The state of being bewildered or unclear in one’s mind about something. This is the official Oxford Dictionary definition for the plight in which the majority of Arsenal fans will be in tonight as they reflect on the events of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane this lunch time. With the Gunners showing superb performances in recent weeks, a 2-1 home win wasn’t so much a bookie’s favourite as it was a Tottenham dream this morning. But as the dust settled on another away day disaster for Wenger’s men it left many a Gooner with many a question to ponder as they made the short journey home via the Seven Sisters tube station.
To name a few: Had Arsenal learnt anything from that terrificly resilient performance away to City earlier this year? Was that 2-0 away win all a fluke? False hope almost? Did they really want the win today? What else is on TV at half 10 tonight?
Being an Arsenal fan is undoubtably one of the most frustratingly unpredictable commitments of which an individual can live with. One week you’re beating the champions away; the next you’re being dominated by a far-inferior side situated lower than yourselves in the league standings. This shere inconsistency has been a feature of an Arsenal season for the past 8 years at least. I’m aware it’s common nature for a team at any level to go through a so-called “rough patch”. But using the Gunners as a team to illustrate this must be taking the biscuit! As a team we are well re-known for our inconsistency in several areas. Sure we maintain the same slick passing motivated style of play for the majority of our games, and such achievements as reaching the Champions League 18 years in a row are clear signs of some consistency at the club. However when it comes down to the team’s performances week in, week out in all competitions, we can very unreliable (if not inconsistent).
Let’s take the matter of a home tie in the FA Cup as an example of this unpredictability. On the 16th February of 2013, Arsenal lost 1-0 at home to Championship side Blackburn in the 5th round. This result came on the back of a 5 match unbeaten run for the Gunners whereby they had won 4 of those games, scored 12 goals and conceded just 5. Based on this knowledge and run of form, Arsenal were expected to beat Blackburn-but they didn’t. The clear lack of consistency, predictability and therefore reliability is evident when using this result in comparison to a similar fixture as Arsenal faced Hull City in the same competition earlier this season. The Gunners won this fixture 2-0 and this time the result came on the back of a poor run of form for Arsene’s men. Arsenal lost 2-0 away to Southampton the week before and had only scraped a 2-1 win against relegation favourites Queens Park Rangers before that. Therefore, based on his knowledge and run of form, you would say Arsenal could have been in for an upset here – but they saw it through comfortably.
Some may say these results simply show the so-called ‘magic of the cup’ which of course is a factor of which can be taken into consideration. However with Arsenal being a top-flight championship contending club, there has to be a constant level of consistency throughout the season if they are to live up to their name. All championship winning teams are based around their consistent run of results. They have their blips – as all teams do – however they all share the habit of reliability. For me, at this current moment in time, this is what Arsenal are lacking.
It’s not an impossible habit to pick up. Arsene Wenger’s sides in the past have flourished as a result of the adoption of this very skill. The Frenchman’s 2002 side still, to this day, hold the record of the longest run of consecutive wins with 14 between February and August of that double-winning year. A clear example of an Arsenal side showing consistency – with its effectiveness being highlighted by the honours the club won at the end of that campaign. Arsenal’s largest winning run between their 2004 unbeaten season and 2014 FA Cup winning campaign was 10 games at the end of the 2011/12 season. No other season during this time holds a run of which comes close to beating either the 2002 or 2012 record. A clear lack of inconsistency during a period of very little success for the club – coincidence?
But we can’t beat around the bush, so to speak. Despite clear signs of no real pattern in their results over the course of the last 8 years, Arsenal have continued to perform highly. We cannot confine to the fact that inconsistency cannot bring you success. In fact at times it can furnish a spring board for success in separate forms of competition. Arsenal’s 2013/14 season is a key example of how inconsistency in the league led to more focus and so more scrutiny on consistency in the cup competitions.
For Arsenal going forward its about carrying over that FA cup consistency of 2014 into the remaining games of this campaign. The run of 10 wins ‘on the bounce’ of 2012 came at the end of the 2011/12 Premier League season and was pivital in their race for a top four finish. With 14 games of the 2014/15 season to go (9 of them against teams in currently situated in the league’s bottom half) a run of similar fashion with players returning from injury is a far from impossible task. Consistency is the key. After all, as our great manager once said “When you look at people who are successful, you will find that they aren’t the people who are motivated, but have consistency in their motivation.”