil, although, is simply probably the most seen signal of a wider situation. Can this Arsenal be trusted? They pressed with nice depth towards Tottenham, producing the form of dedicated show they’d within the FA Cup semi-final and final last season, or towards Manchester United within the league the season earlier than final. The query is so acquainted as of late as to be virtually a cliché, however why can’t they play like that each week? The defeats at Watford and Liverpool this season, particularly, stemmed from a rare sloppiness.
Effectively as Arsenal have performed up to now three weeks, does anybody actually suppose that has been eradicated, that there gained’t be one other sport, be it on Saturday or in every week or a month, when that laxity recurs? It’s not so simple as speaking about them needing to be extra dedicated or make extra tackles: Arsenal make 16.1 tackles per sport, which is the joint eighth-highest common within the Premier League. That will not sound like a lot (though it’s greater than United) however in addition they have the third-highest possession stats: of the seven sides who’ve made extra tackles than them, solely three – Chelsea, Liverpool and Southampton – are additionally within the high half of the possession charts.
Quite it’s about organisation and focus, about sustaining the self-discipline of the press, and the largest downside is that when that falls aside, when assaults should not thwarted excessive up the pitch, the 2 holding gamers, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka, for all their passing qualities, don’t essentially supply the most effective cowl to the three central defenders.
These should not fairly intangibles – the gaping area that has an alarming tendency to open in entrance of the again three is all too apparent – however neither is it so simple as personnel and even techniques.
It’s in regards to the basic tradition on the membership and, sadly for Arsenal, it’s so ingrained now that each upturn in type is undercut by the information of failures previous, that each swell of optimism appears simply the precursor to additional disillusionment.