If the Premier League dished out points based on performances alone Arsenal would have gone the entire month of November without a win.
But, as it happens, the Premier League is all about results and it was Arsenal’s superior quality in front of goal that made the difference against Bournemouth on Sunday as we picked up a timely win.
Efficiency in front of goal is something that we have been missing for eons. In the last five years or so it has taken us countless chances, shots, and opportunities to make the breakthrough, but not so this season.
Our last seven shots on target, coming across the last four games, have resulted in seven goals. If that is not efficiency, I don’t know what is. It is a ruthlessness that has been sadly lacking in recent seasons and, quite frankly, it has kept us afloat this month. When we have had chances we have taken them, and it was the case again yesterday.
After a really positive start – the kind of start we all had been hoping for – Arsenal conceded a penalty and then reverted to type. The trepidation and anxiety took hold and we allowed ourselves to be overwhelmed.
Needless to say we were somewhat fortunate to still be level when half-time finally arrived, though it was hard to be confident that we would turn it around at the break.
To their credit however, the team came out and looked a little more like the side pushing for a league title and playing at home. There were still passages of play that showed why there is work to be done and creases to be ironed out, but it was altogether better stuff.
A lot of people have said that Arsene is still unsure of his best side and I have some sympathy with that view. He has a lot of talent in his squad and, in the absence of Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin, it would seem he has yet to hit upon a combination that really works. What is encouraging, though, is that he has shown willing to change the shape and makeup of the team when things haven’t clicked.
We’ve been through a lot of changes in the last four weeks and, I think, learned a few things about which players and combinations work well, and which don’t quite click.
Hopefully, with that knowledge in the bank, Arsene can introduce a little stability to the squad and get a team settled for the busy Christmas period. I think some consistency will help cement any improvement in the squad – and his demonstrated willingness to change things should inspire those in the team to keep pushing and not slip into complacency.
Before the game I wrote about just how important a fixture it was for Arsenal, in terms of the fledgling season and the team beginning to move towards the top. Anything other than a victory would have seen us lose touch for the first time with those around us, and that simply could not be allowed to happen.
Thankfully, despite a pretty underwhelming month of league football, we are still in the mix and still in close contention with the teams who are playing far better than we are.
If we can take anything from November, it’s that this squad, unlike season gone by, is capable of picking up points from poor performances like no other squad in recent years.
Despite the moans and groans and reactionary nonsense that is allowed to blossom online, this team is showing that it is made of tougher stuff than Arsenal teams of the recent past, and that – if nothing else – is a reason to be pleased.
Our performances have room for improvement, there is no escaping that, but if we can win while not playing our best, imagine what we can achieve when things click?
Just a quick work to finish on the sad story that is Mathieu Debuchy – a man who seems destined not to live up to his immense promise at Arsenal.
Handed an opportunity at last to get a run in the team, and let his undoubted talent do the talking, he went and busted a muscle attempting a backheel.
It is so Arsenal that it’s enough to make you weep for the guy.
That he was usurped by Bellerin in the first place was down to more bad luck after what can only be described as an assault by Stoke City’s Arnautovic, which resulted in him having his shoulder smashed to smithereens.
When at last he makes his way back to the first team, with a clear run ahead of him, he suffers a typically bizarre injury that looks set to keep him out for weeks.
If nothing else, three of four top performances would have put him quite nicely in the shop window for January but it looks as if even that will be beyond him now.
He has never quite carried himself with the sort of class he should have done, but you can only feel sorry for the guy – his last two years really have been beset by the most awful misfortune.