It's all quite fascinating this football lark isn't it? It is basically a season of emotional ups and downs. I know that doesn't sound very profound but I'm not quite sure how else to say it.
Take January for example, look at how happy we all are at present. We've just beaten Aston Villa by five goals to zero, this off the back of a sturdy convincing win at the champions. We have clean sheets coming out of our ears and suddenly we have so many players that we have had to start sending a collection of them on loan to various places.
Press the rewind button back to the final whistle at both Southampton or worse still Stoke City and listen and read the reaction. Can you imagine what it would be like today if the transfer window had closed on deadline day and we hadn't been involved? We have bought one player since then, a player who sat on the bench for the entire game against Aston Villa.
The same group of players are looking and feeling like a different proposition today. The reasons for this? I would imagine there are a number of contributory factors involved. One of those factors has been explained by Per Mertesacker. After the Southampton game it seems as if the players had a wake up call and vowed to defend better as a collective. Maybe this is the point where Arsene said that sometimes you have to listen to your players.
Since then, we have looked like a far better team collectively which is allowing the individuals such as Santi Cazorla to grab the headlines. It is far easier to express yourself on a solid platform.
The obvious other important change to a few months back is that we have real life human beings in the squad. Not so long ago we had no midfielders available. The Southampton game is a perfect example of that. Here was a match against a current rival side for the top four places yet we field a midfield of Francis Coquelin, Calum Chambers and Santi Cazorla.
We have midfielders coming out of our ears (again) yet we were forced to play our back up defender in what is arguably the most important part of the pitch even though he has yet to play a senior match in that position.
Going back to the new defensive focus from the team, I have a suggestion. Instead of these yearly meetings why not somebody jot down the minutes of those meetings, laminate the sheet or sheets of paper and pin them on the dressing room so the players have it ingrained in their minds every game, in every season.
Sometimes our teams seem to play as if technique will always be enough to win games, that is not the case and we are witnessing what happens when you marry our quality on the ball mixed with a dash of team defensive commitment.
In fact this situation kind of reminds me of what happened back in 1997/98. We were beaten 3-1 at home by Blackburn Rovers and the team had one of those urgent team meetings. I've read many times that Tony Adams had called for his central midfielders, Vieira and Petit to offer them more protection and take more defensive responsibility. After that we won 10 or so games on the spin and went on to win the double. Manchester United were pegged back after building up a healthy lead.
You know, a little like Chelsea have at present. In fact we have just won 4 league games on the spin without conceding a goal........ *cue dramatic music*
Ok, wishful thinking. They are wobbling a little in recent weeks but I don't see that level of implosion given how defensive Jose Mourinho is, even though a part of me is still embracing that fantasy. I mean, we are fans after all aren't we? That is what we do.
You know what though, I'd love for Chelsea to have to deal with the injury situations that we've had to endure during this first half of the season. Costa kicking the ball and subsequently missing 3 months of football (Giroud) Cesc messing up his knee against Arsenal and spending months out (Özil) Ivanovic can spend months out, come back for a few games and get pushed into some advertising hoarding's, thus ruling him out for basically the rest of the season. (Debuchy) so then when Cahill picks up knocks the Chelsea fans can call Mourinho negligent for not buying a back up centre back either in the summer or in the January window just gone. Because guess what, they are short at centre back this season if you discount the young centre back Zouma. (Chambers)
There are plenty of long term comparisons I can give you like Wilshere (Oscar), Arteta, Walcott etc etc
I'd love to see Chelsea try and break down teams with a mix and match side over a long period of time. Manchester City at least would fly past them in the table. I don't think quite so many people would be willing to feed Jose grapes without his best team on the pitch every week. A few more Chelsea defeats and I might just stick a bet on at BonusCorner.com
I hope my disdain for all things Chelsea and Mourinho did not surface there. Nah, reckon I got away with it.
Finally, good news coming out about Chuba Akpom being close to signing a new deal. I thought he was going to be off but Arsene clearly pulled out all the stops. If he has done that then he must think very highly of him. I've mentioned before that his road to first team football isn't as long as it appears should he develop the way we all hope. Giroud is our first choice striker. Welbeck was the back up but seems to be thought of as a wide attacker now. If you don't believe me, go back through the games where Giroud was taken off or did not start and see who replaced him (hint: Alexis) Walcott is a wide forward, Podolski is peeing off Inter Milan instead and Yaya Sanogo is developing elsewhere. Arsene has pushed Akpom up the pecking order and I'm sure he has spoken to Akpom about his future at the club.
Far too early to talk about Akpom in the long term as we know, plenty can happen to a 19 year old at Arsenal. But he has some very exciting ingredients. Not only is he fast and has a good finish on him but I like his skill. Something that hadn't caught my eye as much at reserve level. Tekkers! I think the kids of today say.
As long as he has the right attitude then he'll get a chance in time.
'til the next time.