Throughout Arsenal’s 22 game unbeaten run, most of us were honest with ourselves. We could see the side had flaws. There were games within the run that we should not have won. We were perhaps not as good as being 22 unbeaten would have indicated.
But we were 22 unbeaten, and we have to remember that after the defeat to Southampton.
The defeat on the south-coast we a reality check to some fans. It showed just how far we currently are from Liverpool and Manchester City – just like Chelsea losing to Wolves a couple of weeks ago shows how far away from the top they are.
Before the season, most of us agreed that we were someway behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
City have spent a billion pound collecting some of the worlds best (and best paid) players; whilst Liverpool are in the 4th season of the Jurgen Klopp Project.
And that is where we have to think realistically.
Klopp is in his 4th season at Liverpool
Mauricio Pochettino in his 5th season at Tottenham
It was always going to take some time to undo the weak squad and poor transfers that haunted the back end of the Wenger era. We are 6 months into the Unai Emery era. Are some fans unreasonable to be expecting us to be competing with Liverpool? Definitely.
With Sven Mislintat, Emery and Raul Sanhelli, I am confident in the direction the club is going, but we have to remember it is going to take time.
Take Klopp at Liverpool. It has taken him into his 4th season to build a team capable of finishing above 4th, whilst for all the hype around Pochettino and Spurs, they have won nothing in his 5 years in charge.
My feeling was it would take £300m and 6 transfer windows to fix Arsenal.
Under Mislintat, we have had two of those windows and seen us sign the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lucas Torreira and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Kostadinos Mavropanos have been exciting young recruits.
But we do not have £300m sitting in our pockets ready to spend in a single window. Arsenal fans who expect (and moan that he has not) Stan Kroenke to be pumping in billions of pounds are completely unrealistic.
It is going to be a slow process to return Arsenal to the top. Just like it has been slow progress at Liverpool. You need to buy well, coach well, and sell well.
Arsenal still have many players from the Wenger-era who are not really good enough if we want to compete at the top. The likes of Mohamed Elneny, Shkodran Mustafi, Saed Kolasinac and Danny Welbeck.
We will improve again in January and improve once more next summer. We still need a new centre back, a left back and at least one winger. I expect these to come in over the next 2 transfer windows; and we move forward again.
On the defeat to Southampton, some have complained about the state of the defence.
We had 3 central defenders out injured. Our only “fit” centre back was clearly off the pace having not played a Premier League game in 10 months.
At left back, we had a casualty just before kick off with Saed Kolasinac pulling out injured. This meant Nacho Monreal – returning after 2 months out – shifted to left back and saw a makeshift defence of Kosciekny, Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
During the game we lost Hector Bellerin ad half time and Lichsteiner half-way through the second half. The back 4 that finished the game contained just 2 defenders who were making their first Premier League starts after long lay offs.
The defence does not improving, and it will improve, but against Southampton the injuries and suspensions just caught up on us.
The only side in the league who could have coped with the amount of missing men we had at the back would have been Manchester City – and they have spent over £300m on defenders.
We are closing in on half way through the season. I write this whilst the Manchester United v Liverpool game is on. We are 10 points off top and in the race for 3rd.
Emery’s Arsenal record reads: P 25 W 17 D 5 L 3
We are a club on an upwards trajectory. We are moving forward. But we are perhaps not advanced as what some think, or demand.
The world is currently a reactionary place. Things are either brilliant or awful. There seems to be no in between. We live in a fast food culture where we want same day delivery, short attention spans and little patience.
Arsenal are certainly not awful, and we are not brilliant. But as long as we support the likes of Emery, Mislintat and Sanllehi, we will become brilliant once more. Just as Liverpool have done under Klopp (but hopefully we will actually win trophies).
Enjoy the rest of your weekend,