Written by Wonderman
It was back in August 2007, I remember arriving at my new seat in the North Bank Upper for the opening game of the season, to a fantastic view of the resplendent Emirates pitch.
Our opponents that day were Fulham, ‘easy game’ we thought, except David Healy and Jens Lehman had other ideas. Within 52 seconds we were 1 nil down, you could have heard a pin drop when the ball went in the net. But that day the boys refused to be beaten.
The spine of Lehman, Gallas, Cesc and Van Persie complimented by the aggression of Flamini and footwork of Hleb pulled 3 points out of the bag, by virtue of a Van Persie penalty and an Alexander Hleb goal. Fast forward to the end of January 2008 and we had tasted defeat only once, away at Middlesbrough and even then the squad was robbed of Cesc, Van P, Flamini and Hleb through our friend injury.
However, before our very eyes we were witnessing the birth of a new paradigm – ‘no retreat no surrender’ we were refusing to be bullied . It took an injury of savage proportions at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s stadium to Eduardo to disturb that mental psyche, and it has taken 3 years to regain it.
This season we have the best away record in the league. We have gone to Liverpool, Blackburn Sunderland and Everton and not tasted defeat. Phil Neville was quoted as stating that ‘Arsenal can’t be kicked off the park anymore’ in mid November . That is some compliment !!
The most emphatic sign of our rediscovered ‘no retreat no surrender’ attitude was the home win against Chelsea the following month. In that game we were aggressive tactically by imposing our strengths. Walcott not only kept Cole back through Cole’s fear of his blistering pace , but he also defended like his life depended on it every time they tried to attack down that side.
And aggressive physically. Djourou dominated Drogba for the entire game like never before, whilst Song and Wilshere kept Essien and Lampard quiet whilst Cesc weaved hs magic, it was an unbelievable sight especially as we had been the better team against Man U in the previous game only to return with no points. Our attitude made the most powerful team in the league look powder puff.
Is this a coincidence ? I think not . When you look at what is emerging as our preferred back four Clichy and Sagna are two aggressive full backs who give wingers no peace. I don’t know about you but the look in the eyes of Vermaelen’s first Arsenal photo’s scared me to death before I even saw him play for us, but even then, I only had to recall his duel with Van P at the Amsterdam tournament to know his temperament. Who remembers Djourou almost taking the head off a Man U loan player who I think was playing for Wigan at the time, never mind his neutering of Drogba. Kosser has been a revelation for his first season
In midfield we have Nasri who showed Barton what he was about early doors , Wilshere who almost cut Salgado in half at the Emirates cup a couple of years ago, Song who scraps as much as he delivers exquisite passes, Cesc who gives as good as he gets and Walcott who showed against Chelsea he can deliver in both attack and defence with spite.
Up front Robin is as aggressive as they come and Chamakh has shown he is no slouch.
This season I have sensed a new found refusal to be denied . The key, I think, is to ensure that the likes of Diaby, Bendtner, Denilson and in fact who ever comes on the field to bring with them our new found mentality … no retreat no surrender once they do that we will not be denied.