Sterile Gunners still the tops

Last updated : 11 November 2003 By Jason Hogan

I couldn't honestly remember the last time I had seen the Arsenal play in such a sterile fashion.

In fact, I take that back; the last time I remember us playing this badly (certainly under Wenger's stewardship) was when we were beaten 2-0 out in Spain by Deportivo a couple of years ago.

Now I know that there was an obvious difference between that night in the Riazor and what happened on Saturday and when it was over I was as delighted at the result as everyone else but, whilst we have all the ammunition we need to make flippant remarks about the shortcomings of the Scum, I think that the enforced break in the Premiership schedule has come at a very good time for us.

True, we will have a number of people away on international duty and meeting other commitments but Wenger and his men will have more time than usual to take stock of things.

And let's not kid ourselves; there ARE things that need to be addressed. Deep down, Wenger knows that the fact we are top of the league is down to luck as much as judgement so far and, if anything, our win over the Scum went a long way to underlining that.

However luck, like everything else in life, does not last forever and, as we all know, the suspensions handed down by the FA will kick in when the Premiership resumes.

That fact alone makes it all the more vital for Wenger to try and forge an even stronger sense of unity, to try and get us working properly as a consistent unit.

All season long we have invariably struggled for consistency particularly in midfield. Even Vieira's form (prior to his injury) was patchy at best and, from what I have seen so far, the same could be said of Pires, Ljungberg and Gilberto amongst others.

It's not that I am not proud of the fact that we are top of the league and unbeaten on the domestic front. We have even started November (a notoriously bad month for the Gunners) with three wins and, given that you need ultimately to be in the results business to win things we have done precious little wrong so far.

However it's very easy sometimes to count your blessings because it's more convenient than the truth.

To quote the old adage, there is a thin line between success and failure and in that respect I think that we are teetering on that line at present.

You can fool some people sometimes but the Arsenal (given the way they have played over all so far) are not going to win the title back by trying to fool all of the people all of the time. If we are going to finish on the right side of the thin line come May then we have got to use the time we have now to start honing and tightening up our all round game.

I know what I have said sounds harsh but we Gooners should be used to living in a harsh world. We don't have the luxury of having the press and the media on side (like United and "the Russians") intimidating other teams on our behalf and making sure that our battles are half won before we even step out on the pitch.

In order for us to achieve things we have to stick together and make sure that we are fully focussed on the big picture. I hope Wenger takes the opportunity to get this through to his players over the next fortnight or so because the hard work starts here.