19 October 2014

A battle-cry: could the Hull result be just what Arsenal needs?

Call it a shock to the system. For as frustrating and as maddening as our performances have been to date, the draw with Hull seems like the first truly unacceptable one. Hear me out. For each previous draw (or loss), there has been some kind of extenuating circumstance to put the result in context, if only to rationalize if not justify it. The same just can't be said for the Hull result. If anything, it's more than we deserve while still being a shocker. We somehow kept a point—barely—thereby reducing the damage to our campaign while still suffering the kind of result that should jolt the squad from its torpor. Instead of lamenting our woeful state, there's a chance—however slim—to seize and run with.

First, let's take those other less-than-scintillating results and offer the rationalizations/justifications:
  • Everton 2-2 Arsenal: a tough away-match against a top-four rival. Yes, Everton have gotten off to a dire start, but they lost only three times at home last season, and we were bedding in Alexis, Chambers, and Debuchy. Nice fightback after going down 2-0, scoring two goals in the final ten minutes...
  • Leicester 1-1 Arsenal: Deprived of Giroud and just a few days removed from an intense second leg Champions League playoff against Beşiktaş, we looked ragged against a grimly determined side. For those guffawing at the Giroud reference, we fielded Sanogo, subbed off by Podolski.
  • Arsenal 2-2 Man City: A regrettable one, to be honest, but tolerable considering the opponent. Welbeck's Arsenal debut very nearly got off to a glorious start, but he hit the post. Pity that Demichelis snuck in for that late equaliser.
  • Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham: First off, all bets are off in an NLD. The intensity of the clash overrides form or table. Were it not for Flamini's error or Lloris being just a split-second slower, we might have won it.
  • Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal: Stamford Bridge. Mourinho. That there says about enough. Throw in Abramovich, Fabregas, and Costa, and you have your recipe. That said, it took one moment of industry from Hazard to change the complexion of the game.
Four draws and one loss. When you consider that four of those five results came against squads with legitimate if not irrefutable designs on winning the Prem, it doesn't seem so bad. Chelsea and City, of course, came into the season knowing that they'd lock horns (of which demons are said to have two...). Everton and Tottenham might be cut from somewhat less pricey-cloth, but each of them could look to some stability after seasons of transition to boost their aspirations. Only Leicester, who have still not lost at home, boasting of draws with Everton and Arsenal and a stirring 5-3 win over Man United, could possibly be pointed to as a potential blot on our record. If we're bartering points, we traded two to Leicester to deny three to United. Not bad.

And that brings us to Hull. As I decried here, we should have won. We were at home. We took the early lead and were dominating. Then, the wheels came off, and we were lucky to come away with our fourth stoppage-time goal of the season (fifth, if you add in Alexis's goal against Beşiktaş). Hull, like Chelsea and so many others before, offered us a script that we followed all to willingly and, perhaps, unwittingly: concede possession, defend in numbers, and hit on counters. We played our role to the hilt, passing endlessly around the edges of the box, hoping in vain for another pornogol di Wilshere that never came.

We could point to our maksehift backline as a convenient excuse for what ailed us, but that belies the fact that we still had as many as ten first-choice players on the pitch (only Bellerin stands out as novice). Yes, Monreal was asked to play CB, but againt Hull, that should not have been a tremendous issue. However, I'm not here to pick apart the details around a dispiriting draw. It's been done. "Life," as Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, "can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

In other words, yes, we should assess what happened, but we cannot dwell on it. We must look to the horizon. On the near-horizon, we have already enjoyed, if only briefly, the return of Ramsey. Walcott and Gnabry played well with the u21-squad on Friday. Even Diaby is fit, if not fully. Without making too much of it, I can almost imagine one of them uttering words to the effect of "look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east."

Yes, we might feel as we're already up against it, what with our feeble returns to this point, but there's still some fight in us, and there are reinforcements on the horizon. So this first light of the fifth day didn't quite shine as brightly as we had hoped. There lies still ahead Sunderland, against whom Southampton scored eight goals, after whom we face winless Burnley, they of the -5 goal-differential away from Turf Moor.

It's always darkest before the dawn, as the hoary, old saying goes. A loss to a hated foe two weeks ago may have felt like that darkest moment, coming as it did against the darkest of foes. A draw against a more determined if less diabolical one would be darker. We shall rise. Summon up you courage, your determination, your fervor. No, none of us will take to the pitch on Wednesday against Anderlecht or on Saturday against Sunderland, but, at some level the squad does feed off of us. Collectively, we have the will to win. Set aside the doldrums and depression that say otherwise!

Victoria concordia crescit.