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The Arsenal Monday verdict: One win doesn’t solve everything

Per Mertesacker. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Per Mertesacker. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Monday, November 19, 2012
4:47 PM

The derby thrashing of Spurs has lifted spirits, but Gunners must maintain momentum now

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Putting five goals past Tottenham in another riotous derby win would seem to suggest that all is well at the Emirates.

After the celebrations, however, comes the reality check. Arsenal may have thrashed Spurs in memorable fashion again on Saturday but they are still sixth in the table, and still nine points behind unbeaten leaders Manchester City.

They are also four points adrift of fourth place, now occupied by the surprise package of the season so far, Steve Clarke’s vibrant West Bromwich Albion.

After a weekend that saw not only Chelsea and Manchester United beaten, but also Everton and, of course, Spurs, the league table has a far healthier look to it now for Arsenal fans.

However with two testing away trips at Villa Park and Goodison Park to come in the next week, things could very quickly turn around again. That is the nature of the Premier League, and of Arsenal, at the moment.

Saturday’s performance was unrecognisable from the ones that had seen Arsenal labour to defeats at Norwich and Manchester United, and not everything can be put down to Emmanuel Adebayor’s red card.

Playing against 10 men is not always easy – just ask Barcelona after their Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea last season – and Arsenal had to show commendable spirit to turn an early deficit into a matchwinning 3-1 lead by half-time.

However, the nervousness – from both players and supporters - that followed Gareth Bale’s goal that pulled the score back to 4-2 on 70 minutes was indicative of where Arsenal are currently at, a point not missed by Arsene Wenger afterwards.

“They [the supporters] experience exactly the same [as] we do,” said Wenger. “They care about the result and you could feel that.

“We had some disappointing results. We lost at Man United without really being at our best after we lost against Schalke. That knocked a little bit the confidence of the team. The team knows as well the importance of a game like that.

“When they take it so much to heart the confidence goes as well when results don’t come. We missed a penalty in the last second against Fulham. You could see on Saturday that had an effect on the game as we had two times 2-0 up and didn’t win the game. You could see that when we were 4-2 up.

“The dynamic of the team was a bit flat, we looked a bit flat physically. It is always hard to know how much is psychological and how much is physical.

“The result [against Spurs] will help to boost the confidence. Sometimes when you lose games you do not come back straight away and win – you go through one or two draws and then you win. Then you are back. This result will be tremendous for us.”

Those words from Wenger sound a little familiar. Quite why his side’s confidence is so fragile is the million-dollar question, but the fact they came through Saturday’s game with a big win is the important part.

Without doubt the momentum gained from the first 5-2 win over Spurs back in February carried Arsenal to third place last season, while at the same time precipitating the wheels coming off for Harry Redknapp’s side.

Andre Villas-Boas’s 2012-13 outfit may prove to be made of sterner stuff, although at the moment his track record is not looking too good.

If Spurs don’t emerge as genuine top-four contenders then who will? Everton are most people’s tip, but last weekend’s defeat at Reading, after leading, was a poor result. But if they can inflict defeat on Arsenal next Wednesday, they will have earned their right as contenders.

West Brom? It would be a huge surprise if they maintain their strong start, but their home form is impressive and after last weekend’s win over Chelsea should not be underestimated.

Liverpool also won well at the weekend and are showing signs of starting to gel under Brendan Rodgers. Their visit to White Hart Lane on the same night Arsenal are at Goodison will be an interesting barometer of their progress.

The danger for Arsenal - again both supporters and players - is thinking that just because Wenger has 16 successive top-four finishes to his name, he will always manage to pull it off.

Arsenal’s defence is as fragile as their confidence, and the hard months of winter are only just beginning. This win is a start, but there is plenty more work to be done.

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Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners.

Ground: Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,361).

Founded: 1886.

Honours: First Division (until 1992) and Premier League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004.

FA Cup: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005.

League Cup: 1987, 1993.

Fairs Cup: 1970.

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1994.

Leading goalscorer: Thierry Henry, 228.

Leading appearances: David O’Leary, 722.