Arsenal: The Most Exciting Team in Europe at the Moment?
As turnarounds go, the switch in mood at Arsenal since the start of the season has been pretty stark.
From boos and profane instructions to "spend some effing money" to marches by the sinister-sounding but actually reassuringly mild-mannered Gooners "Black Scarf" movement, there was a black dog on the shoulders of most Arsenal fans after their opening day loss to Aston Villa.
However, since then, more or less everything has changed. A summer transfer window that descended into shambles was just about rescued by the signing of Mesut Ozil, a deal scarcely believable for myriad of reasons. They haven't lost since the Villa game—indeed, that defeat was their only competitive loss since March, a 24-match run with 20 wins, three draws and the lone loss. They're top of the Premier League table, though being top after eight league games isn't too much to get excited about.
What should be stirring the loins of Gooners everywhere is the style with which they are playing. Not in every game; but moments against Norwich this weekend and the first half against Napoli in the Champions League were beautiful, astonishing aesthetic feats of football that would make any fan, not just those of Arsenal, shiver with joy and appreciation.
The goal that Jack Wilshere scored against Norwich on Saturday almost felt like a personal vindication of everything Arsene Wenger has been saying for the last eight, trophyless years. The "proof" that his way of doing things was right, in just one moment. It almost looked like the "perfect goal" that Wenger has been trying relentlessly to pull off with his style of play since he took over the club in 1996. Of course, it was just one goal and the penultimate "pass" from Wilshere to Olivier Giroud was a bit lucky, but just for a moment there, Wenger really did know.
Wenger was quoted in The Guardian this week as saying: "We have room for improvement, and being in the position we are in at the moment and knowing we have room for improvement is a good feeling.
"The 'feelgood factor' is down to the quality of the spirit of the team, the solidarity of the players, and their desire to do well.”
There's a case to be made that Arsenal are currently the most exciting team in Europe. Certainly nobody in England is playing as stylishly at the moment. Barcelona are winning but adjusting to Tata Martino, Real Madrid likewise with Carlo Ancelotti, Atletico Madrid are a hugely impressive work in progress, Juventus are perhaps a little too muscular to rival their style, while PSG and Monaco are still knitting teams thrown together with millions of Euro notes.
Of course, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are similarly exhilarating, while Roma's start to the Serie A season has been utterly extraordinary. However, it's difficult to think of another team that is pleasing their fans as much as Arsenal are.
That might all be a little hyperbolic, but the rest of us should probably allow Arsenal this time to just enjoy it, because in all likelihood this won't last. Their defence is still capable of dropping the most inconvenient clangers, they haven't shaken the concentration problem that allows teams to sneak back into games that should have been well won, and an injury to Giroud will leave them without a senior, recognised centre-forward. Unless you count Nicklas Bendtner—which you shouldn't.
Most Arsenal fans with a keen sense of recent history should be trying to strike a balance between bathing in the glory of this bubble of excitement and form, while at the same time bracing themselves for the crash that could well be just around the corner. Enjoy it—but not too much.
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