The season is truly spicing up at the business end of the season for Gunners. The midweek defeat for Everton by Crystal Palace sent the pendulum swinging firmly into North London hands. The events of yesterday did little to divide the two clubs. Arsenal made short work of their trip to Hull while Everton also made easy work of a supposed banana skin in the form of a woeful Manchester United team.
With top 4 confirmation in Arsenal’s hands all they need to do is focus firmly on their games, winnable on paper but in hindsight stress inducing affairs. From now until the end of the season the psychological effect of every decision in games will be massive. With every goal conceded the doubt has potential to set in and affect the players’ performances. Not every goal will be a consolation after going four goals up, it could be an equaliser or the opener in a game and it’s from such situations that prove a team’s mettle.
Many suggest Arsenal has experience of chasing top 4 in the latter stages of the season and know what it takes to see it through whereas this is new territory for Everton and the cracks showed in midweek. Valid point to a certain extent however Arsenal have usually been the chaser, catching up to and then eventually overtaking a spluttering Spurs team with the kind of momentum being exhibited by Liverpool. This season (well recently) however the spluttering, sporadic form has been exhibited by the Gunners themselves meaning they can be also be seen as travelling in unfamiliar territory.
One of the main factors (fixture list aside) that could help the Gunners see it through to the end is the timely return of some of the more creative, game deciding players to the squad. It’s not hard to deduce that many of the poor recent performances have been at the times when the team has been stripped to the bare bones. The performance yesterday versus Hull containing Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil showed a marked improvement in the Gunners. Although far from perfect it was more reminiscent of the kind of performance the Arsenal put in pre February when things were going so well.
The verve and swagger had returned and despite having the pressure of the top 4 race hovering to upset the apple cart the Gunners were focused and determined on the Job at hand. It does make you look back with slight regret at what could have been if the injuries suffered did not occur but equally there were opportunities to address the more long term setbacks in the January transfer window.
The return of Laurent Koscielny also resulted in a long overdue clean sheet for the team, goal difference could be vital and so it was important to shut up shop. I’m not sure why but we never seem to keep a clean sheet when Thomas Vermaelen plays in the team, the goals we concede are not necessarily his fault but it was turning into some sort of hex. I think Tom next time one of those gypsy women in the street offers you one of those little flower things you better take one and give her 20 pence because you have certainly upset someone out there.
Next on the agenda is Newcastle next Monday, although a team in wretched form Arsenal learned the other week when they played a Swansea team in a supposedly similar run of form that when the pressure is on these teams can smell blood and often take advantage of it. Additionally Everton will have played their game on the Saturday so if they take three points from their game it will make things extra nervy.
Anyway, let me move away from the pessimistic doom and gloom, Arsenal won yesterday with a performance much like we know they can put in. With Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil back to boost the squad there is no reason why they cannot finish the job. The toothless performances will be a thing of the past.