So it’s Friday already and that means Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference today and as usual, he was asked about everything from the latest team news at Arsenal, to the freshest furore in the wider footballing world – West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium.
And as he always does, the boss took time to answer every question put to him, no matter how irrelevant or far-removed from Monday night’s game with Liverpool – you now, the reason they were actually all there – in a typically thoughtful, insightful and balanced manner.
Sometimes I wonder why Arsene doesn’t just tell reporters to stick
their questions up their to the subject but then I remember that’s what sets him apart from self-obsessed scoundrels like you find at bus stops in west London, who say they’re ‘unique’ because reporters have the temerity to ask them about their ghastly, public treatment of medical staff, and think a story which quite rightly dominated headlines for over a week, shouldn’t be a topic of conversation.
Anyway, Arsene spent some time discussing the importance of a strong home record for a title challenge and highlighted that although his side bounced back from an unexpected home defeat on the opening day of the season to secure three points at Crystal Palace, they must now get back to winning ways at Emirates Stadium:
If you want to have a successful season you want to be strong at home. Normally we are strong at home. This is an opportunity to show that. We missed our first game and we had to look at ourselves, and we responded very well. Now we need to come back to our usual strength that we have at home.
If we quantify ‘usual strength’ based on last season’s league table, that translates as 19 played, 12 won, five drawn and two lost – only the fourth best points tally behind champions Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs. So although that is a very respectable record in relation to most clubs, we were still three points worse at home than United, gained four fewer than City and finished eight behind Chelsea.
Our way record actually saw us fare better relative to the other members of the top four, finishing 3rd overall with a record reading played 19, won 10, drawn four and lost five, giving us a total of 34 – the same as City and four worse off than Chelsea. Remarkably, United finished seventh in the away league table last term, with Liverpool sixth, Crystal Palace miraculously fifth and our shadow dwellers Tottenham 4th. Amazing really.
But what all of the above does show is that although we may have had a ‘strong’ home record compared to 16 other clubs, it still needs to be fortified in comparison to United, City and Chelsea, and if last season is any kind of gauge, the margin for error is already very slim. Chelsea lost eight points at home over the whole of last season and we’ve already conceded three. That leaves leeway for just one more defeat and a draw so as silly as it sounds, with harder home tests to come, beating Liverpool is almost already a must if we want to be champions.
Luckily, as we prepare to host Liverpool, Arsene says his side should be confident mood after last weekend’s win and although he feels the game arrives too early in the campaign to be tagged a ‘title decider’, he did concede the match was ‘vital’:
Your confidence is linked with your last result and at Crystal Palace we responded well. You could see that we were a bit edgy at times but we responded in a very strong way. From that we should have enough confidence to go into the game positively against Liverpool. This is a very important game where the result will of course be vital. It’s not a result that will decide [our title chances] but in our heads we know it’s very important.
After a slow start cost us badly in the title race last term, losing two of our first three this term, or even five points out of the first nine, which would, in all likelihood, see us fall six points behind this City squad, would spell title trouble as far as I’m concerned, no matter how many games are left.
So If not a title decider, Monday’s game could easily prove to be a title eliminator. Let’s make sure its not boys…
See you on Saturday.