In full-flight, Arsenal have played some of the best football we have seen so far this season – up there with Chelsea at least. The likes of Blackburn and Newcastle have come up against a Gunners side who look absolutely irresistible in attack. And yet their good work so far has already come unstuck twice in unexpected circumstances.
For the past couple of seasons, Arsene Wenger’s side has shown that it is capable of self-destructing at various points throughout the season: one week playing brilliant football, and the next recording an unexpected defeat. That has not shown signs of changing on the evidence so far this season.
The rule of thumb used to be that the Gunners would slip-up in away games against physical sides from the north-west who didn’t afford them the time or space to get into their rhythm. At least then you could vaguely predict when the Gunners’ next banana skin fixture might be. But this season they have seen off Blackburn and Bolton comfortably.
It is against Fulham and now at home to Hull that Arsenal have suffered defeat in this campaign. Two defeats from six games is not the early season form that Arsene Wenger would have been hoping for, even if they are still holding a respectable position in the league table. And even if you had told him that two defeats were on the cards, he would have expected to be beaten by Hull at the Emirates.
Despite nicknames at various ends of the scale of menace, neither the Cottagers nor the Tigers are the most physical of sides. There was an element of truth in the excuses that Arsenal’s technical players were bullied to defeat against teams like Bolton in the past. But there was also accusations of the Gunners taking their foot off the gas against teams they thought they should be able to beat comfortably. The most recent losses have indicated that this is a problem for Arsenal, and their manager agrees.
Wenger said: “It is a shocking defeat for us and overall our commitment was just not good enough. Human beings are not machines. Perhaps subconsciously we thought we would make it.”
So, short of resorting to a team of machines, Arsenal need to add some concentration and dedication to their matches against weaker opponents before their title prospects evaporate.