Arsenal Demolish Southampton, but Title Talks Are Premature
Childish glee and joy in the moment, that characteristic said to be emblematic of those not far from the state of nature, is a strong attribute of the media, much like driving populist narratives is another of its strong suits.
Thus, and like I observed about a fortnight ago, with a single stroke, a single victory, the story of bad news at Arsenal turned to a story of possibility, a story about the potential of Lukas Podolski and about the excellent qualities of Santi Cazorla as a footballer.
Those sage-like bon mots about selling your best player—your world-class player—and replacing him with untested quality, the far-from-being world-class entities, ceased, to be replaced by one superlative after another about a convincing performance against a "horrible" Liverpool, about keeping clean sheets, about the Vieira-like qualities of Abou Diaby, etc, etc.
But just as single-minded was what the narrative became for Liverpool, and if one didn't know better, one would think the end of the world had come for the Merseyside club.
Perspective is the commodity that is very rare in much that passes for journalism today.
Thus, for a club experiencing difficulty in this nascent stage of the league campaign, Armageddon is already at hand. And for the team that sits pretty this early, it is going to win titles.
And by the same yardstick, Tottenham Hotspur and any other club which hasn't had favorable results just yet is headed for relegation. But that's nonsense, of course.
We've seen just four of 38 matches. As such, common sense would dictate that it is too early to draw any conclusions, either about titles or about relegations or, for that matter, about where exactly this or that team will end up on the league table come May.
Arsenal and the Title
It is inevitable that following these early good results—the seeming impotence of two goalless draws having been forgotten—that Arsene Wenger would be confronted by the question of the league title: "Do you think Arsenal can win the title this season?"
To be fair to Wenger, there doesn't seem to be much room for any other answer than the one he gave after the Southampton demolition:
"We have a chance for the title, but first we must show consistency. We have the quality to do it but we have to show how much we want it."
Indeed, desire and consistency must be there to win the title, but both are predicated upon the strength and quality of your team vis-a-vis your rivals', and at this stage it is too early to determine how strong this Arsenal squad is.
True, we can point to the index of organization and say that we've played two of the most organized sides in the league and have done well, but that's just one index.
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It is also true that we could point to the Liverpool match in light of Manchester City's performance against the same team and conclude that, since Manchester City struggled against a team we defeated quite easily, we must be a strong team indeed, but that wouldn't be scientific enough.
You cannot make comparisons such as this one be the basis of your conclusion about the strength, or lack thereof, of your team vis-a-vis other teams.
What is important is that you are tested by the necessary indexes, the sum which will make you truly a champion. You have, for instance, to play all the strongest teams and see how you fare.
Secondly, you have to play all the tricky sides (and Arsenal have played just one of them, Stoke City).
Thirdly, you have to pass through the rigors of the campaign successfully.
When you've done so, and you find that you still are standing strong relative to other teams, then, and only then, should you talk seriously about winning the title.
But even then, it is often the case that the second half of the campaign is the strongest test of a team's character, and who can forget that it is this test that Arsenal have failed to pass time and time again in the last seven seasons?
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But aside from the above, there's one more reason why I don't like any premature talk of titles in regard to Arsenal. My reason is ephemeral, but it is not, I believe, unreasonable.
I have observed that Arsenal tend to be susceptible to complacency when they begin to win matches. In fact, they often become so in the middle of a match that is going successfully.
Complacency isn't a good characteristic of a champion. On the contrary, ruthlessness is. That Arsenal were ruthless in this match is without doubt. That they'll continue to be so remains to be seen.
So, am I saying we shouldn't talk about titles and trophies at all?
By no means. If you don't imagine that you can win something then you have no business competing in the first place.
My point is that we shouldn't allow ourselves to be carried away by "our strength" this early. We haven't been tested enough to know just how strong (or not) we are.
This month will provide one of these tests.
In three days we will be facing one of the month's stiff tests against Montpellier, and then on Sunday we will face one of the strongest teams of the Premiership in Manchester City. We will then play Chelsea, another of the league's strong teams.
How we fare in these matches will give us an inkling as to our chances at challenging for the Premiership title (or winning any other trophy) this season.
If we pass through this month with flying colors, then we'd be justified in patting ourselves on the back.
My analysis of the Southampton match will follow soon. Do watch out for it.
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