A World Away From Wenger or Papering Over The Cracks?
After a late equaliser against Wolves, Arsenal under Unai Emery are 16 games unbeaten and many supporters and pundits are keen to outline how strong Arsenal look, how different things are under the new boss and how success is coming soon. Is all as it seems though; are we a world away from the predictability of Wenger’s final years or are we just papering over the cracks?
I must admit that I’ve watched very few games live this year and have relied on TV recordings to watch matches after the fact. Real life has taken over and I’m struggling to find free time during typical match times. I’m not sure this situation is going to improve now that we have another baby on the way but perhaps my predicament has given me a different perspective on Arsenal’s first half a season under a new manager.
Watching games when you already know the result takes the emotion and enjoyment out of watching Arsenal but it has allowed me to view things with a more critical eye, notice things that get lost in the frenzy of the moment, and better overcome my biases. It is true to say that Arsenal have become more reliable for my football acca tips in this 16 game run however how much of that is because of a swingeing change in style and approach and how much is positive results begetting positive results?
Unbeaten runs aren’t uncommon and aren’t particular impressive in isolation. Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run is so significant because it encompassed a title win, an unbeaten title win to boot. Now, in an extreme scenario you could go a season unbeaten and still get relegated with 38 points. It’s possible across two seasons to go 70 games unbeaten and be lucky to finish in the European spaces. Look at Manchester United from a couple of seasons back who started an impressive unbeaten run in 6th place and propelled themselves to the lofty heights of…er…6th place.
Not losing games for an extended period of time is only as good as the points it gains you and the position to which you climb. Arsenal’s 16 games unbeaten hasn’t seen us press the league leaders, it has actually seen the gap between us and the teams above us expand in their favour. The new regime may look different but so far it’s all rather superficial. That is not to say that positive changes haven’t been made but Arsenal are still making the same defensive errors but the idea that suddenly we’ve found a mentality to win games when we’re not playing well is a fallacious one. Under Wenger Arsenal often won games they didn’t deserve to win or drew after mentally torpid and physically lethargic performances.
What has actually changed is Arsenal are no longer losing games they deserved to win. In Wenger’s last 7-8 seasons Arsenal were often losing games in which they dominated yet winning games in which they massive erred, the 2014 FA Cup win is a prime example of that. Coming back from a bad start is pretty textbook stuff for Arsenal under Wenger and now Emery. The improvement in mentality is not capitulating or dropping our heads when we get knocked back after looking like we were in for a cake walk.
I think this is crucial because believing we’re suddenly salvaging points in games we scarcely deserve them is papering over the cracks to a degree. We’re ignoring problems by shrugging off average results and performances with a grateful “well, that’s better than under Wenger”. Unai seriously needs to address the way we start matches as we are yet to be ahead at half-time in the Premier League. If we can do that then we won’t be chasing marginal gains and will start putting together winning runs that propel us up the table and into title contention.
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