What a start of the season we've had. You know that the season is going badly when you've been welcoming the international break with open arms.
However, with 7 wins in 8, we are very slowly starting to turn things around, but those games have arguably not been against strong opposition, and in every big league game so far we simply haven't turned up. The game on Saturday, against a Drogba-less Chelsea, will tell us how far we have come these few weeks, and what we can expect to achieve in the rest of the season.
From my view, only in goal have be performed to an acceptable level, and Szczesny has been showing what we've missed in not having a quality, world class goalkeeper for the last 5 years. Personally I think Szczesny is one of the best keepers in the league and can only get better with experience.
In defence, we have been our usual selves when Vermaelen isn't playing, looking vulnerable every time the opposition attack and conceding easy goals in all different ways. The change in man to zonal and back to man marking at set pieces shows just how clueless we seem defensively and the lack of confidence at being able to defend in a suitable way. Also, with Sagna out for 3 months, we could get worse. Jenkinson seems like he is not ready to play against top class opposition and even he is injured for the foreseeable future. So far Djourou has played Right Back, but you only have to look back to the Blackburn game to see how that wont work against top wingers.
With Vermaelen still edging his way back to first team action, we are down to the bare bones across the back four with only 5 fit defenders. And that's including Gibbs who is about as reliable to stay fit as Almunia to keep a clean sheet.
All that said though, the Koscielny - Mertesacker partnership is starting to settle down and even look quite comfortable at times. In Marseille they halted any attacking threat that the French team posed with ease. After Saturday, we can really judge how successful their partnership can be, but the signs are quite promising so far.
In midfield we've lacked strength, and with Song having to deputise occasionally in defence, we have seen a lot of the young, but very impressive Coquelin or Frimpong. Ramsey has not been a shining star that we were wishing he would be, but he is steadily improving and learning his trade. It's just a shame he didn't have the chance to play next to Cesc more. In fact, since the Tottenham game, where he was easily nullified by Parker, Ramsey has got a lot better, and has shown that he can create and score goals for us this year.
Our new signing, Arteta has been decent. Not great, not rubbish, but decent. He can be praised for settling into the team quite quickly after signing on such short notice, but you cannot forgive an experienced player turning off at a key moment in a match of great magnitude, which is exactly what he (and Ramsey) did against Tottenham in the build up to their second goal. Like the other new signings, he seems to have a brilliant attitude and is solely focused on improving the teams position and qualifying for the Champions League.
Even up front, we've not been that great. Van Persie aside, who has been in his phenomenal form throughout 2011, and has completely upped his game in recent weeks, we have struggled to have the same impact that we did last season attacking wise. Walcott has been his usual self. Sometimes amazing and unstoppable, sometimes completely average and ineffective. His performance - or lack of one - against Stoke was very disappointing, but don't bet against him to play a key role against Chelsea, last season he was a major thorn in their side as we beat them at the Emirates.
Arshavin has struggled for form, although he has looked hungrier recently. Chamakh's lack of form for a year now is depressing and Park has not even feature din the league yet. Gervinho looked brilliant on Sunday with 2 assists and one goal. His turn of pace and dribbling skills are a joy to behold and if he can continue to produce an end product to his game, then we have a real gem on our hands.
We are not the Arsenal of 2004, we are not the Arsenal of 2010 even, we are a new Arsenal side. We are not playing to the level of old Arsenal side just yet, and are in a much worse predicament than we have been for years. But things are starting to look better than we thought they would be, and we are now only 2 points of Liverpool and 6 off Chelsea in 3rd. If we could get a result at the bridge, that gap could be only 3 points. Undoubtedly, it will be a long struggle for the rest of the season. And considering we have lost 4 times compared to Newcastle who are unbeaten shows just how far we have to go.
But a good performance and result on Saturday will go a long way to helping our recovery.