- Oct 9, 2002
The received wisdom in football is that a team is at its most vulnerable immediately after scoring a goal. By extension, having just gone through a season unbeaten to claim the Premiership crown in style, Arsenal should be ripe for the taking. Certainly they have struggled to reassert themselves the season after winning the title on four occasions in the last 15 years. But Arsene Wenger knows the Premiership is getting ever tougher and more competitive, and should have his squad mentally prepared for the battles to come. They are probably the best side in the country, but in football you need to prove that every week. Wenger’s ambition will be to retain the title (no Arsenal side has done so since 1935), and finally make a real impression in the Champions League by winning it. Going forward the Gunners are peerless in England, while defensively they improved dramatically last season. Wenger’s formula relies on power, pace and swift inter-passing. In the League last season it cut good teams to ribbons, with ace striker Thierry Henry the spearhead, usually bursting in from the flank to devastating effect. His appetite should be sharp after France’s disappointing Euro 2004, but the North London giants are currently hoping that Henry’s compatriot Patrick Vieira is not tempted by Real Madrid’s siren calls and remains to lead the club into another potentially successful season. The Gunners" European challenge should inspire the skipper. As champions, especially unbeaten ones, Arsenal are there to be shot at, and any hint of complacency or lack of hunger will be swiftly and ruthlessly exposed by their rivals. But Wenger’s Gunners are the history men, and retaining the title and/or winning the European Cup would certainly write new pages in the club’s history. With an awesome new stadium taking shape a few hundred yards from Highbury, and a thrilling team on the pitch, these are good times for Gooners. But they’ll still have to work at it.