The way I see it - SV Hamburg v Arsenal

Last updated : 13 September 2006 By Jason Hogan
Yet, no matter how many times I have watched it, the scene right at the end when the coach is suspended over the edge of a cliff always makes me wince.

Watching Michael Caine trying in vain to retrieve the gold bullion only to see it literally slide agonisingly further and further away from him gets me every time. I know, it may be a piece of fiction but if ever there was an example (however corrupt) of a lot of hard work and planning coming to nothing, then that is it.

Watching the Arsenal so far this season has been a similarly frustrating experience and it was the same old story on Saturday. Though it is galling in the extreme to see us drop points against a team that only managed to muster just ONE meaningful attempt on our goal in 95 minutes or so, the fact was that the Arsenal had only themselves to blame once again.

My mates in the local shop tried to give me some stick when I went over there on Saturday evening but I was really almost oblivious to it because I was still too busy trying to fathom out in my own mind what we can do to put a stop to the recurring problems we have.

In truth, I have found it difficult to find definitive answers. I suppose part of our problem is that we do not have any natural width. Players like Hleb, Rosicky and Ljungberg would all ideally like (or are arguably better suited to) playing more centrally and all of them would arguably be far more effective playing say behind a front two rather than playing out wide only to come inside all of the time like they all tend to do at present.

However, when are detractors bang on and on about the fact that we don't have physical players and that we miss a Tony Adams type defender and a Patrick Vieira type midfielder, it really bugs me. I'm not saying it's not true. Far from it in fact – it's downright bloody obvious. It's just that I feel these old lazy stereotypical arguments had no relevance in the context of the three league games we have played so far.

Nobody in their right mind can honestly tell me that we didn't create enough chances to win all the games we have played so far and this is where we get to the heart of the matter.

If we were hardly creating any chances at all and if we were feeding off scraps of possession en route to getting the results we have had in the league so far, I would be far more worried. Yes, we are set up to play a certain way and yes, it would easy to draw the conclusion that other teams have devised a way to combat it. But the reality is that at least 9 times out of 10, Villa, City and Boro would never have got anything from us had we had our shooting boots on properly and deep down, everybody up and down the country knows it.

I know that people outside of Ashburton Grove are already getting a little excited about the fact that we have had a poor start by our standards and I know that the frustration that we have had to endure borders on the excruciating. But it all means that everyone connected to Arsenal is faced with a choice - either we throw the towel in now and resign ourselves to wallowing in self pity and believing what our critics say or we stand up for ourselves, keep going and keep believing that sooner or later we will get the kind of results our play really deserves. I know what I would rather do - and it isn't the former.

The fact that we are 10 points behind the leaders or the fact that we are already being considered as rank outsiders to win the title doesn't bother me really. I have already said on this very website that we are not ready to challenge for the title this year anyway. I'm more concerned at this stage purely by the fact that we have begun the season dropping points in matches that we should have won against teams who were there for the taking.

I think we all need to take a deep breath, ignore the idiots in the press, the media and beyond that do not have the interests of Arsenal at heart and look at where we are after we have player the first 12 league games. By then, who's to say that the current leaders, ManUre, won't have gone on a run of three games picking up just two points? Does anyone think they are far too good not to befall such a fate? Sorry, but I bloody well don't!!

What's more, we should have the likes of Clichy, Lauren, Senderos and maybe even Diaby back by then which means straightaway we will have more options than we do now and (particularly with Clichy in mind when I say this) more balance to the side. When you look at things that way, there really is no need for doom and gloom.

Now, it's time to have a look at our first Champions League game and our trip to the AOL Arena in Hamburg.

As a club, Hamburg are roughly on a par with Newcastle in terms of size and in terms of heritage and are probably known to most people over here as the club Kevin Keegan joined from Liverpool back in the seventies and the club that were beaten by Nottingham Forest in the second of their European Cup wins in 1980.

Interesting enough, Hamburg have targeted the lowlands of Belgium and more intriguingly, Holland for recruits to bolster their squad in recent times. For example, Hamburg raided Ajax for two old adversaries of ours in the shape of utility player Nigel De Jong and Rafael Van Der Vaart. De Jong was the lad who scored for Ajax when they played us at Highbury a couple of years ago and earned a 1-1 draw. He can play as a raiding right back or a central or right sided midfielder. He was linked with us and ManUre for quite some time but no concrete offers were made and the rest as they say is history. He is a good player this lad and, fitness permitting, definitely one for us to watch.

Big things were expected of Van Der Vaart three or four years ago. He was believed to be the man that was to spearhead a new young golden generation both for Ajax and the Dutch national side but for some reason he has lost his way a little and youngsters like Arjen Robben and our own Robin Van Persie have certainly stolen his thunder. Nevertheless I remember seeing a lot of the footage that brought him to the fore at Ajax in the first place a few years ago. He likes to play just off a front man if not behind a front two and he was dynamite for a while. If he can get back to being anywhere near his best from that time, he will be a real threat to us.

Hamburg also recruited Emile Mpenza and his much heralded young Belgian international team-mate Vincent Kompany from Anderlecht. Prior to his eventual move to Northern Germany, this boy was linked with every single major club in Europe from Real Madrid to Inter Milan. In fact, it looked odds on to me that he would actually end up with the Nerazzuri at one stage, particularly when he came out and knocked back the advances of the PRF as well (he called Chelsea a factory, loved that). I've never had the pleasure of seeing this boy play live, so it would be interesting to see what the fuss was all about.

One other interesting thing is that Alexander Hleb's brother is actually on the Hamburg's books right now as well though to be honest I cannot even spell his Christian name never mind pronounce it!

Though every Arsenal fan should know that we are never in anything other than a no-win situation as far as the press and the media are concerned, I think that this game has come at a good time for the chaps. When you play at this level, you expect to come up against teams of quality and you certainly expect the opposition to show far more positive intent than some of the teams we play in the Premiership. In turn, this means that there are no grey areas in terms of identifying what we need to do in order to get a result over in the AOL Arena.

This is a game which gives us an opportunity to focus and really sharpen up our minds. Losing Henry is a blow no doubt but let's not forget we did go to Croatia not too long ago without him, confronted as hostile a crowd as you can get in Europe and we still came out of that tie unscathed.

We haven't got the greatest of records against German clubs on their own soil though. We have only managed two wins from ten visits in all it must be said. But our defeat against Barca in last year's final was only our second in our last 25 Champion League matches. That's a record that neither Chelsea, ManUre nor even Liverpool can match (in spite of the latter winning the trophy in 2005). Given this, surely we Gooners are entitled to at least go into this game with at least some mild optimism – aren't we?