Six weeks ago, I was walking back into work under a huge cloud. Working in a secondary school, it’s not rare for me to be given stick by teenagers over the failings of my football team. However, this was different. Not only had I got the usual sarcastic “great result for you at the weekend, sir” I also had the words of Troy Deeney, at best an average Premier League footballer, ringing in my ears. Deeney claimed Arsenal lacked “cojones” and that Watford smelt blood the minute he won his first headed duel with our centre halves. It was an all too familiar story of recent years years that was now being told by a player from another team. It should also be said, a player nowhere near good enough to talk down to the Arsenal.
More than usual, his words seem to have struck a nerve with the Arsenal first team. Since then, we have won at Everton, in Belgrade, beaten a stubborn Swansea side and Norwich in the cup. While losing to City away wasn’t positive, we certainly weren’t smashed into oblivion and if a certain £50 million French striker had been on from the start, there may’ve been a different outcome…I digress. This took us into the week beginning 18th November.
You all read the papers/twitter articles/combined XI’s beforehand. “Power shift”, “a different feel to Arsenal Spurs games” and “underdogs” were just a few of the things i read a lot before the game. And luckily, it all turned out to be absolutely rubbish. Arsenal blew Spurs away by half time, with the only frustration being that we didn’t send them back to their place having conceded 4 or 5. It was a joy to watch, but for me and many more fans, the real test would be the following league game. Could they follow up this fantastic display with a victory at Turf Moor, a place that over the past 12 months has become a genuinely tough place to play?
We got our answer yesterday. It wasn’t the pretty, at times breathtaking football that blew Spurs to pieces. It was a fight in the north west that many an Arsenal team has crumbled in before. But this was a battle that they managed to emerge victorious from, with Alexis Sanchez showing no nerves and scoring a last minute winner from the penalty spot (and it was a penalty too). This was the first time some of these players had really fought for the badge. In my opinion, some players have shown more for the Arsenal in the last few weeks than they had done in their careers so far (I’m looking at Xhaka, Mustafi in particular).
Should we be surprised though? Mustafi, Mertesacker and Ozil, whatever you think of them, are World champions. Alexis, external attitude or not, has won trophies all over the world. A large chunk of the squad have 2 or 3 cup winners medals to their name. Petr Cech has won more trophies than anyone I can think of. Danny Welbeck began his career player under Sir Alex Ferguson, who I’m quite convinced would get a gun out if he felt a player wasn’t showing the bottle/passion necessary to win.
Troy Deeney’s words may well have had an inadvertent affect. The players are playing together. Go and have a look at their Instagram/Twitter pages over the last couple of weeks, as tedious as they usually are. This is a group of players angry with the insults sent their way. However, thanks must go to Mr Deeney, because of him, our players are showing more cojones than I can remember a side showing in recent years. Lets keep it going.
Up the Arsenal.