Monday, 30 March 2015

Why Arsenal's recent run of form is a mirage

It's wrong for supporters to base their entire perception of the team on results. Yes, we're in a results business and they hold greater credence than performances. I'd rather see Arsenal winning ugly than playing pretty tiki-taka football but not getting the requisite points.

My chief problem lies with Arsenal making a habit of it. Invariably, it's a good performance that leads to a good result. Scrapping victories when the team is not at the races may be fine for a couple of games, but a run stretching beyond that quickly turns to papering over the cracks.

Recently, our well-documented run of form since the Southampton game has read WWWWWLWWWLWWWWWW. That's 17 games with two losses in between to Tottenham and Monaco. It may seem excellent on face value, but a closer analysis suggests otherwise.

Let's hold our hands up and admit it - wins against QPR, Crystal Palace and Everton were far from convincing. We were quite uncertain for large parts of the game and these encounters could have gone either way. A recent showing against Newcastle could also be part of this category.

Leicester City was, on a performance-based level, quite disappointing as well. We have terrific players and supposedly huge ambitions as a football club - it's almost a right to expect more in terms of domination (or indeed, goals) against a disinterested Nigel Pearson side.

I understand why people were chuffed by winning against Manchester United in their own den, and I was too. However, that performance was hardly convincing for a huge chunk of the game. United being quite dire helped our cause, even though they pretty much dominated the first half. Their odd Plan A of lobbing the ball to Fellaini was meat and drink to us as it would have been to any other team not fielding Oompa-Loompas in their starting XI.

Welbeck's goal was a gift - Angel di Maria's sending off was even better. It's also worth remembering that on another day, a worse ref could have awarded United a penalty. I'm not saying Arsenal were particularly awful, but United being, well, crap (apologies for using the technical term there) was a bigger factor in our victory. Kudos for that win, but on that day even Burnley could have got something.

In fact, upon reflection, only the wins against Hull City, Stoke, Manchester City, Villa, Middlesbrough and Monaco could be considered convincing. And mind you, matches against Hull, Stoke, Villa and Middlesbrough (at home) are games any above-average team are expected to win. Only the wins against Manchester City or Monaco could be considered a barometer of our progress.

Winning ugly is a sign of champions, yes. However, making a norm of it is not, and certainly not against teams like Leicester and QPR. We've been stumbling our way from game to game and getting through the finishing line, which would have been great if the teams or the occasion was monumental. Most of these matches haven't been of the same ilk.

Expectations may have been raised higher than is appropriate. Truth be told, I think our record could level out to something approaching an accurate reflection of our ability in the future. On paper, the results may be looking to go toward Arsenal's way, but in all honesty we've only done disproportionately well. Gooners are, once again, flirting with the familiar danger of being overly optimistic.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]