You Can Only Beat What’s In Front Of You

by Tom Canton
27th Oct 2018

As a long-suffering Arsenal fan (yes, I am claiming ‘long suffering’ even as a 23-year-old) I am used to the pessimistic view many forms of media take on my beloved club. However, what I have witnessed more recently, as Unai Emery’s side claimed their 11th win on the bounce, is a complete lack of appreciation for the club and instead a pathway to initially site the opposition which Arsenal have faced.

To put things into context, let’s look at the 11 teams Arsenal have defeated in their run. It began with a 3-1 win over London rivals West Ham after their two opening defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea. A West Ham side that, after a shaky start compounded by their defeat to The Gunners, has gone on to win away at Everton convincingly, keep a clean sheet in a draw against Chelsea and put away Manchester United in a 3-1 win.

A 3-2 away win followed at Cardiff, The Gunners second in the league for 2018, succeeded by a 2-1 win away at Newcastle, a side that had bested Arsene Wenger’s team that same year. Ukrainian side Vorskla got hit for 4 before Everton were dispatched with a 2-0 home victory.

Emery’s decision to continually field strong line-ups in all competitions saw Arsenal’s League Cup aspirations start with a 3-1 win against Brentford before a ‘banana skin’ side Watford came calling. Were you to ask a certain Troy Deeney for the score though, he’d rather sulkily be forced to tell you 2-0 to the team in red and white.

The long trip to Azerbaijan and Qarabag was no issue and The Gunners returned to London with a 3-0 victory stored in their continental table. The Europa League curse attempted to raise its head at Craven Cottage before Lacazette and Aubameyang scored braces and a spectacular Aaron Ramsey goal compounded Fulham’s defensive woes. An equally magnificent goal contributed to a 3-1 home win to Leicester before Arsenal reached the 11-game winning streak in Lisbon – a streak that has not been achieved for 11 years.

But… poor first-half performances? Poor sides? Poor defensive solidity?

Why not take into context the small concept known as the fixture list? A team can only play those who feature on the fixture list and typically only in the order set. A change in the fixture list is often put into place due to a postponement or a team’s inclusion in a domestic cup competition. A change in the fixture list has never occurred to test how a team might compete against a quote-on-quote ‘bigger side.’

Instead of once again picking out flaws in a side facing a completely new dynamic for the first time in 22 years by clutching at a lacklustre first-half performance or two or possibly a gritty win against lesser opposition, why not appreciate the run for what it is? A foreign manager has entered the league and joined a side that has been under the same management for more than two decades, in a league he has never competed in and with a group of players whom he has very little first-hand experience of. That same man has taken the club to within 2 points of top spot 9 games into the season and displayed free-flowing football of the highest quality.

So, whilst it is true that Arsenal are yet to be tested on this run by a ‘top 6’ side until Liverpool’s arrival on the 3rd November, why not give the team the praise they deserve, and remember the most basic thing in football… you can only beat what’s in front of you.

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