Last night was the fourth time in four games that we’ve conceded the first goal to West Ham, and the fourth time we’ve come back to win. As I mentioned on yesterday’s blog, it was always going to be tough against an Allardyce team under these specific circumstances, but we did what we had to.
I watched the second half of the game on delay, so some thoughts assembled in a slightly different manner.
Our start and their goal
After the weekend, we began as slowly as expected and West Ham looked quite dangerous in the early stages. Still, I thought we came back into it well, at one point it was like somebody had flicked a switch to make our passing 50% more zippy. We should have been ahead then they scored.
And what a typically Arsenal goal to concede. They got a bit of a lucky bounce from a cross and Jarvis headed home at close range. I think we should probably be glad this morning that he did it successfully. Laurent Koscielny almost took his head off with a high boot trying to clear. If he’d got the man, it could easily have been a penalty and a red card, and a very untimely suspension.
I’ve said plenty of times he’s not the best striker in the world; nor is he the worst. He’s become the focal point for frustration, and I suppose as the only striker in the team that’s understandable to extent. His failed attempt in the first half was atrocious, it was there to be hit with his right foot, instead he tried to be too cute with the outside of his left.
However, lesson learned. His second half goal to put Arsenal ahead was nothing short of superb. He was being bumped and bashed all over the place by Andy Carroll and Winston Reid, his first touch was sublime and he cracked it between the keeper’s legs with the right foot he ignored earlier in the game. It’s as good a goal as he’s ever scored for us, I reckon, and what an important one too.
It would be nice if there was a certain amount of moderation, rather than extremism about him. He’s got 20 goals, only one assist fewer than Mesut Ozil, and while I certainly accept his limitations and believe we can and should upgrade in the summer, there are people who refuse to acknowledge any of his qualities, which is a bit of a shame.
Didn’t celebrate with much exuberance despite the two hugely important goals, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Every time he comes up for discussion I’m reminded of what Arsene Wenger said about him when he was out injured earlier this season:
You always have the feeling that he is 80, 90 percent there, but you want him to give 100 per cent and then he’ll be world class. There’s more to come from him.
Two fantastic finishes last night, and what better way to respond after being taken off during the Wembley showpiece? If his goals don’t feel like enough for him to celebrate, then fine. I’m happy if it means we get a player who is more focused, more driven and determined to perform to a level I think many people believe he’s capable of. He seems too content to let games drift by without having an impact, and if what happened against Wembley had an impact, then it’s positive so far.
Despite his high boot antics, it was great to have Koscielny back alongside Per Mertesacker (even if the absence of Gibbs and Monreal meant we had our entire complement of centre-halves playing last night). There’s just much more assurance in the way we defend.
In front of them Kallstrom and Arteta did well, while Santi Cazorla buzzed around, much more like the Cazorla of old. With good news on the injury front regarding Mesut Ozil, and with Aaron Ramsey back and effective almost straight away, it augurs well for the next month or so.
It was always going to be a test of character as much as anything else, and having gone behind, to come back and win with almost aplomb showed enough of it. To me they looked exhausted and lethargic at first, and that’s hardly a surprise considering the 120 minutes at Wembley, but we scored three very good goals to ensure we took three very important points and went back into the top four.
I always felt this game was going to be crucial to our hopes of getting the required results in these last Premier League games. I think there are enough positives to take from this one to feel a bit more confident going to Hull at the weekend. Goals for Podolski and Giroud will do them good, and as I mentioned having injured players like Ozil, Koscielny and Rosicky gives us the options and depth we’re going to need.
Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said of his team, which had an average age of 29+:
It was a gamble but I said before the game as well that it was the oldest team certainly that I’ve ever played at Arsenal. I trusted the experience of the players because… tonight it was an unusual around-30 team, and that experience of course helps when you are a little bit backs against the wall.
In truth, it wasn’t so much a gamble as an absolute necessity. He really didn’t have any choice but to play the team he did. And maybe that wasn’t so bad, all things considered. The experience counted, and when we had to dig deep and graft out a result, we did it well.
Job done, onto the next one. Till tomorrow.