Well, as I’d been fearing it would at some point, the “I-live-in-America-but-try-to-follow-European-soccer” bug bit me already this season. I wasn’t able to watch the Arsenal-Southampton game on Saturday. I was away from home all day, but I couldn’t even find the game listed in any of the 2000 channels I have at home…although there were plenty of other “exciting” matches on offer…there were three different opportunities to watch West Ham and Norwich battle it out to a 0-0 draw if I’d wanted to (insert sarcastic “woohoo”). Aside from watching the highlights video, I didn’t see the play of the team, but 6-1 is a pretty resounding statement to make. A 1-0 or 2-1 type score can sometimes be misleading, but unless Southampton mysteriously decided to send their first team on vacation and field a local youth team for the day, there’s nothing misleading about 6-1. I don’t have to have seen much to have a decent idea of what the game must have looked like. None the less, I will try to keep too much commentary about play out of my thoughts…you know, since I didn’t see it.
1) Patience is required despite these encouraging early results. When we were sitting on back-to-back ties, there was some measure of skepticism floating in the air around this year’s version of Arsenal. Now that we’ve won two in a row, racked up some goals, and only given up one goal in four games, there seems to be a lot of that ol’ good feeling floating around. And it should be. But there’s also a lot of reasons to shake hands, smile, and hold on to our wait-and-see reflex for the moment. For one thing, none of the teams we’ve played are sitting in the top half of the table at the moment. Their combined goal differences aren’t all that impressive, even if you take the Arsenal games out of the math. The four teams have a combined -5 goal difference…and that’s NOT counting the scores vs Arsenal. We’re playing well (in the three I’ve seen) and seem to be getting better, but there’s still bigger tests on the horizon. Manchester City is up next, and we play them on short rest because of the Champion’s League tie verses Montpellier mid-week. I’m not suggesting pessimism, just not ready to start applying our current run and form to our chances in the league this season yet. I’ll be feeling much more ready to make pronouncements applying results to what they might mean for the rest of the season after the Man City game. I think we have all the tools we need to go in there and hang one on the baby blue half of Manchester next weekend, but then lack of tools has never been the problem at Arsenal.
2) I may not have seen the game, but I did see the goal Szczesny gave up. I know he’s been out for a little while, and is not ruled out of the CL match for health and fitness reasons, but that (imho) was quite the gaffe. Can “embarrassment” be a reason to say someone isn’t match fit? I don’t think anyone expected the clean sheets to last for ever, but that was a softie to give up. I don’t know if his fitness played a role, but the root cause of it was mostly mental. Let’s hope that goalkeeping doesn’t turn out to be our downfall this year, especially if Szczesny is going to be our #1 when fit.
3) Let’s just all stop talking about Oliver Giroud and see how that works out. I have seen more tweets, commentary, posts, and articles that mention Giroud and his supposed trouble in front of the net than I care to admit having taken the time to read. We’ve been a little spoiled in Gunnerland by the quick adaptation of Podolski and Cazorla, and the impact they’ve made in our early fixtures, that Giroud is under a little more scrutiny than he deserves…or is good for the relationship. The man will score. I have no doubt of that. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion, given the intelligence of his runs, the positions he puts himself in, and his obviously high work rate (again, in the games that I’ve seen), that it’ll be a little like the olive and jar metaphor. To his credit he’s dismissive of the idea that he’s struggling, and seems confident. But then again, how do you expect him to react when asked about it over and over again? Break into tears and talk about how hard it’s been? Pressure creates expectation, and scrutiny creates pressure. We have high expectations because of the player he’s replacing, but we disliked being reliant on that one player anyway. As long as the rest of the team is stepping up and spreading out the scoring, we’ll be fine, and Giroud will get his chances, he’ll settle, and he’ll contribute. And it’s better for us that way. But for goodness sake, quit talking about it.