Sunday, 24 November 2013

Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: Back on track

A really encouraging victory over a much improved Southampton outfit, where we won courtesy of Boruc's Almunia moment and a clinical penalty, both scored by Olivier Giroud. That win and Liverpool's 3-3 draw against Everton (I pity the people who didn't see that match!) means that we are now 4 points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Yes, 4 points clear. Just let that seep in.

We've played 12 games now, so you can hardly categorize this part of the year as the "start of the season." We've faced difficult opposition in the form of Tottenham, Liverpool, Man United and Southampton, 3 of whom we defeated. We're 4 points clear of Liverpool and Chelsea, temporarily 8 points clear of United and the Spuds, and 9 points above Man City. I think it's finally safe to say that we're title contenders now.

I always refrained myself from being open to the possibility that we might take home the league title this year. What with the team having only one recognized striker, only 3 center backs and a lack of strong players made me think that this side will surely fall somewhere. However, after Boruc gifted Giroud the opener, our defence was immense in front of Szczesny. There was almost no cause for concern throughout the 90 minutes for Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs. In the past week of football, this back four had faced Suarez, Sturridge, Reus, Lewandowski, Rooney and van Persie, yet  conceded only one goal. I'm finally seeing the Mertescielny partnership and the Steve Bould effect taking hold.

It may be true that we nicked this victory. Had Boruc cleared the ball away calmly or had Fonte not given away the penalty, we would've come of this game with a single point. Supporters would've been nervous that Chelsea and Liverpool were breathing down our necks and frustrated that we failed to capitalize on a slip-up at Goodison.

But that's what I love about this new Arsenal. It's an Arsenal that gives the final scoreline priority over the overall performance. It's an Arsenal that understands the value of a one-goal lead and will put their lives on the line to preserve it. It's an Arsenal who are desperate to throw off the "8 years no trophy" tag and win the league to shut the critics up. Miles better than the "Ooh, we lost, but we played pretty football" crap that we had to put up with in the previous disappointing years, I'd say.

There is a reasonable possibility that this team would fail to win the Barclays Premier League, but when that happens, I don't think that I'm going to be as disappointed as I would've been in previous years. I would know that this club gave it their best shot at winning the title, instead of relying on a few world class players to get the results. I would know that this crop of players at our disposal are players that are honest, determined and ones that run on sweat, not oil or money.

If we'll win the league, we'll win it the right way. We won't lean on a Russian billionaire to get top-class players, nor will we dive for penalties that will salvage draws against relegation threatened teams. We won't play mind games, nor will we argue with the ref over petty issues. This team is absolutely on the right track, and while I have voiced my concerns that Arsene Wenger does not deserve a trophy, the players, the fans and the whole Gooner community sure do.

We play Marseille on Tuesday, a game which really is a must-win. Though I know that our chances of winning the Champions League are slim to none, I just want to know how far this team can go in Europe and fare against the very top teams in the continent.

Until then, crossing my fingers and hoping for City, Tottenham and United to slip up...

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )