Arsenal: It's Time For Players To Prove Themselves To The Fans
After being thrashed by Chelsea and conceding a late own goal to draw with Swansea in midweek, a visit from Manchester City is one of the last things Arsenal would want after the week they've had. Six goals were shipped when the Gunners visited the Etihad earlier in the season, so the smart money says another thumping is inevitable, doesn’t it?
Not necessarily. For all the difficulties Arsenal have had against the rest of the top four away from home, the record at the Emirates against those same teams is much better. Chelsea drew 0-0 there in December (when Arsenal were being cautious after the mauling in Manchester), and Liverpool have been beaten twice, losing 2-0 in the league and 2-1 in the FA Cup. Teams that have scored 11 goals against Arsenal in two games away from the Emirates, only managed one in three games between them in North London.
That defensive solidarity is something Arsenal must cling on to when Manchester City arrive on Saturday. It might not have been evident in the last week, but generally it has been one of Arsenal's strengths this season. The team only have to think back to a fortnight ago when an excellent defensive performance won a North London derby.
There is still clearly a mental block for this Arsenal team for big away games, but that shouldn't be the case at the Emirates.
Arsenal looked extremely nervous in every aspect of their game on Tuesday against Swansea, but hopefully that is now out of their system. Following the heavy defeat at City in December, Arsenal drew the next game before going on a winning run. The annihilation at Anfield preceded a draw with Manchester United before FA Cup revenge was gained a week later against Liverpool. Had the game this weekend with Manchester City been the very next game after what happened against Chelsea, I'd really fear for Arsenal. Whilst the Swansea match was extremely frustrating for the most part, it will have gone a long way to helping Arsenal move on from Stamford Bridge.
The atmosphere at the Emirates on Saturday can also help Arsenal pull off a positive result. For the vast majority of the season, the home support has been firmly behind the team, although had Arsenal lost to Swansea on Tuesday, dissent in the stands could have returned to the levels they were when the world seemed like it was going to end after Aston Villa’s win on the opening day. With the exception of Bayern Munich, the games with a superb and positive atmosphere from the start have brought the best results for Arsenal at home this season.
Realistically, Arsenal can't go into the game thinking that a win could get them back in the title race, even though a strange run of results doesn't mean it's impossible. Instead, the players just have to be determined to prove something to themselves and to the fans.
The title challenge has been fun, but this season was always destined to be one of development, readying the club for a bigger tilt at the league next season. Therefore the rumours that Manchester City have offered Bacary Sagna a contract for next season should add to the motivation for the rest of the squad. Arsenal really aren't far away from being able to put in a sustained title challenge, but losing a big player to a rival would stink of deja vu, especially when it seemed those days were gone with the arrival of Özil. An uplifting win at the Emirates would go a long way to proving that Arsenal can compete with those above them in the table.
A second battering in a week would probably be a new low for Arsenal. However, a good home record and a raucous atmosphere should give the team some much needed confidence after such a draining week.
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