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Webster: Gunners back from the dead
It’s not often you get to reference Mark Twain in a football piece, but after watching the Professor, Arsene Wenger, patrol the Stamford Bridge touchline on Saturday, I think it's highly appropriate to quote America’s greatest wordsmith.
"Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," said Twain, and Wenger was surely thinking the same thing after this pulsating 90 minutes in west London.
After all, it was only seven weeks ago that his obituary had been written by yours truly, but two days before Halloween, Wenger and his Gunners have returned from the dead with a round of trick or treating that has sent shivers up and down the Premier League.
Like insane, flesh-eating zombies, they’ve tasted the blood of their enemies and found it rather to their liking.
The only way to stop these almost unkillable beasts requires lopping off their heads but trust me, the Professor is too clever for that!
Okay, seriously, having survived the toughest start to a season during his 15-year Arsenal reign, Wenger is starting to get his Mojo back…slowly.
He needed some luck and he needed his team to play with belief. On a madcap, sun-kissed afternoon he got both.
Let's start with the luck…
Firstly, catching Chelsea number one Petr Cech on an off day is a break because the Czech keeper is usually the model of consistency. He was poor on a number of occasions, most notably when gifting a goal to Andre Santos.
Two, the bounces have to run your way and that was never demonstrated more clearly than when Theo Walcott tripped, skipped and wriggled his way through the Swiss cheese that was the Blues back line for number three.
Chelsea skipper John Terry during the defeat by Arsenal. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Thirdly, Karma - John Terry is quite possibly one of the most unpopular footballers on the planet right now. If anybody had an unlucky moment due to them on the pitch, it was the Chelsea and England captain.
With perhaps hundreds of thousands of fans wishing something unpleasant to befall the Blues center half, the power of the collective unconscious made a huge statement. ‘The bigger they are – the harder they fall’.
And lastly in the luck department, Wenger should be sending a dinner invitation to Didier Drogba. The Ivorian striker who got himself suspended last week for a straight red card against QPR is always a Gunner killer. He’s scored 13 goals versus the north Londoners and has only appeared on the losing side once in his Chelsea career.
The list of Arsenal defenders still seeking psychiatric treatment after being terrorized by Drogba is endless.
But enough of luck - let's talk about the factor that Wenger can manipulate and the ingredient that was in such short supply as the season began…belief.
The double loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri sucked the belief clean out of the Emirates Stadium, of that there can be no doubt. Wenger looked beleaguered, he looked old, he looked tired and most worryingly, he sounded defeated.
It was as though he’d forgotten his own mantra, which has always been about his belief in the team and the unquestionable belief that when Arsenal plays football the right way, ‘with the handbrake off’, they are more than a match for anyone.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is back from the dead. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Judging from Saturday's helter-skelter match, I’d venture to say that the ‘handbrake’ must have snapped off in the manager’s hand because there, for all to see, was the Arsenal we’ve known from the last few seasons.
No one plays a faster, more dynamic brand of football than the Gunners when they’re on song. Sure, defensively they looked as dodgy as the Blues but it’s as an attacking threat that we pay to watch a Wenger team.
I believe that the Frenchman is well aware that the 'Invincibles' days are long gone, hence, attack must be his best form of defense.
With a marshmallow schedule of Premier League matches coming up, I’d like to think that there should be no slowing this team down. WBA (h), Norwich (a), Fulham (h), Wigan (a), Everton (h) shouldn’t pose that many problems now that they have their belief back.
Even allowing for a misstep or two, 12 points must be a minimum return for their efforts and that should have the twittering classes chattering.
Of course, this one stunning result against a jaded and tired looking Chelsea team doesn’t mean that Arsenal are back ‘in the serious conversation’ but what it does signify is that writing them off can make you look very foolish, which in my case means, I’ll be dressing up as a clown tonight.