It’s a much more pleasant thing to write a blog about a win, without having to go over all the things that are wrong and how our players should be tied by their feet to hot air balloons and set adrift without even a GPS device to see where they end up.
The three points yesterday were well deserved, in my opinion. The players spoke about a response to two lacklustre performances and they provided one. The scoreline does not reflect the superiority of our display – especially when you take into consideration at least three glaring misses which you would normally expect a professional footballer to tuck away without too much trouble.
But first: the dive. Yes, it was one. No, it’s not nice. But I’m going to think of a number between 1 and 100, where 1 is the least shit I give and 100 the most, and see if you can work out which one I’ve picked. Does it make me a hypocrite? Probably. Again, I refer you to my give-a-shitometer and the needle is, unlike a certain winless Premier League manager, barely twitching.
I care about diving but only when I feel like it. I would prefer if our players didn’t do it, but then I also think it’s unfair to hold them to a set of standards that no other team lives up to. They all do it in one way or another and while it’s not necessarily a case of can’t beat them so join them, it’s not the end of the world either.
Well, not until someone dives against us – you know, like Gareth Bale in the derby last season to win a penalty that wasn’t – and then I will get out my flaming torches, sharpen up my pitchforks and go town with righteous indignation and outrage. It is the expediency of being a football fan. You hate certain things when they happen to you but when you get a goal out of it, that’s just part and parcel of the game.
Maybe West Brom feel aggrieved and unhappy about it. They probably do, but, you know, let those who wear stripes who are without sin cast the first stone from the moral high ground and all that. *cough* (cheers @braddos9). It was a dive, the ref was conned, the ref then ignored a clear foul on Cazorla early in the second half, but wasn’t sufficiently outraged himself not to award Arsenal another penalty later in the game. Life goes on.
Mikel Arteta took both penalties, putting them pretty much down the middle each time, and fair play to him for stepping up after missing the one against Fulham. Individual responsibility, leading by example, and so on. And although the goals came from the penalty spot, leaving some worried that we didn’t fashion much in open play, we definitely made the chances to win this game handsomely.
In the first half Gervinho set up Jack Wilshere who slid in and poked the ball wide from 6 yards. Gervinho himself had two good chances. One, a header, from the penalty spot which as you’ll expect went out for a corner to West Brom. And then late in the game, after a great knock-down from Giroud, he was in front of goal, with just the keeper to beat, but took an airshot like a hungover golfer. His gangly legs put one in mind of a new born foal, but one that is clearly the sire of Champion the Blunder Horse. At no point can you ever fault his effort or work all over the pitch, but his finishing leaves a lot to be desired.
To top it all off though, Lukas Podolski, on as a late sub for Cazorla, smashed one over the bar from 6 yards out … and as it was on his strong foot it has to go down as contender for miss of the season. So bearing all those spurned opportunities in mind, and accepting it’s a bit of a concern that we missed them, I don’t think there’s any real need to worry that we didn’t score from open play. We can complain if we don’t score but complaining that the goals we do aren’t the right kind of goals just seems a bit silly to me.
As a performance it was miles away from Swansea, thankfully. The team looked a bit fresher, Jack Wilshere set the pace early on with a brilliant driving run through midfield which showed exactly what we’ve been missing in recent weeks, and building that momentum early on was important. I also thought Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had his best game in a long time, almost as if the cobwebs had been blown off.
Overall, we controlled the game, not something we’ve done a lot of in the last few games, and never allowed West Brom to get a hold of it at any point. They had a couple of moments of danger, but that was it. Wojciech Szczesny had a very solid game in goal, did what he had to do well and kept a clean sheet, and in general this was much more like the Arsenal we all want to see.
Afterwards, Arsene said:
We created many chances, kept a clean sheet and have shown a great spirit, which many people questioned after our last game.
That’s all we could do, we did our job very well. That’s why I am proud of the victory today, because it is important for our season that when your backs are to the wall, the team responds.
Obviously it doesn’t mean all our problems are solved, nor that the team has answered all the questions posed of it, but it’s a decent step in the right direction and that’s as much as we could have hoped for yesterday.