Like many people who tuned into Man City v Leicester last week, I was amazed at how razor-sharp the Foxes were on the break. Neutral or not, it’s hard not to be thrilled by this most improbable of sides: put together for £25m, sitting pretty at the top of the league and ripping through all and sundry with energy, directness and speed.
Three attributes that seem to have evaporated from Arsenal’s play, if we’re honest. Any progress that we have made since dismantling Man City before Christmas has been fleeting at best. A few starchy wins, a couple of defeats, a brace of goalless draws and that bonkers 3-3 at Anfield.
So Leicester are a team in a rich vein of form – the form of their lives – while Arsenal remain subdued. The atmosphere at the Emirates has mirrored our stodgy form: it’s been flat.
Hardly surprising really – just as the players feed off the crowd, the crowd feeds off the players and Arsenal have simply not been playing the kind of football that sets the pulse racing. It’s been laboured, with too many players off-colour and a prevailing sense of confidence misplaced.
Or put rather more simplistically, Arsenal have not been enough like Leicester, who have ripped up the rule book and are playing with the most extraordinary self-belief and sense of freedom.
Forget the permutations of what three points would do to each side’s chances. At the moment, while it’s obviously important, it feels to me that for Arsenal points are not the most important thing.
No, the most important thing is for Arsenal to rediscover some swagger and some can-do. If we carry on like we are now, grinding away, we will probably fall short. But if we can kick-start the way we are playing by throwing some caution to the wind and learning how to bully rather than doubt, then the fans will respond and the players might believe – really believe, not soundbite-believe – that they can do this.
So that’s my wish for tomorrow.
Unlock the handbrake.
Go for it.