As an Arsenal fan who's spent much of January pining for a certain Mr Villa, I may have finally realised where Arséne's coming from. If the 2-2 somehow-draw against Liverpool is anything to go by, what Arsenal really needs right now is the one thing money can't buy: consistency.
After the stunning 5 – 1 win against West Ham just a week prior, Sam Allardyce called the period of time in which Giroud, Cazorla and Walcott struck 10 minutes of 'genius'. What can we call the period which saw the Gunners draw level against Liverpool last night, then? Three minutes of thunder? And what of the first half? 45 of frost, perhaps.
Like some hyper-sensitive weather system The Arsenal not only blows hot and cold, they deliver lightning as ripostes to opponents previously bathing at balmy levels. They pull the sun from battered storms, deliver clear skies amidst clouds. Somehow, some way, they find a 2-2 draw from a game which at one point could have been 0 – 4 to the visitors, and which might equally have ended in a 5 – 2 home victory. And even then we drive forward all the while looking fragile behind.
Gooners must be scratching collective heads at the moment. I certainly am. I'm a fan who on the one hand still believes that we can attain Champions League football in 2013/14, yet also that our defending could drop us to a mediocre top-half finish. We've scored the fourth most goals of all Premier League clubs, and yet our form in the last six games is the 10th best.
While we clamour for another goal-getter and a proper Song replacement, at times our defence looks like its armoured in papier-mache, armed with balsa wood swords. One swift thwack and it's no more. We crack under the slightest pressure, give away a penalty and earn ourselves a red card, attempt Cruyff turns in six yard boxes with a mobile striker in close attendance.
We let – and no disrespect to Jordan Henderson – Jordan Henderson dribble past three defenders, have two bites of a free cherry and side foot a shot on target...without doing much about it.
We, The Arsenal, once masters of counter-attacking football are now the oft counter-attacked. Even for all our gusto going forward in the second half against Liverpool, the occasional misplaced pass had us panicked and on the back foot. I've lost count of the number of times I've mumbled to the guy next to me at the Emirates about a visitor's chance on goal, “that's come straight from our corner”. He doesn't want to hear it again and I don't want to say it.
And yet there are positives. Olivier Giroud, subject to chatter about him not being of the requisite quality must be the best flop the Premier League has ever seen. What's more, he's improving month on month. Theo Walcott, once the subject of many a “I live closer than that” jibe, has found a particularly lethal form of finishing that sees him as the fifth best striker in the Premier League. And he's not even a proper striker. Santi Cazorla, apparently enjoying a mixed first season in England has scored as many goals as Sergio Aguero.
It's not as if we're missing strike quality then. Another forward might be well received; and a selection of them seems to be a sort of prerequisite these days. But if our only solution is to score more goals than we let in, we may as well employ Kevin Keegan as a tactical coach.
A defender seems a far more sensible signing if any at all are to be made, because that nobody bar (the now-injured) Kieran Gibbs has had a particularly glorious season would suggest that having Sebastien Squillaci as our second centre-back replacement isn't inspiring those being selected.
And yet still the talk of Villa and a midfielder. Perhaps stopping goals should be the priority though; that and a bit of much-needed consistency. Consistency of the kind that will see our flurries of majesty flourish into a full blown winter wonderland. Consistency that will mean we don't have to have a torrid first half to get ourselves worked up. Ah, consistency. If only it could be scouted.