It’s interesting that the North Londoners now find themselves in a not altogether too dissimilar position psychologically as they did on the opening weekend – they must, as they did before, bounce back from disappointment to rev their engines up ahead of the clash with Liverpool.
Many have stressed the fact that Arsenal have not played any team in the top four of last season so far – only fifth placed Tottenham – and following the midweek cup exit to the Blues, the doubters have even more reason to doubt the Gunners’ title challenge. There are those who claim their first real test of the campaign will come at the Emirates on Saturday.
However, Arsenal’s test is not really against Brendan Rodgers’ Reds but against themselves – in the manner they regrouped after the Villa defeat, they must once again respond to the defeat to Chelsea.
They did precisely that last weekend at Selhurt Park in their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace down to ten men. They showed resilience and gave their manager and their fans a solid, committed and focused response to the Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund last week. Arsenal have shown so far that they can respond to disappointment positively.
Defeats to top teams of similar quality are nothing to beat themselves up about – as I’ve outlined in recent weeks, they were in no way outclassed by either Dortmund or Chelsea but they did make mistakes, which they can learn from. That’s part and parcel of the football season – teams lose – and only the legendary Invincibles managed not to.
It’s not the result in midweek that proves whether or not the Gunners are title contenders, it’s the response this weekend. If they lose against Liverpool at home, yes, of course, there will be pressure piled on, they’ll lose their lead and position at the top of the table and the doubters will feel they were right all along. But it won’t be the end of the world and it certainly won’t be the end of their title hopes.
If the performance is of quality and consistency on Saturday, it will be the response the boss and the fans are looking for – three points to go with that would be more than welcome, I’m sure but, ultimately Arsenal’s test is not against Liverpool; it’s against themselves.