Arsene Wenger’s men bounced back from their two disappointing losses in Manchester to record an impressive win away at Standard Liege in the Champions League, after which Wenger claimed it could be a turning point in the Gunners’ season. How important a turning point remains to be seen but coming back from 2-0 down will certainly help to heal some of the wounds inflicted on their travels to the north-west. It showed good character, mental toughness and resilience – all things missing from the last two games. After this writer’s concerns over the mentality of Arsenal’s young players in the previous Club Focus it was certainly a relief to the see them come through a very tough test, made all the tougher by five minutes of poor concentration.
More positives came as Tomas Rosicky started his first game in over 18 months, and the Czech’s return will be like a brand new signing and should add some class and experience to the Gunners already talented squad. The match also marked the culmination of a turn-around in the fortunes of Brazilian-born Croatian Eduardo, who had his ban overturned by UEFA the day before the match and fate read the script perfectly as he scored the winner the following night. How much the Eduardo saga has affected the Arsenal squad is unclear, but since that match and subsequent punishment from UEFA the Gunners’ season has taken a massive hit. Hopefully the lifting of the ban and Eduardo’s subsequent winner will close this unfortunate chapter in the striker’s career and he can get back to doing what he does best – scoring goals.
The media circus that followed Eduardo’s dive was a little ridiculous given the amount of diving that has occurred all across Europe for years, and while it is certainly not the greatest thing to see in a game – regrettably, it happens. The “outrage” of the Celtic players seemed to quieten down very quickly after Aiden McGeady was sent off for diving the week after but the press and various pundits kept stoking the fires, with Wenger since stating that Eduardo was “singled out” by the media. To single out Eduardo was unfair on the forward, something which UEFA has since recognised, as they clearly saw the precedent they were setting themselves as being too much to follow through with. They would have to ban every player who is seen to dive and win a decision from the referee, something that in practise would be next to impossible to implement and so they backed down. While UEFA’s desire to exterminate diving from the game is commendable it will be very difficult to do so with retro-active punishments – surely better refereeing, the use of video replays during a match or perhaps even an extra match official would all be preferable with their on-the-spot justice. With the media attention soon to be focused elsewhere, Wenger will want his side to regain its own focus and push on up the league.
Although we are still only in September, Saturday’s game at home to Wigan is now certainly a must-win for the Gunners. To lose three of your first five matches could well signal an exceptionally premature death of their title challenge and Arsenal’s players will know that. Coming away from Manchester pointless was a setback but it has certainly not de-railed the season and the Arsenal players will look to remind everyone just how well they were playing three weeks ago. They will be buoyed by the news over Eduardo and their midweek victory so fans will be hoping for a return to winning ways in the league. Confidence is vital in the success of a team and a win at the weekend could send Arsenal’s soaring. The Gunners boss believes that the win against Standard Liege will “strengthen the team’s belief” and this writer would be inclined to agree with him, however there will certainly be a few more turning points to come before we know whether or not Wenger’s men are the real deal. Arsenal have a fairly good run of fixtures over the next month, and Wenger will be keen to stress how important games like Saturday’s visit of Wigan are, as too many more slip-ups, and the Gunners could find themselves out of the title race before its even begun.
Arsenal Club Focus
Pre-season preparations take a few hits – July 29
Gunners as prepared as they can be for Everton – August 12
Gunners gear up for vital ‘Battle of Britain’ clash – August 18
Fortuitous Gunners revel in Glasgow win – August 21
Electric Arsenal improve on success with a formidable win – August 25
Gunners undone by terrible errors – September 1
No international break for injured Gunners – September 4
Wenger and Fergie in war of words – September 8
Gunners crave a leader – September 15
Gunners buoyed by late siege in Liege – September 18