It is not that often in recent times Arsenal fans have said they are genuinely content with their club’s performances both on and off the field. Of course there was that glorious day in May when Arsenal finally ended their trophy drought by winning the FA Cup and before that, the signing of Mesut Ozil was seen as a watershed moment by many associated with the club. The German will always be remembered as a symbol of Arsenal’s re-emergence in the top-tier of the European football financial market.
Other than the odd moment here and there, it’s fair to say that the Arsenal teams of last decade or so will always be remembered for their glorious failures – be it the Henry led team of ’06, the Fabregas inspired artists of ’08 or that quadruple chasing class of ’11 that fell to Birmingham in the League Cup final and ultimately achieved nothing. Only since last season did Arsenal not have to sell their best players to financially stronger clubs and the result was there for all to see.
The FA Cup was believed by many supporters to be the springboard for success and after the capture of Alexis Sanchez, another marquee signing by the Gunners, hopes became expectation. But unfortunately Arsenal had a poor start to the season part of it was due to the injuries, our rather an incomplete transfer window and coupled with Chelsea’s stunning start, Arsenal were out of the race even before October.
The expectation that had built up all summer had vanished into nothing more than despair and despondency. Arsenal stumbled in the Champions League Group Stage, the Gunners were outplayed by Dortmund in the opening game and embarrassingly lost a three goal lead at home to Anderlecht. Their league campaign wasn’t much better either as Arsene Wenger’s men struggled to overcome their staggering inconsistency.
A sign of our inconsistency can be observed from the fact that we haven’t won three league games in a row this season. The nadir was undoubtedly the game at Stoke and all the post-game shenanigans at the station. We recovered from that only to lose to Southampton, but since the humbling at St. Mary’s we have come on in leaps and bounds – not only in terms of results but also in performances.
Sandwiched between the league win over Stoke and the Cup win over Brighton is that quite momentous victory at the Etihad. For me it’s up there with our other famous away wins at Anfield, Old Trafford and the Bernabeu. It may not have yielded us a trophy or progression but it is a win that will surely give us that belief that is so vital in these big games. The match may have been one of the most important wins in Arsenal’s recent history given the impact it ought to have on the team.
It reminds me of the Bayern game back in 2013 that proved to be the catalyst for our fantastic run late in the season to finish fourth. If a huge but ultimately futile result can have such an effect on a team it’s irresistible to think what last weekend’s result will have on a side that is easily a level or two above the 2013 team. But hey this is Arsenal, we have had enough false dawns over the years but this to me feels different.
We have finally addressed our defensive issues by bringing in Gabriel Paulista (pending official confirmation) and our defensive midfield is covered at least in the short-term through Francis Coquelin. Our attack, as Wenger himself admitted, is the best he has had in terms of depth so goalscoring shouldn’t be a problem. There seems to be a light at the end of a long dark tunnel at last; however, it remains to be seen whether it’s daylight or just the flame of a flickering candle.