In The Recovery Position
It's strange to think of Arsenal in terms of a club undergoing treatment to restore itself to full health but I guess that's been as much the prevailing mood as anything over recent weeks. The underwhelming end to last season, which, lest we forget, promised a great deal at one time, followed by a miserable hangover at the beginning of this has affected supporters confidence as much as, we're told, it has the players.
The summer break saw us stripped, not only of core talent with Fabregas and Nasri departing along with first teamer Clichy but, though much maligned, established squad players such as Denilson, Bendtner, Eboue and Vela were also on their way. With somewhat depressing predictability the start of this season has also seen us robbed of resources as injury removed Wilshere, Vermaelen, Sagna and Gibbs when we need stability most. Six players who joined us in the summer have already played a prominent part in the 13 Premier and Champions League games since the season got underway and many of those six only joined us after the transfer window closed and we`d already played 4 games in both competitions. I guess then 'in recovery' is as good a description of our current state as any.
Watching the Marseille game certainly left the impression of a team not yet at ease with movement at the pace and precision that we've become accustomed to over many seasons, even if the results have sometimes been disappointing. Arteta isn't as incisive as Cesc but you can see other strengths in his game. He takes fewer chances, holds the ball a little longer, plays it a little safer and looks to plug gaps. Though he does have the capability to make a telling pass he also has the experience to sacrifice artistry for the pragmatic needs of the game and will look over his shoulder as well as forward. Many of the qualities we've seemed to miss at key times in recent seasons. Mertesacker is looking more assured in each game and even if he does find himself dumped on the seat of his pants at times that's an occupational hazard for any central defender if he's reading the game properly. Similarly Santos seems a player with lots of natural ability but with enough mileage behind him to curtail that when needs must.
It may be a less entertaining experience watching Arsenal games, at least for the first part of this season but, especially amongst supporters, the appetite for flamboyant risk taking doesn't seem to be there at present. Boring Arsenal may be back in vogue for a while but hopefully the recovery process will enable us to get back the confidence to play the game most of us probably enjoy seeing.