My Soccer World

EPL 2008-09 Season: Gunners Lurch Upwards In Rollercoaster Season

Posted on: November 15, 2008

Arsenal’s William Gallas (left) defends a shot from Manchester United’s Oliveira Anderson in their match at The Emirates in London last Saturday. Arsenal won 2-1. – AFPpic

LONDON: Arsenal used to be a by-word for stability in English football, but this season has already featured more dizzying highs and stultifying lows than the average rollercoaster.

A week ago, the Gunners approached their meeting with Manchester United with furrowed brows and butterflies flitting around their stomachs.

A catastrophic late capitulation to Tottenham had thrown away two more points on home soil, while a defeat at Stoke was clouded in acrimony, with manager Arsene Wenger claiming two of his players had been deliberately injured.

For perhaps the first time in his 12-year tenure, pointed questions were being asked of the Frenchman’s managerial ethos, which demands that success be delivered with a swagger.

Another set-back against United at the Emirates, and the murmurs of discontent would have swelled to a fully-fledged roar.
Then, as suddenly as it had erupted, the doubts died down. United were vanquished 2-1 in a breathless, brilliant spectacle which encapsulated all that is great about Wenger’s purist philosophy.

The club’s largely teenage second string the delivered an encore with the kind of coruscating performance against Wigan in the Carling Cup which gives the lie to the old adage that youth is wasted on the young.

The crisis was averted and Wenger was once more being hailed as a mastermind.

Genuine doubts over Arsenal’s potential to win this season’s Premier League title remain but what cannot be questioned is the value of having a manager like Wenger in the English game.

Arsenal’s mini-revival at least means they can enter today’s encounter with Aston Villa in a perkier frame of mind.

The Midlanders had been tipped to overhaul the Gunners in the race for Champions League qualification after a turbo-charged start to the season, but consecutive defeats have checked the momentum of Martin O’Neill’s side and given Wenger a three-point cushion.

More importantly, there is a renewed confidence to Arsenal following their triumph over United.

“There was a lot of pressure on us but we showed our character that day,” captain William Gallas said. “Now we have to realise that we have to play like that all the time and not just some of the time.”

O’Neill insists he never counted himself part of the group which had written off Arsenal’s chances and the Ulsterman admits he is wary of facing a side he ranks as the Premier League most technically gifted.

“As soon as you think there is a bit of doubt, now Arsenal are right back in the championship after beating Manchester United,” he said.

“Arsenal, in terms of football, are as good as anybody on their day but they may be looking for the consistency that Chelsea and Liverpool are showing this season and United have shown in the past.” — AFP

New Straits Times


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