Thursday, October 18, 2012
Norwich City excepted – if any team could win the Premier League this season, who would you want it to be? I’d put money on the majority saying Arsenal.
• Sometimes it’s better not to know what former Norwich City stars are up to. Take Lee Croft – I’d guess City fans were still in the dark about his current whereabouts, until the furore that erupted on Saturday. The ex-City winger was accused of using racist language against a ball boy by a fan at Bramall Lane – something he completely denies. He’s a good lad, Lee, so hopefully the authorities get to the bottom of the matter and he can get on with impressing in League One for the Latics – and ultimately be forgotten again.
• It’s great to see Ryan Bertrand doing what we all thought he would while on loan here – playing at the highest level. But whoever decided it was a ‘sore throat’ keeping him out of England duty should have a think. For me, that was more of an issue than Ryan’s subsequent outburst that attracted all the coverage.
• Podcasts, papers, websites – I’m yet to see any pundit not suggest Norwich are doomed this season. Forget last term, this is the time to prove everyone wrong.
Some of that will be through default. After all, the reasons neutral football fans will find to hope Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and company aren’t top come May 19, 2013 are far too easy to rattle off.
But with the Gunners, most appear to like what they have seen over recent years. Off the pitch the club is run within its means rather than being bank-rolled.
The Arsenal fans – known to like a grumble at the best of times, noted by City’s visit to the Emirates last season – may have paid for that in high ticket prices, which are eye-watering at times. But given they play in a magnificent 60,000 arena and have competed in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons, I suspect the arguments of most are tempered.
That truly is some record. It means since Arsene Wenger secured the Gunners’ first Premier League title in 1998, the club has been a constant fixture in the battle for the European Cup.
A lot of teams – and a host of their English rivals – would give everything for that.
For the record, Wenger became Arsenal boss in October 1996.
Indeed, his influence on Arsenal is as integrated as his first name suggests; the philosophy perfectly woven into the club’s fabric. Stylish football, developing young starlets into world class names that command huge fees. He even withstood significant pressure last season as Arsenal ‘struggled’ – I guess everything is relative in the beautiful game.
Maybe in some ways it is easier to revel in the Gunners’ good points from outside than inside.
While Wenger’s 16 years of current service is topped only by Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, the last trophy arrived in 2005. Some expect better.
But England’s domestic football goalposts have moved – fourth in the Premier League means more than any silverware. That isn’t right, but it is where we are.
Unlike last season, this time Arsenal could be good enough to do both. They may be missing the departed Alex Song and Robin van Persie – but Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have bundles to offer, while Olivier Giroud will and is coming good. Add to that the better defensive organisation the Gunners are showing – apart from the odd set-piece wobble – and all at the Emirates will be once again saying that Arsene has delivered.
So hopefully I’m doing a good job of talking up Saturday’s visitors before Norwich City can do them some damage.
Not only do Chris Hughton’s men need a positive result – the Canaries are due one.
City haven’t beaten the Gunners at home since 1984 – or 11 visits to Carrow Road. It officially makes them Norwich’s Carrow Road bogey team. No one else tops it.
Arsenal have the quality, they have the manager – and they’ll have the support, neutral and partisan, for a lot of the season.
It’s the kind of long-term stability and measured success every club aims for – at the moment, especially Norwich.