Sunday 19 November 2017

Arsenal's league run 'not fantastic but not disastrous' – Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke

For a club built on stability, Arsenal have a remarkable capacity for drama. Their 5-2 win at Reading was not quite the methodical defeat of inferior opposition many had hoped for.

Rather, it oscillated between delightful attacking football and bizarre, panicky defending. That Reading were ever allowed back within two goals was absurd. But it seemed to sum up Arsenal's season. They always look to be flirting with two extremes.

They may have the most technically gifted midfield in England, but they lost to Bradford City in the League Cup.

The club line, though, is different. Arsene Wenger said after the game that only if he was judged by headlines could Arsenal be said to be in trouble – in that case it was a "super-crisis."

Looking back at 12 points from their last seven Premier League games, Wenger insisted that the Arsenal's position was rather steadier than some had suggested. "In the championship our run is not so bad recently," he said. "This run is not fantastic but not disastrous."

Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen made precisely the same point after the game. Arsenal, it should not be forgotten, are only two points behind Tottenham and Chelsea.


They will not compete for the title this season but do what they did last year: grind out a three-way fight for the two Champions League berths available outside Manchester.

"In the league, it is not going that badly," said Vermaelen, another voice of cool assessment amid the hysteria that often surrounds Arsenal.

"What we did in Bradford was a big disappointment because we want to win those games as well. But in the Premier League, it is all really close for a Champions League spot and we are chasing the top four."

In recent years Arsenal have allowed bad luck to ruin their confidence and sabotage their seasons. It happened after drawing with Birmingham City in 2008 and after losing to the same side in the League Cup final in 2011. Vermaelen is desperate that this capacity for self-destruction should not come out again.

"After Bradford we were focused straight away and we know in England that we have so many games that we can make it up again straight away.

"You can't stand still too long with a defeat like that – you just learn from it and move on."

That is what everyone at the Emirates wants – to leave behind the mistakes of the last few years. But there is a fear that one of the worst, the negligence regarding players' contracts, could hurt them one more time.

Theo Walcott is in the last year of his deal and still has not signed. At a club so prone to collapse and crisis, Walcott's departure could be disastrous.

Vermaelen wants Walcott to stay but, as with Robin van Persie last season, has no idea whether he will sign a new contract or not.

"Of course we want him to stay but that is something that is going on between the player and the club," said the Belgian.

"I don't know what is going on behind the scenes – we don't talk about it. Of course, Theo has been invaluable for us as well when he played this year. He has been a dangerous player for us and I hope he decides to stay this year."

According to Vermaelen, it is a private issue and there is not much discussion between Walcott and his team-mates.

"Not really because that is going on in football all the time," he added.

"It happened last time with Robin in the summer. It's the job of the board and the club what they are going to do with it so we can't do anything about it." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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