The way I see it - Arsenal v Standard Liege

Last updated : 23 November 2009 By Jason Hogan

I had a bad feeling about our trip to Sunderland long before the first whistle blew up there and the reason for my sense of foreboding can be simply summed up in two words - International Breaks.

There was a stat I read in one of the rags on Saturday which stated that the Arsenal won 58% of their matches after an international break. I was shocked and I honestly couldn't believe it to be possibly right because if I dig through my memory banks and go back to 2002, I can only remember us invariably putting in indifferent performances immediately after an international break and winning very few matches.

The reason I refer back to 2002 is because in late October of that year, we were on a 30-odd match unbeaten run when we went to Goodison. We were okay that day without getting close to being spectacular and we were turned over thanks ultimately to a 16 year old Scouser who now plays for ManUre.

The story has often been the same for us after internationals ever since. Our last defeat came against Manchester City. When did it happen? Immediately after an international break. As far as I am concerned this is no coincidence. We simply have difficulty in realigning our focus immediately after a sabbatical from the Premier League and in that respect we ended up being the right team in the right place at the right time for our opponents on Saturday.

I don't know why this happens to us but the fact for several years now has been that it just does. The press reaction to our defeat all too predictable, nauseatingly tedious and of the pathetic standard you come to expect from "professional" journalists.

The absence of Robin Van Persie was flagged up in most quarters as one of the roots of our demise. Well, I find that a slightly baffling statement to make now given that we were considered, in the summer, to be destitute in the attacking areas anyway when Adebayor was sold.

And what makes such a statement all the more curious is the fact that we have scored at least once in EVERY single match up until Saturday, scored well over FIFTY goals so far in all competitions with no less than SIXTEEN other players netting for Arsenal this season in the process aside from Van Persie. Are we supposed to forget all of that after one sudden defeat?

This aforementioned notion was also accompanied by the same old lame sentiments about us being lacking physical size, strength and experience. For a side that have lost their first competitive match in FOURTEEN games and the thick end of THREE MONTHS, I struggle to see how those sentiments really stack up.

Because if the press can be so damning of us after one defeat, what does it say about the teams we have played during the period leading up to it?

In other words, I am not going to allow myself to get all bent out of shape over one defeat (no pun intended there by the way). By my calculations we have now lost as many games as the reigning champions and when you throw in the fact that we lost to Sunderland when they have lost to Burnley, I can't really see what we have to be overly embarrassed about.

I'm not saying that I was happy about Saturday's defeat. Though I was not altogether surprised at what happened, I was nevertheless very disappointed. But I am able to reconcile such a loss with the fact that every non-Arsenal fan and his dog were convinced not only of the fact that we weren't title challengers but also of the fact that we would be looking up at the likes of Villa, Man City, Everton and that lot up the road by now.

The fact is we're not looking up at those clubs and we remain three points behind the reigning champions with a game in hand. If someone had offered that position to me in the summer I would have done more than snapped their hand off that's for sure.

Now, it's time for me to look forward to Tuesday's game at The Grove where we will host Standard Liege.

The Belgians gave us an almighty fright in Liege back in September. The first five minutes were as harrowing as I could ever remember and the fact that we managed to turn the game around did little to dissuade me from thinking that was by far our worst performance of the season to date.

By freak coincidence they were also our opponents immediately after our league defeat at Eastlands. Like then as now, we go into the game in search of a reaction and a win that will seal our place in the last 16.

Liege will come into the game with a slim but genuine mathematical chance of qualifying and in all fairness, nobody in the group has found it particularly easy to play them.

In the absence of Steven Defour, I suppose Jovanavic and Axel Witsel are considered to be their star men but as I said, I am looking for a reaction from Arsenal on Tuesday.

Were we guilty of just taking our eye off the ball at Sunderland? Yes we were. To the Arsenal lads I would say that it is now time to administer some payback. You let down the fans that travelled all the way up to Sunderland and you sold yourselves short as a team.

Tuesday gives them a chance to start putting right a lot of wrongs. Over to you chaps!