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Bigger tests lie ahead for Gunners in 2011

Gunners rise above pressure to achieve good home result

Just when most had written off Arsenal, they came back firing on all cylinders against Chelsea. Arsenal’s apparent lack of motivation and cutting edge in big games was nowhere to be seen, as the impressive 3-1 scoreline would suggest. Even staunch Arsenal supporters would admit that the Gunners were merely spectators during the first half at Old Trafford recently, and would have subsequently winced upon finding out that Barcelona lie ahead in the Champions League knockout stages. However, results like these inspire teams to get back to top form and push for silverware, something which has been absent from the trophy cabinet at the Emirates for a number of seasons now.

Arsenal are having a topsy-turvy season if truth be told. The Gunners have suffered a relatively high number of losses already, in a league where consistency and a winning mentality are of paramount importance. However, their inconsistency this season has been mimicked by the other so called ‘big five’. There is a much more even share of the spoils with regard to big clashes, an area where Arsenal have been poor recently. They have now claimed the scalps of Manchester City and Chelsea this season, proof that the formula is working to some degree. So often when watching Arsenal in big games, it is hard to see where the end product is coming from, in particular at old Trafford recently, where Arsenal deserved the win less than Wayne Rooney deserves his next anniversary present. However, when they are able to turn posession and passing into goals, they are devastating, a joy to watch, and a testament to the aesthetically pleasing football in Europe’s toughest and most physically demanding league.

If this is truly the result that injects the much needed life into Arsenal’s title hopes, then fans must sit back and take stock briefly. In truth, Chelsea were poor on Monday night. They lacked the physicality necessary to overcome Arsenal, and Ancelotti has also publically admitted that Chelsea switched off and made far too many mistakes. In a competition with the quality of the Premier League, mistakes do not go unpunished. To use a cliché or two, there is still a long way to go until May, and a lot can happen from now until then. I am optimistic about Arsenal’s chances, and I am a big supporter of the Wenger project. However, I will have my optimism served with a large side of caution, because there is still a massive degree of unpredictability associated with Arsenal nowadays; and if you are in any doubt, please note this season’s results against Shakhtar Donetsk.

I do not intend to take anything away from Arsenal; they achieved a fantastic result against Chelsea. However, I fear that they still lack the necessary strength and conviction in big away games. With Barcelona looming menacingly over the horizon, I fear that the upcoming trip to the Nou Camp could prove to be a massive headache for Wenger. I am sure that Mourinho will be at hand to recommend a decent brand of paracetamol.

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