Please enjoy this months instalment of guest post goodness from Jonathan Blaustein.
It’s Wednesday afternoon, February 27th.
Given the time difference, I guess it’s already the last day of February, over there in England.
Which would make tomorrow March. (For you Londoners. Confused yet?)
I’ve just watched Arsenal dismantle Bournemouth 5-1, which means that in the past 7 days, the Gunners have beaten BATE, Southampton and Bournemouth by a cumulative score of 10-1.
A cynic would say… yes, and we should be beating crap teams that badly. Said cynic might add, and by the way, we should have put 5 or 6 by Southampton too, and a better team would have done just that.
Today, though, I’m reverting back to my pragmatic optimism. I admit, the winter blues got me down, (like most people,) and Arsenal were always going to drop points during the dark times.
I think most of the big 6 teams dropped points, with the exception of United’s post-evil-Mourinho-bounce.
I’ve preached patience in this column all year, by essentially saying some version of “Let’s wait and see” over and over again. It’s like “Groundhog Day,” if you’re a Gen X-er or “Russian Doll,” for the Millennials. (Got to keep our references topical.)
It’s not that I’ve been hedging my bets.
Rather, I’ve stated from the outset that I’d judge Arsenal’s Post-Arsene rebuild from a context of similar rebuilds in both football, and other sports.
From Day 1, I assumed Emery would have 2-3 years to make a mark, and the Post-Wenger years would not turn into a red & white version of Chelsea, with managers coming and going, despite how much or what they’ve won.
(Who can even remember poor Roberto di Matteo, who won the fucking Champions League and still couldn’t keep his job.)
Whether Sarri makes it until the end of May, much less deep into the year, is an open question. But he probably did us a solid today by beating Tottenham, thereby placing them within 1 point, with a victory on Saturday morning. (5:30 am MST.)
And that last graph is all the segue I need to make my main point today.
Here we are, on the cusp of spring, and Arsenal are actually IN the Top 4.
Not chasing. Not hoping.
Sure, we can fuck it up.
But we’re also in the last 16 of the Europa League, with a fairly easy draw into the quarter finals. (Unlike Pedro, I haven’t seen even a minute of Rennes this year, so of course I’m taking them lightly.)
If the question was always, could Emery step in, improve the team, and give us a chance through either, or both, routes to the Champions League, than we have our answer, as of now.
He can, and has done just that.
His point total is ahead of Wenger’s last season, our road win total is significantly up, and there are more than a handful of players who are doing really well, when they’re out there with consistency.
Here’s my list of current, in form, Arsenal squad members: Alex Iwobi, Bernd Leno, Laurent Koscielny, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Torreira, Xhaka, Mhkitaryan, PEA, and Lacazette.
Add in the injured Holding and Hector, and possibilities with youngsters Nelson and Smith-Rowe, and we’ve got the spine of a proper squad on which to build this summer.
I could add the caveat, we’ll see what happens in May, but at this point, short of a total collapse, (losing 8 in a row,) which is not going to happen, Emery has already earned his second year.
I’ve said all along I thought his odds of a #Top4 finish or a Europa League title were realistic, and I stand by that.
If he blows it in both, of course he’ll be on the hot seat next year, for sure.
But the fun in any run-in is the hope.
The whole, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” moment that sustains our interest through dull games in Belarus.
And as of now, we’ve still got it.
Which is good enough for me, at the moment.
Last thought before I go, in advance of Saturday’s match. We always talk about the globalization of English football, and today, I’ve got the perfect example.
The other day, in my son’s elementary school here in Taos, New Mexico, some Spurs fans were ragging on him about Arsenal.
So Theo countered that Spurs were a bunch of cheaty divers. When the kids, who didn’t know what they were talking about, doubted him, he pulled up Youtube straight away.
According to my son, there are videos out there for all the big Spurs players diving: Son, Dele Alli and Harry Kane. His evidence was waiting there, and required almost no research at all.
Because everyone (but 5th graders at the edge of the Rocky Mountains) knows that Spurs dive.
Now let’s go crush them at Wembley this weekend!
I’ll see you in March.
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