The tale of two summers played out on the Emirates pitch yesterday. A cadre of expensive, glamorous signings against a threadbare rag-tag gaggle of Gooners, and the good guys won.
For all the money spent, Sp*rs looked a bit disjointed. It’s easy to see how, with time, they’ll be better, but yesterday our relationships and understanding of teammates made the difference. They had more of the ball but did little of any danger with it. And when we created the best opening of the game, we had a striker in form ready to finish it off.
It began with this nonchalant tackle from Per Mertesacker, went through Cazorla, Ramsey, Rosicky and then Walcott before being finished in style by Olivier Giroud. The quality of the build up was matched by the deft, controlled poke inside the near post, and the Handsome French Bloke looks like he enjoys a derby goal at home. He’s scored in the last two meetings and while the 3rd in a 5-2 spanking is always nice, the only goal in a classic 1-0 to the Arsenal was delicious.
Arsene Wenger was right to point out afterwards that Hugo Lloris was by far the busier keeper. For all of their possession we were the ones who created the chances. A couple of times a better final ball or a softer touch would have turned those openings into goals, but Lloris was the one having to charge out of his area to make tackles and fling himself about to stop goal-bound efforts.
At the other end Szczesny was solid, claiming crosses when they came in, but also made the save of the game late in the 2nd half. Defoe’s shot deflected off Koscielny, wrong footing the Pole, but he dived full length to tip the ball away. After a shaky, but not horrendous game against Villa, he’s been outstanding since and is, hopefully, showing exactly why the manager has backed him as his number 1 this season.
There was a return for Mathieu Flamini who replaced the unwell Jack Wilshere late in the first half. His first involvement was to clatter a Sp*rs player and win us a free kick in the process. He barked orders, pointed, organised and although he looked a little off the pace (as you’d expect from a player who hasn’t played since May and really doesn’t know his teammates that well) his presence was vital. Opportunistic as his signing was, it doesn’t alter the fact it was one we really needed.
I thought the back four were solid throughout, although both full backs had some early scares, and once again Aaron Ramsey in midfield was brilliant. His passing, like a number of Arsenal players, was a little off as we failed to find a proper rhythm, but his lung-busting running and work in that area was so important. If he lost it he was running hard to win it back straight away.
For me though, man of the match was Giroud. Aside from the goal he worked as hard as I’ve seen any striker work for us, at both ends of the pitch. He won plenty of headers, held it up well and fashioned a great chance for Theo Walcott, while defensively he won headers, chased back, made tackles, and was there in our box to deal with things when Sp*rs got forward.
I get that he still has to convince some of his quality, but when you see a player put in a shift like that, and win the game with a finish so good folk would be creaming themselves over a bigger name if they’d pulled it off, you can do nothing else but give the man all the credit he deserves. Whether it’s him just feeling more comfortable in his second season, responding to the threat of a new striker, or both, it doesn’t matter. He’s got 4 goals in 5 games and looks a much more complete player this season.
The game ended with them piling on the pressure as you’d expect. There was some aerial head-tennis, some goalmouth scrambling as we defended backs to the wall – much like the run-in last season – and I can’t have been the only one amused to Vilas Boas turn into the Portuguese Tony Pulis, screeching at his diving full-back to launch a long throw into the box Delap style. The beautiful £100m game, eh?
Afterwards, Arsene said:
Overall it was a convincing win in a very intense game. It was a bit uneven technically, we had moments where we lost some balls that we don’t usually [lose], but in the end we hung on. There were aspects to our game that people are not used to seeing from us – that means commitment, desire, defending. Their keeper was their best player, and that shows we had the chances to win really comfortably.
In the end it was the more cohesive team that won out. The fact we weren’t trying to fit a load of new signings into the team meant our football was more effective, and you have to give huge credit to the players for the way they’ve responded to the opening day defeat.
We’d played four games, won all four, conceded just one goal while scoring nine, and we’ve just shattered the hearts of the tiny Totts who were clearly hoping to use a derby win to soften the blow of announcing Bale’s departure to Madrid. Instead, they got beaten and then had to tell the world they’re losing their best player. We made that worse for them, and it’s fantastic.
Of course, that doesn’t negate our need to do business today. Arsene Wenger said afterwards he might have a ‘good surprise’ in the transfer market, and last night various reports said a deal was in the offing for Real Madrid’s Mesut Özil. He’s just one of the players linked with us and if it’s true it would be a staggeringly exciting signing, one almost worth waiting all summer for. Almost!
So, let’s hope that the hard-fought win yesterday, carried out in real Arsenal style, was the baking of the cake and what happens today, before 11pm, is the icing. We might even dare to dream of a cherry on top (and if it gets really good we could see some stem action too).
We’ve got a Transfer Deadline Day live blog running throughout the day on Arseblog News. Check it out, bookmark it, and stick with us for all the info, rumour and, hopefully, action until the window closes tonight. It also works through our main live blog page and in the apps (there’s a mobile version too), so you’ve got no excuse not to be up to date all day long.
Come on Arsenal. DO IT.