Morning all, the world does seem a nicer place this morning, eh? Amazing what a win will do.
The only surprise yesterday was the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey in place of the injured Cesc Fabregas and it would be correct to say he had a pharaoh game. Sorry. It might have been a big blow but the young Welshman put in the kind of performance that reminded people why he is so highly rated and why we’ve missed out on so much since he was Shawcrossed. 14 months after the incident and he’s looking more or less ready for first team action. You get the feeling with more games under his belt he’ll be even better too.
And he was just one of 11 who put in a real shift yesterday. Two wins would win the title for United but they were surprisingly lacklustre. There was little thrust from them, Song shackled Rooney very well and the other outlets, Park and Nani, were as quiet as they’ve been against us for some time.
We pretty much dominated the first half, kept the ball well, got behind their full backs a few times, and created some half chances. Wilshere dragged a shot just wide, Theo got on the end of a dangerous Clichy cross but put it over the bar, and those two almost combined only for Evra to clear at the back post. When United did create an opening Sagna’s defending was first class.
We should have had a penalty when Vidic clearly handled Walcott’s cross before it could find van Persie. He leapt, full length and tipped it away beautifully with his fingertips. A quite fantastic save, it has to be said, but as clear a penalty as you’ll see and probably a red card too. The linesman, looking straight at it, gave a corner. The ref, looking straight at it, also gave a corner. It was really poor officiating from Chris Foy and his assistant.
At half time Arshavin replaced the hamstring tweaked Samir Nasri. I thought he might add some attacking verve but instead he was sent on to carry out the enforcer role. He marshaled the left hand side of the pitch, sliding into tackles, winning the ball back and generally proving very annoying for United. That commitment in the challenge was obvious throughout the team as well, a bit more spike and physicality from us was great to see.
Then the goal. Ramsey played in van Persie down the right, continued his run, Robin played him in just inside the box and a first time shot went through the legs of Carrick and into the bottom corner. How can you not be anything but chuffed for him? He’s missed a lot of football because of that lumbering cunt-ox Lenny and to get a goal like that against United was no less than he deserved.
After that they seemed to perk up a bit. As you would expect but apart from a couple of free kicks, one of which forced an excellent save from SZCZ, and another save from Nani, they were nowhere near as dangerous as I expected them to be. Perhaps a combination of a bit of an off-day and a hard-working, determined Arsenal performance. The loss of Djourou might have been a big blow but Squillaci slotted in well alongside Koscielny who had a really excellent game at the back.
Late on United might well have had a penalty themselves. Clichy raked his studs down the back of Owen’s calf, Owen fell dramatically which might well have gone against him, and the ref waved play on. It was a bit heart in mouth, to be honest, that self-destruct button so nearly pushed, but United can’t have any complaints about that one considering what they got away with in the first half. We held on, dealt with injury time pretty well – although when the pressure’s on we need to find a better outlet than the opposition keeper – and I think we deserved the three points.
We had a good performance that had everything in it; discipline, fighting spirit and our usual passing game. Until we scored the goal, I feel we completely controlled the game. Then, because we have not won a lot recently, we tried to protect our advantage and were more under pressure. Overall, I believe we deserved to win the game.
It would be churlish to put the result and performance down to a lack of pressure having pretty much put ourselves out of the title race. There was pressure enough on them yesterday to respond and to show some character at home. I have to say I read some Arsenal fans suggesting they’d like to lose this game because it might precipitate change. I really can’t get my head around that at all. Did they not cheer the goal? Were they unhappy at the final whistle yesterday?
Whatever else has happened this beating United, and playing as well as we did, is something to be enjoyed. If you can’t then I don’t know if you’re ever going to get any pleasure from watching football. Unless being a miserable gets you off. The title is a step too far, I think, but with three games left we’ve got to keep going and finish as high as we can in the table.
It’s important that the spirit of yesterday’s performance is replicated in those final games too. Next up is Stoke away and there really should be no lack of character for that one. There’s certainly no love lost between the clubs, the fans or, I’m sure, the players after what happened last season, so standing strong and playing as well as we did yesterday would be great to see. That’s something we can ‘look forward’ to during the week.
We’ll await injury updates on Nasri (hamstring), Cesc (thigh) and Djourou (bad landing) and see what sort of shape we go there in. What odds for a Ramsey winning goal there too?
Highlights, interviews etc on the video page.
Finally for today, if you haven’t already seen it, some nice pics of the new home kit (click for bigger versions). Overall it’s nice, really not sure about the crest though. Still, that’s what we’ll be sporting when we win the league at a canter next season.
Meantime, have yourselves a good bank Holiday Monday. Till tomorrow.