Journalism in the service of society

Nothing as sweet as victory

EVERY Gunner has no reason not to feel on top of the world since Wednesday night of last week when their darling club dismantled Chelsea at their own turf to last Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at The Emirates where Manchester United got similar roasting.

It beggars belief to imagine a club that lost consecutive matches against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton, conceding six goals while scoring only once, could suddenly raise enough fangs to devour two of the biggest clubs in world football, scoring seven times in the process.

Makes one wonder what kind of nerves gamblers are made of to live a life of betting based on results of matches in a sport no outcome is ever guaranteed.

Again, EXPECTATIONS have been raised to dizzying heights within The Guuners’ corridors of Champions League football, especially after biggest threats, Tottenham huffed and puffed to two dropped points against Brendford in a derby draw.

Credit when and where due – Arteta and his youngsters deserve their moment in the sun with a gritty performance achieved mainly out of making their luck than complete dominance.

At Stamford Bridge, they scored early, got pegged back almost immediately but never deterred by taking the lead once more. Nonetheless, the Blues didn’t waste time in pegging their London rivals back again.

Still The Gunners showed a new zeal in their game by taking the lead a third time at a turf the hosts are not known for such generosity. The manner Bukoya Saka dispatched the stoppage-time penalty to make victory absolutely certain summed up the new level of cojones surging around the club at the present. Hope Troy Deeney sparred some time to watch.

Against Man Utd, it was more of a tupsy-turvy affair. Both sides were battling for top four and exchanges were almost even in shocking defensive errors, chances created, missed chances, goalkeeper heroics, VAR decisions and riding lucks. In the end, Arsenal’s luck held and they just deserved to keep all three points.

However, that’s where the sweet tales end. Both matches produced an embarrassing level of schoolboy errors not expected at such level in a sport where managers spend unbelievable hours on fine-tuning details. What Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd displayed in defensive horrors in combined 180+ of football was, to say the least, horrendous. The two Eddie Nketiah goals at Stamford Bridge were gifts hardly witnessed in amateur football. The two Chelsea goals against Arsenal were both preventable if Aaron Ramshdale still had his early season reflexes or had his defensive cover been less tentative.

Of all the moments, Granit Xhaka’s idea to ride a very dangerous ball inside his own area with many Chelsea legs threatening to intercept and even managing a nutmeg was pure crazy. It may have resulted in the most beautiful team goal out of all 10 goals scored in the two matches but the Swiss Captain’s idea to shun safety first was more reckless than composure. I hope Arteta talked to him in a sternly manner after the match.

Still Arsenal defence didn’t learn from their fragility at Stamford Bridge by conceding against Cristiano Ronaldo exactly in the same manner they conceded against Ceaser Azpilicueta.

But the harbinger of heart attacks happens to be the Arsenal youngster, Nuno Tavares. Believe me, he wasn’t as bad as erroneously accused against Chelsea but those who picked on him that day didn’t need to manufacture his frailties against Man Utd. The Portuguese may have struck to give his side a very important early lead but besides conceding a needless penalty, his mistakes in one match must have surpassed those of all players on the pitch combined. He’s either ballooning great chances to the skies or gifting the opposition possession without being under pressure.

The biggest shock of it all was Arteta allowing the left back to complete that match. Until Xhaka scored our third, it was increasingly becoming obvious that Tavares was going to gift Utd an equaliser.

The next five matches are no doubt the most important in Arteta’s young career. If Tavares is the only choice at left back, we may not enjoy the moments we’re doing presently at end of season. He is young and deserves to be encouraged with more match minutes but this is no time to gamble. If Takehiro Tomiyasu is back, then let him take over his position at right back and let Cedric Soares take over the LB till end of season.

Summarily, our defense has gone back to the shambolic level that saw us concede nine goals in three matches at beginning of season. Clean sheets have suddenly become a luxury too expensive for dear Gunners. And I think it’s Ramshdale dropping off. His ability to organise his defence, which was his strongest asset, is seemingly fading. His match-reading heroics looks lowered while his reflexes of late have been suspect. Against Man Utd, his kicking out from the back was almost disastrous. He certainly isn’t the same keeper. It’s Arteta’s duty to shake the 23-year old off whatever psychologically defects that have been hindering him of late.

Looking further, Ben White is looking jaded. He’s no doubt the player that has played most minutes for Arsenal this season. He needs a break before he gets injured. In Arteta’s shoes, I’d keep him on the bench against West Ham. I’d rest Saka too even if he recovers from his knock against Man Utd. There are Rob Holding and Nichlas Pepe to come in for both respectively. That is called team management.

In all, Arteta and the lads must be praised for being where we are at the moment. It’s very near enough. Let’s grab it.

*Obasi is writer, author, sports and political analyst

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