An old VHS held the key. It was in the basement.

Image borrowed from here

I like to think that this is the very machine that our merry gang of defenders sat down in front of the other day in a bid to fix things defensively. You see, Arshavin, when he was trying to find a copy of his contract in the basement, had stumbled upon it in the storeroom that contains, amongst other things, George Graham’s old scarf, a somewhat dishevelled Glenn Helder and Paul Merson’s pool cue. Anyway, Andrey didn’t know what it was of course, because they didn’t use VHS in the Soviet Union. They were betamax all the way.

But Arsene knew, as he tends to – he’s got trillions of VHSs at home, all lovingly arranged in player alphabetical order (though Mrs W has now recorded Corrie over the top of the Stefan Malz scouting appraisal and Chamakh’s is being used to prop open the shed door).

Le Boss set it up and made them watch it. The video still sitting inside the machine had a segment of Tony Adams dropping Steve Morrow, followed by Nigel Winterburn doing passing practise with his right foot, a montage of Lee Dixon’s own goals, Steve Bould’s top ten near-post flick-ons and Martin Keown reminiscing about when he played midfield with Ian Selley. Taken together, it’s had the desired effect.*

*Except let’s not get too carried away. I was not the only one who got over-excited in early September when we point-blank refused to concede goals at all. Look at this, on the front page of the Guardian’s sport section.

And we all know how it panned out after that. So if it’s alright with you, while I’m obviously encouraged that we’ve not let a goal in for two games and have looked tidy at the back, the proof will be in the pudding at the end of May.

But I do like the idea of a basement storeroom at Arsenal with loads of old trinkets in it.

I also like the idea of a rock-solid defence.

Though I don’t miss VHS.

Or Ian Selley (no offence, Ian).

Sorry about this, but this is what happens when there’s no Arsenal and it’s as cold as hell outside.

No swashbuckling, but no buckling either

Swansea 0-2 Arsenal

Optimism is not an emotion I have much associated with this stuttering season, during which all our weaknesses have been laid bare on far too many occasions, but I have been in a curiously upbeat mood since our ultimately futile win in Bavaria.

I thought we’d win in Swansea – based on nothing but the clutching of straws, probably – but my bullishness had started to fizzle out by the middle of the second half. Neither side created much and it wouldn’t have surprised me had it finished 0-0. A few high-scoring games aside (Reading, Southampton, Newcastle), we’re not scoring for fun these days. So when the goal came, it was after some huffing and puffing, and it was a bobbler of the first order.

I have to say, I love a bobbler. A scuffed slicer, one off the knee, or something bouncing off a player’s rear echelons. There are pirhouettes, volleys, 30-yard raspers and there are daisy-cutting scuffed-bobblers. I’m standing up for the latter.

It was a first goal for Nacho Winterburn (Nacho Winterburn, Na-cho Winterburn – thanks Nige) and boy did we need it. Then as if to turn the world as we know it on its head, a second came at the end from Gervinho, who hasn’t scored since the trees were in leaf, a goal set up by the oft-maligned (but in my view increasingly impressive) Aaron Ramsey. Substitution-tastic.

I’m not sure Fabianski could have had a gentler re-introduction to Premier League football – but things could have been different had Michu rolled a good effort a bit to the left. Overall though we defended pretty well again and whatever our weaknesses elsewhere on the pitch we do now boast real quality at full-back. Gibbs and Monreal, Sagna and Jenkinson. A lot of teams would kill for that depth.

We’re still a way off where we want to be, let’s be honest, and it’d be a fool who got too confident, but it’s been a good week – however bitter-sweet Wednesday was.

Heading into the ‘lull pointless and back to square one would have been no fun at all.

So those three points were sweet.

It’s time I perked up a bit, I think

I’ve been pretty down on all things Arsenal recently. Down on our chances, down on writing this blog, down on everything. Down on wages, down on the ticket prices, down on some of the players, down on the crest (still think it’s crap). Down on Le Boss. Now look, things could go wrong again tomorrow – don’t I just know it – but right now that Bayern game has reinvigorated me. Shallow? Maybe I am. But there was defiance, some pride restored and it was a performance I really enjoyed. As Chris said on the Arsenal America podcast, sometimes we get carried away with the misery. I know I’m guilty of it.

So yeah, no ifs, no buts, the Bayern game was good. It was on the biggest stage, it was gripping. I watched 7amkickoff’s video from the away end, and the happiness is insane.

It reminded me of my video of Thierry’s goalscoring return, against Leeds. Pure joy.

And then it reminded me of the bloke – no idea who he is, but I’d love to know – who lost control of his senses when Smudger scored in ’89. You watch it here at about 4m 20s – he leaps over the hoardings, and bounces off like a madman, arching his back, off the scale bonkers. The copper does his best Benny Hill going after him.

Ah yes – that’s what it’s all about. Like I ever forgot. Let’s have a bit more of that because I bloody love that.

And let’s have a bit more of that tomorrow*

*I reserve the right to be miserable again in the event of a poor result

And oh – here I am, on the Arsecast, trying to be a bit positive there too.

Me: Not efficient in the zones where it matters

And so it came to pass, as they said in the olden days (along with other common but now old-fashioned phrases like ‘Willlttttttooooooord!’ and ‘it’s up for grabs now’). We lost the derby and I went into hiding and swore a vow of blogging silence. That, at least, is this week’s feeble excuse. Honestly, how Arseblogger and other Arsenal bloggers do this every day at the moment – well ever, really, but especially at the moment – remains beyond my comprehension.

And then this random mid-season break of 11 days came along, which arrived courtesy of the FA Cup, a tournament you may or may not have heard that we are no longer participating in. (It still needles, yes). These 11 days form part of an entire month of no home games, all of which I feel I ought to blame on Sepp Blatter, so I will, irrespective of evidence.

I’m eager to get the home games flowing again. I still miss the starter and pudding of matchday, you see, if not always the main course.

Wenger admitted after the derby defeat that we were not efficient in the zones where it matters, which he then named as at the front and at the back. It made me laugh at the time. You know the kind of laugh.

So it’s a bit like me with this blog, then – I am efficient when it comes to intending to write something regularly, but rather lacking in the zones that matter, namely the writing of the blog and the publishing of it (and there’s an additional zone, which is writing something that makes any sense or has a structure, and is worth reading, and I’m not enormously efficient there either). Not efficient in the zones that matter. So good I ought to make it my new tagline.

Anyway, it got me thinking a bit. Which area are we most likely to have a bit of luck fixing? Defence or attack? My initial view was that our defensive errors are so stubborn that Wenger should concentrate on eking out some more goals from the people who have stopped scoring them – Giroud, Walcott in particular, but let’s be honest, we’re not scoring enough so from everyone. But then I read Tim Stillman’s excellent piece arguing that we should go all out to tighten up at the back, then build from there, and I can see the logic in that too. And then I thought, why can’t we do both? Got ahead of myself a bit, I know.

I bet all three options have been considered over the last ten days, albeit probably in a more lucid manner.

And what of Munich away? I read tonight that Wilshere is a doubt, and I just wouldn’t risk him if that’s the case. Winning 3-0 or 3-1 is pie in the sky. Play for a bit of pride, yes – but not if it sidelines Jack for more realistic matters.

But at least it’s looming, it’s nearer – and we can all get back to normal. Or whatever passes for normal just now.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick

Oops. Two weeks have zipped past with nary a word. There are mitigating factors, though. Straight after the Blackburn game I took a wrong turn in Chipping Barnet and ended up 6,000 miles away, and as luck wouldn’t have it, it was the middle of the day when we played Bayern and I was in a meeting. I now have an increased admiration for any global lunatics who follow the Arsenal before breakfast, after the pubs have closed or in the middle of the night. They are, to a man or woman, quite crackers.

The Bayern game went as I feared it might, leaving us with no eggs and no baskets, unless you call fourth place a basket, or indeed an egg. Either way it leaves our genuine trophy chances pretty much fried. They were never going to be an over-easy opponent, I suppose, and my guess is that Podolski’s poached – or was it scrambled – effort will not be enough.

A few days later I made a half-hearted attempt to watch the Villa game at breakfast, found a stream, lost a stream, refreshed Twitter with abandon, got cross with buffering. Honestly, following football is a complicated business these days. In the mid eighties (warning: old man’s wistfuI reminiscences incoming) I remember very well coming down to breakfast and opening up the paper to find the score of a match from the night before. If you were really lucky and the game had finished before the copy deadline you might get a small match report. Occasionally there was nothing at all. How would I then find the score? I have asked myself this question many times. I imagine I wrote a letter to Don Howe. Or went to the library. Or phoned someone. The eighties were rubbish for football.

So despite being punched from rope to rope in the cups, we find ourselves on a five-match unbeaten run in the league. There are unbeaten runs and there are unbeaten runs, and I would place this more as an unbeaten saunter. Nevertheless, it’s the kernel of some league form.

Form and confidence – something that has ebbed and flowed throughout this peculiarly fitful season.

It’s hard to disagree with those who argue that tomorrow’s NLD (the Twitters is a wonderful tool but I do resent the way it has forced acronyms into our everyday speech. NB52, ITK, NLD, AVB, JW10 – it doesn’t make me lol at all. In fact the only acronym I like is WWWWW. And anyway that’s not even an acronym. It’s just five Ws in a row. OK, shut up now, man).

I wouldn’t say that losing it rules us out of the holy grail, but our friends from N17 already have form and momentum, and if they win tomorrow they might reasonably be envisaging the hula girls and pina coladas and find themselves humming the Uefa ‘Pyjamas’ theme tune. At this stage of the season, a run of form is priceless. If we lose, we are back to a form square one.

We need to start the game well, play with a real intensity throughout, and take it from there. Another of our lacklustre opening 45s will be hard to bear.

It feels like I finish most of my pre-game posts these days with the words ‘I have no idea what to expect’. Well I think it will be helter-skelter and blood-and-thunder. I’d say that’s a given. But beyond that – who knows.