It’s easy enough to look at Arsenal’s recent away form and state that a victory against Norwich City is near enough inevitable. At Stamford Bridge Arsenal defeated Chelsea 5-3 in a roller coaster of a match. Prior to that they had defeated Marseille in the Champions League in France at the Stade Velodrome.
A closer look at Arsenal’s away record suggests something entirely different. Things aren’t quite as rosy as their recent record suggests. In fact the recent record merely disguises a long running malaise. Losing at Blackburn 4-3, losing to Manchester United 8-2, losing the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. If we exclude the Chelsea anomaly then the away draw at Newcastle is as good as it get’s. And that’s just this season. If we go back to last season, through the 2011 calender year, to Saint James Park again, when Newcastle overcame a four goal deficit to secure a 4-4 draw against Arsenal, well, Arsenal have been, until the past couple of weeks, pretty dire on the road.
After the 4-4 debacle at Newcastle, Arsenal then drew with West Bromwich Albion 2-2 in the midlands, managed to beat Blackpool 3-1 in the North of England, and then drew with Tottenham at White Hart Lane 3-3, lost to Bolton at the Reebok Stadium 2-1, lost to Stoke City 3-1 at the Britannia and then drew with Fulham 2-2 at Craven Cottage. That’s 7 away matches last season and 4 away matches this season with only one victory. Just one single victory in eleven away matches. That’s a horrendous record for a team with title aspirations – or at the very least Champions League qualifying expectations.
That dismal story, of course, all changed at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago. Thanks to a Robin van Persie hat trick, aided by Peter Cech’s continued absence at his near post, and a resilient team performance, Arsenal turned their away woes into a fresh start and a new beginning. Away from the Emirates are Arsenal on the way up? Confidence is an enormous factor in football and Arsenal now have the first, fragile, delicate and embryonic stages of it. Should the confidence slowly continue to build Arsenal will feel like anything is possible. Slowly slowly.