On Boxing Day, you could be forgiven for thinking we were languishing in the mid-table doldrums after a goalless draw on the south coast, given the response from some Arsenal fans. United were, according to most, going to win the league at a canter, after their four goal demolition at Sunderland. We didn't have the squad, nor the goalscorers. Rosicky's miss was forcefully contrasted to Ronaldo's piledriver.
But a few days later and the picture becomes somewhat rosier. We triumph at Goodison; United get turned over at Upton Park. Suddenly, rather than being temporarily one point behind, we're two points ahead.
So, we're top again. Whether we can sustain this position or not is, of course, the pivotal question. Yet on several times already this season we’ve shown the guts and determination, not just flair, to grind out wins. We’re a hungry side, as well as a technically gifted one. If we can add stamina to this determination, we’re definitely in with a shout. United’s squad may seem the stronger, but ours certainly shouldn’t be dismissed, especially as I would ignore Arsene’s comments about not buying during the forthcoming window. If he wants to buy, he will. He just likes to throw others off the scent, old Arsene.
The scoreline, ultimately, was nothing short of magnificent. To put four past Everton on their patch is superb, especially as it’s a ground we’ve struggled at in recent times.
The main highlights and lowlights of the game were provided by our two forward players.
Eduardo showed a clarity and coolness in front of goal which I haven’t seen since Bergkamp. Indeed, the flick for his second goal reeked of the ice-man. That’s 9 goals already for Eduardo this season, and that’s without him really getting a fair amount of time in the team. His goals could be the difference at the end of the season if he can build on this start. He'll score more than another 9 in the second half of the season, I'll say that now.
Bendtner, conversely, had a bit of a rum time of it. While he would have gained confidence from being given a start, I hope he learns from his sending off. I seem to remember a young RvP having a similarly stupid sending off a few years back, and he learnt from it, ultimately. If Bendtner wants to become the great player he could become, he has to put his mental ‘roof’ on, as Arsene would put it.
It seems odd that we’ve been chastised in some quarters for winning without playing the elegant football we normally do. Yet, that’s what winning teams are about: mixing it up, playing tough football when it needs to be played.
It’s game like Everton that can decide whether leagues are won. It’s been twenty games now and we’re still top. United are still the favourites, but that seems to be more a media perception that stems from most people’s inability to accept we are where we are. Yes, United’s squad is probably stronger, but we’re top, not them. Despite what people say, after yesterday’s result, who’s to say that this will change any time soon.