If you’re winning games that you perhaps deserve to lose, you’ve got to start believing your name is on the title. Although, it must be said that this phrase is only used for knock-out competitions usually, where Lady Luck can play a major part. Can she have as much impact in the league? Well, if yesterday at Burnley is anything to go by, then the answer is ‘yes’!
With league leaders Man City capitulating at Spurs, Arsenal needed to make up ground at the weekend to look like title contenders. The performance was shaky at time, somewhat reminiscent of previous trips to the north west to play Sam Allardyce’s (I had to get his name in somewhere given the week he’s had) Bolton or Blackburn.
Despite having the majority of the possession, Arsenal only looked partially able to quell the opposition’s aerial threat. That point was nearly hammered home by Keane, who smacked the crossbar with a header that Cech seemed to get the faintest touch on.
Meanwhile, at the other end, to say Arsenal’s shooting was wayward is putting it mildly. One Iwobi shot went out for a throw! It made you wonder if they’d done any shooting practice at all in the week. It was quite alarming how this lack of confidence began to spread through the team and anyone suggesting Arsenal were capable of winning anything this season would have been in danger of being laughed at.
However, that changed to some extent, when a combination of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Koscielny bundled the ball home in the dying seconds of the game. The goal reminded me of when Eddie Kelly and George Graham converged on the same ball to equalise against Liverpool in the 1971 FA Cup final but, on that occasion, there was no suspicion of handball and offside. Anyway, we must respect the decision of the referee and he said: ‘goal’! Cue rejoicing for the travelling supporters.
On the way back to London, the players must have been counting their bruises, but not feeling the pain, so elated were they at the final whistle. Surely it’s a sign of champions to be that under par, without Perez and Giroud, and still get three points. Just as pleasing is to survive a bruising encounter and keep a clean sheet. Arsenal should be rightly buoyed by this result, which proves they are real contenders as Wenger starts his 21st year in charge.