Last night’s game left me running the gamut of emotion that I have come accustomed to while watching Arsenal over the last three or four years. It was a bit more Jan Hammer than MC Hammer. There were over eighty minutes of frustration, followed by a euphoric final five minutes. It had looked like another one of those games where the players had taken the opposition too lightly and had come out onto the field not taking the game as seriously as they should have, Robert Green was having a good game and there was a dollop of bad luck thrown in to boot. However, they pulled a result out of the bag and, at the end of the day, that is the most important thing.
The starting line-up was as predicted on yesterday’s blog: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh. The substitutes were Szczesny, Rosicky, Vela, Walcott, Djourou, Eboue and Bendtner.
The first half was one to forget. Arsenal never really got going and that let West Ham grow in confidence as the half went on. Green made a good save first from Fabregas and later from Song and Squillaci but, apart from those chances, nothing else of note really happened in the first half. It was a very poor display by us and it left me in great fear that I was about to witness a repeat of the West Brom game. Cesc had a poor half, as did Arshavin. Song picked up his obligatory, needless, yellow card. It later transpired that Cesc’s poor first half performance was largely down to a potential recurrence of his hamstring injury and I just hope that is not the case. Either way, I am pretty sure that he won’t be travelling to Donetsk in midweek. If there is any kind of question mark at all over his fitness, leave him at home to recover.
The second half started off with Parker lucky to escape a yellow card after a tackle in which he clearly caught Denilson after first winning the ball. It was a tackle worthy of a caution as it doesn’t matter if you win the ball if you then go on to catch the player. Sadly, that type of challenged is generally judged as okay in the Premier League. Referees really ought to brush up on their understanding of the laws of the game. Nasri then hit the bar with a cracking effort from a free-kick in the 53rd minute. It was an effort worthy of a goal.
Walcott came on for Denilson in the 67th minute and up until that point the game had been pretty underwhelming. There was no real cutting edge or urgency from either team. I could understand that from West Ham as they had just player 120 minutes in midweek, but many of our players were just returning from being rested. They really should have been more up for it and energetic. It was a very lethargic and unfocused first 70min for Arsenal.
Then in the 71st minute Walcott was put through by Fabregas only for Theo’s shot to come back off the post and into the arms of Green. A big stroke of luck for West Ham. Unlucky Theo. After seeing that you just got the feeling that it wasn’t going to be our day. Green was having a good day in goal, as he tends to do against us at the Emirates.
Bendtner came on for Arshavin in the 80th minute. The little Russian had a fairly poor game, it must be said and, despite his stats so far this season, his lack of overall effort does grate.
Then late in the game, Clichy played a nice little ball into the six-yard box with his right foot which was finished by Song. The goal was made even sweeter by the fact that I had, literally, just put €5 on Arsenal to win at 12/5 and also had €1 on Song for first goal at 22/1. Not a big windfall, but it paid for my weekend’s food and beer. Needless to say, I went mental when the ball went in. Jackpot. The goal was particularly important considering that Chavski beat Blackburn 2-1 and ManUre beat Spuds in the days late kick-off. Eboue came on for Chamakh almost immediately after we’d scored and we saw the game out for an important 1-0 win.
It’s great that we managed to win the game but the team’s performances will have to seriously improve if we are to mount a lasting title challenge this season. Nevertheless, we did manage to get the 3pts against one of our home bogey teams, so that’s a plus. The way the game went, it was one of those that we would have drawn or lost a year or two ago. So, there is some comfort in that. Perhaps it is a sign of our growing maturity and experience that the team remained relatively calm and kept going about their business and plugging away looking for an opening. It’s great to get the win when you play badly. As the old cliché goes, that’s the sign of a title winning team.
Perhaps I have been a little bit too harsh with my thoughts on the performance, but that is how I felt at the time and I wrote much of the post whilst watching the game and drinking beer.
That’s three clean sheets in a week. Unexpected, but very welcome. Long may it continue. Hopefully we won’t get bad news on Cesc’s fitness.
In other news, yesterday saw the draw for the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup take place and I think that we can’t really have too many complaints with it. Home to Wigan is a great chance for the team to progress to the semi-final. Is a final against ManUre on the cards? It will be a great opportunity for some of the younger players to get some more experience playing in front of a sold out crowd at the Emirates. The full draw is as follows:
Arsenal v Wigan
Birmingham v Aston Villa
West Ham v ManUre
Ipswich v West Brom
There are some tasty fixtures there and I am glad that we avoided the likes of ManUre. We all know that there is no such thing as an easy game, but if we are to have any kind of serious notion of winning the competition, then Wigan are a team that we really ought to be beating along the way. I’m very happy with that draw. Hopefully all of the home teams will progress to the next round, but methinks that hoping for that outcome might be more than a touch fanciful. I am sure that Gazidis and the board will be delighted with a home draw, too.
In non-Arsenal news, take a moment to have a wry smile at the sight of Adebayor arguing with a team mate on the pitch yesterday. Familiar sight, eh? Also, have a good old belly laugh at the goal Nani scored against Spuds last night. Shambolic, but hilarious because it happened to them. Hairy Rednob probably almost twitched his head off after witnessing that goal.
Finally, take six minutes to watch this touching tribute to Rocky.
That’s all for today folks. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.