Arsenal revival a mirror-image to recent failures

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Arsenal could well be playing out a mirror image of the disasters they faced last season and have only just begun to recover from.

It is too early to say definitively, but the hallmarks are there and fears over apparent weaknesses have been replaced by optimism over their strengths.

Defeat in last year’s Carling Cup final was a crushing blow to the side and what was, up until then, a decent challenge for the Premier League title, disintegrated to barely scraping fourth spot.

Such a dramatic drop off in form must having been alarming for Gunners manager Arsene Wenger and could not have had little to do with the decisions of Samir Nasri and captain Cesc Fabregas to depart the club in the summer.

While it was not unusual for Arsenal fans to witness their side tail off in the latter part of the season, such an enormous collapse was unprecedented.

Confidence crumbled, there did not seem to be many ideas on the pitch and the sounds coming out of the club were far from positive.

This was carried into the summer where the rumours over the future of several players would not die down and Wenger was continually forced to deny his best players were leaving.

The worst happened not long before the beginning of the season; Fabregas departed for his boyhood club Barcelona and ripped the heart out of the Emirates’ side.

This was compounded when Nasri made it clear he would not sign an extension and Wenger conceded they would have to sell him to Manchester City, just after taking part in the 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool.

It was a hammer blow to Arsenal and the departures preceded the club’s worst start to a season under Wenger’s guidance, their misery epitomised by the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford.

The crisis deepened when it was revealed that Fabregas’ replacement, Jack Wilshere, had suffered a stress fracture in his ankle and would face a lengthy absence.

From then it has been an up and down experience of mini-revivals and mini-crises, with the side suffering from some kind of professional football bipolar condition.

The loss at Old Trafford followed the defeat to Blackburn at Ewood Park; the victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was coupled with the home loss to Manchester United and the boos for Arsene Wenger; the 7-1 routing of Blackburn Rovers was contrasted by the meek submissions to Milan in the San Siro and at the Stadium of Light a couple of days later.

This was the last time they tasted defeat, and it demanded some kind of reaction, but not one in the mould of what had been proffered as a comeback in response to earlier setbacks.

This time needed something substantial and a reaction that many believed they were not capable of, especially when they were set to face high-flying local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

There can’t have been a single Arsenal fan who did not contemplate how they were going to deal with the abject failure of this season when Emmanuel Adebayor tucked away his penalty to make it 0-2 to Spurs after just 34 minutes of the north London derby.

That goal appeared to be the last straw for a number of Wenger’s players and they decided that something in the vein of previous collapses was not going to be repeated.

As you most probably know, they came back spectacularly in that game with five goals in 26 minutes and haven’t looked back since.

Arsenal have won their last four Premier League games after going behind first, a Premier League record, and three of those have been in the closing minutes of the game.

They were close to doing the unthinkable in turning around the 4-0 deficit brought home from Italy in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, but even an exit from the competition did not serve to dampen spirits or put off the positivity in their play.

It has been an astonishing turnaround and Gunners fans will be hoping that events over the next few months will be a mirror image of what they experienced from a similar point in time last season.

There have been strong rumours suggesting they have captured the signing of Germany international Lukas Podolski and have plans to do more early business.

Put that alongside the sales of Nasri and Fabregas last season, followed by the raft of last-minute signings before the window shut, and an active shift in policy seems apparent.

Maybe they will even oppose it so much as to convince one of their star players to stay on and sign a new contract? Most Gunners will probably be shrewd enough not to wish for too much too soon.

The run of form, the positive reaction to cup failure and getting transfer business out of the way early indicates there has been a change in attitude at the club – a polar opposite stance from the timidity and brinkmanship of last summer.

If this revival is to be a true mirror image then Wenger will be looking forward to the start of next season and what it may bring.

It is still too soon to be predicting a long run of victories taking the north Londoners to a glorious end to the season, but it cannot be denied that there has been something different present in the team over the past couple of weeks.

Arsenal supporters will be hoping this is the revival of their beleaguered team and the change in character from the recent past is permanent.

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Premier League
Jack Wilshere
Samir Nasri

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