As you already know, because there have been 100 stories this morning, Wenger’s press conference happened today and as usual, the manager had a lot to say. Instead of giving a complete rundown (which could top 3,000 words, seriously, it’s that dense a presser today) I’m just going to focus on the one topic that I love hearing every time it comes up, Wenger’s belief in this team.
The first question out the gate was about how it feells to be top of the league, which Wenger side-stepped a bit by saying something similar to what Andrei Arshavin was criticized for saying the other day: we’re only psychologically top of the league, mathmatically Chelsea still have the game in hand. Personally, I didn’t put too much into the little Russian’s statements because at the very least it’s good to remind yourselves that while we’re top today we could just as easily be back to 4th place unless we maintain our focus and play every game to win. Complacency, as we have seen with Chelsea at times this year, is a season killer.
But it wasn’t the question about how it feels to be top of the table that I liked best. It was the one asking him if he “believed” he could win the title. It’s a pretty incredible question really and he answered it incredulously, saying that of course he believed he could win the title;
I believed it when we were 11 points behind, so why should I not believe?
Wenger’s been saying somthing similar all season. That talent, attitude and opportunity will win trophies; it’s the TAO of Wenger. The talent is probably the one thing that most Gooners question at the moment, looking for Wenger to bring in new folks before the window shuts in just a few days. And I can see why, the Villa game is going to be our first real test without any experienced and sharp holding midfielder in the squad at the moment.
Denilson will probably be the man at that spot in that game (assuming he doesn’t get hurt!*) and on his current form many of us are worried. After some distance from the Bolton game though I think he was possibly not at 100% and still recovering from the sniper’s bullet which hauled him down against Everton. The same thing could be said for the first Villa game, which is where he picked up this mystery back problem.
So, if Wenger holds true to his promise in today’s presser and dips into the reserve team for the Stoke game it means that Denilson could have another few days rest to get 100%. Then he’ll have a real opportunity to show off his talent and the proper Arsenal attitude by dominating the midfiled against Villa.
As for these next four league games against Villa (A), United, Chelsea (A), and Liverpool, Wenger called them an important run but not decisive. I know that a lot of folks are nervous about this period, especially since we’ve really racked up the injuries lately, but I’m going to agree with him. I see them as an opportunity rather than a problem.
After this run of 4 games, Arsenal don’t play a single other title challenger and in fact our hardest opponent will probably be Tottenham away in April. More important is the fact that as we get closer to March the league picture starts to sharpen up and most of the mid-table teams basically start getting complacent with where they are in the league.
I’m not saying that they roll over and put in scrubs like Wolves did against United, gifting ManU three points, but rather that instead of snapping into tackles and harassing the midfield for 90 minutes, teams will let off after a while. Of course they’ll still want to win and the danger is complacency (ALWAYS) but there’s a real golden opportunity for Arsenal at the end of this season. I think 8 points is the minimum target from these next 4 league games and anything more is a delicious cherry on top and sets us up for the run in.
Wenger trains with these players every day and he thinks the talent is there. How many of you were wrong about Diaby? How many about Song? Why not then Denilson? I’ll admit it, I was wrong about Diaby and Song and they both clearly possess the talent to be key players for this Arsenal team. If I was wrong about them, and Wenger sees that Denilson is talented enough, then I must be wrong about Denilson. He must be talented enough.
Does Denilson have the right attitude? What about the other players? Gallas? Etc. I don’t know. I know that Cesc does, you can see it ooze out of every pore as he works his ass off to get us the win — in every game. I know that Vermaelen does, you cen see it when he gets his head stuck in against prickly players like Kevin Cyril Davi*s. That proper attitude lifts the people around you and can infect them. Will it be enough?
I don’t know, but I know that the next two weeks is certainly their opportunity to showcase their talent and attitude.
*TOUCHINGWOODTOUCHINGWOODTOUCHINGWOODTOUCHINGWOODTOUCHINGWOODTOUCHINGWOOD — I better stop, I’m going to rub this wood to death