After a week when we beat one of the best teams on the planet and temporarily tasted the rarefied air at the top of the table for the first time in 20 months, it would be easy to get carried away.
We’ve witnessed more than a few false dawns in recent times, but after having endured so many seasons where the limit of the Arsenal’s ambitions was a top-four finish, I’m not about to pass on a rare opportunity to revel in the possibilities.
In these hysterically capricious times, where clubs are only ever one dodgy result from see-sawing between comparative clover and supposed crisis, the current mood of optimism can be so ephemeral you simply have to make hay while the sun shines. Yet I still can’t escape the sense our campaign continues to rest on the knife-edge. In the past, evidence an Arsenal team truly has the bit between its teeth has been the way Arsène has been able to rotate the squad, with confidence sufficiently high players are able to seamlessly slip into the roles of their counterparts.
If you look at our bench at present, there might be the appearance of sufficient depth, but along with most Gooners I live in permanent fear of how we’d cope in the absence of the likes of Coquelin, Koscielny or Alexis.
So I’m savouring the smorgasbord of tiki-taka, long-ball and counter-attacking success we’ve relished this past week and hoping the Gunners can garner sufficient wind in our sails to avoid floundering.
At the same time, I’ll spend most every match praying fate smiles upon us, for us to be able to avoid the couple of key absences that might result in our campaign running aground long before then.
The injury to Aaron Ramsey in midweek at least afforded the Ox a rare berth in Saturday’s starting XI and it feels as if Alex needs a decent run in the side for him to begin to shine. And it’s brilliant to be able to keep our opponents on their toes, unsure if they should plan to contain the pace of Theo, or the more traditional threat of Olivier.
The infamous library-like atmosphere at the Arsenal is invariably improved somewhat, with the vocal chords of the majority of fans that much more well lubricated come late kick-offs on a Saturday. Approaching the stadium before kick-off, I lingered outside the away section, impressed by the raucous serenading of the tanked-up Toffees bellowing their hearts out on the concourse.
While I wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice a single moment of an enthralling encounter with Bayern, all credit to the German fans for their fabulously effective protest against exorbitant ticket prices. If ever the Gunners were likely to fall victim to an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” impact of our midweek triumph, it was in having to reenergise themselves sufficiently to overcome Everton. Achieving a result immediately after such a humungous and draining Champions League clash is a real test of a team’s mettle.
Although it would be a disaster if in beating Bayern, we only end up slipping through the third place trapdoor into the Europa League, our midweek success was far more important in terms of lending us the sort of swagger that will hopefully engender a level of respect that might have us beating most of our domestic opposition before a ball has been kicked.
It might only be a shadow side that takes the field at Hillsborough on Tuesday, but these League Cup outings have acquired a significance, as a rare competitive chance for our second string to grab the limelight. It will be interesting to see if Arsenal’s aura of invincibility is sufficiently pervasive to maintain the all-conquering mood.
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