The inter-lull – I pronounce it with a strong emphasis on the last syllable, as the Dutch word ‘lul’ is a less flattering description of the male reproductive organ – is once again testing our patience. Like LB said the other day: ‘don’t they realise some people have serious addictions to feed?!’
You could say football is football and just make the most of it, but when you have been dining on caviar and champagne for a few weeks, it is hard to be appreciative about a plate full of dried-out fishcakes and a couple of table spoons of sloppy baked beans on your plate. Qualifying games for international tournaments have become so boring, and the only thing that really gets our attention during the inter-lull, is any news regarding injuries of our star players. This leaves us all in continuous state of being bored and full of angst, and that is not a healthy combination!
But the seemingly endless wait is almost over and we can once again look forward to a five-course meal of the finest cuisine:
15 September: Arsenal v Southampton
18 September: Montpellier v Arsenal
23 September: Man City v Arsenal
26 September: Arsenal v Coventry
29 September: Arsenal v Chelsea
After a promising start to the season – especially our excellent performance against Pool has lifted our spirits – I have a feeling the next five games will determine how we will fare this season. Of course, nothing will be lost or won at the end of this month, but with three of the hardest away games out of the way, and having battled with fellow title/top-4 contenders Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City, we will know a lot more about the readiness to fight for the title of our team.
We are no longer a team made out of mainly young, promising players, but stocked to the rafter with experienced players who have arrived at the summit of their professional careers. This will be a test for them and we should judge them accordingly – or, as Winston Churchill once put it: “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required”!
The first game after an inter-lull is never an easy one, as Managers have ample time to assess the fitness of their players and get them all focussed again on the next game. It is usually a big advantage if it is a home rather than an away game. In recent years, I have always felt we are most vulnerable when we have just beaten one of our direct competitors and we are to play a team that we all believe we should beat. So, I am really hoping that Wenger and Bould will get our players down to earth again and make them realise there are no easy-three-pointers in the league. Southampton leak goals for fun but have also scored a lot of goals and this should be another game in which we can assess the strengths of our defence. Let’s hope it is also a game in which we can acctually find the net several times, as some players are desperate for a goal or two
The first game will be a test of our ability to concentrate and be professional, and to take our opportunities if and when they arrive: we only have to think back about our recent home disasters against Wigan and Norwich to know what is at stake.
The second game, against Montpellier, should be a good test for us. I like it that it is an away game which will help us to concentrate from the start and will avoid any risk of underestimating them. It is great to have Giroud in our team who will be able to explain to Wenger and Bould and fellow players the strengths and weaknesses of his former team. Montpellier will either play for a draw – as they are likely to regard a point against us as a good outcome – or they go all guns blazing with the ‘we have nothing to lose’ attitude. A draw would not be a bad result for us, but I reckon Arsene will want all three points as he will want to qualify for the next round as quickly as possible.
The second game will be another test of our ability to concentrate and be professional. It could also be a test of our squad depth as not all players will be able to play three games in eight days so soon after the international break.
The third game will be the second biggest test we’ll get all season (the biggest test will of course be where brave sir robin and his little-boy-inside-him are currently hiding). I reckon MC will be as nervous about this game as we are. I was there when we beat them 3-0, two years ago, and it was one of my favourite Arsenal away games ever – Song’s goal, right in front of the away fans, especially springs to mind! If we can keep a tight defence against them then we can do it against anybody. This will be one of those typical games we will all approach with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. A win would mean a hell of a lot this time, and I reckon it will be one of the best PL games of the season. It might turn out that this game just came too early for our new team, but I still have a good feeling about it.
The third game will be a test of our leadership within the team and our level of unity. We will also know how much every single player is (still) capable to perform at the highest level.
The fourth game will be a good test for our strength in depth. A number of just-outside-the core and wider fringe players will be very keen to show how ready they are for the first team. Although this game holds little significance, I am really looking forward to watching it, so we can see how our young talents have developed over the last 6-12 months. Luckily, the core team will be allowed to rest for a week, which will be a welcome break for them.
The fifth game will be against the Chavs, and it is hard to tell against what sort of team we will play. Will it be an attack-minded outfit or will RdM revert to a park-the-bus approach against the bigger teams? Whatever it is, this is an important game for us and a win would do us a world of good. For once since the start of the season, we have home advantage against a main competitor, and it is our first opportunity to get the home crowd really behind the team.
The fifth game will be another test of our leadership within the team and our level of unity and every single player will be thoroughly examined. I have good feeling about this game as I feel we have a better balance in our team and the recent away thrashing of the Chavs will still be in our and their mind.
Once again, a win would mean a hell of a lot and combined with good results against Southampton and Man City, it might well mean we will be catapulted into favourites for the title. It would not come as a big surprise if this was to happen, but the big question is, would we be able to cope with the added pressure? Recent Arsenal teams have not, but this is a different team with experienced players across the spine, and in all three areas of defence, midfield and attack.
However, we might also fail miserably and struggle with the psychological impacts for the rest of the season.
It is make or break time, and we can all look forward to two weeks of awesome, meaningful football. The wait is almost over!
But what do you think: how will we do in those five remaining September games, and would we be able to cope with the pressure if we are upgraded by the press to direct title contenders at the end of the month?
Over to you!