Thursday, April 25, 2024

We won


Video, reaction and highlights.

If you didn’t see or hear yesterday’s game and simply checked about online afterwards to find out what had happened, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to assume that we had lost. Or not won. Such was the outpouring of grief post-game that the fact that we actually took three points was glossed over.

Was it pretty? No. Was it convincing? Far from it. Did we get a bit of luck? At long last, yes we did. But the most important question of all – did we get three points? Yes, yes we did.

The same three points we get for a 1-0 win as we’d have got for a 5-0 win. Complaints that we didn’t win well enough are, under the current circumstances, immensely petty and unnecessary. Of course there are concerns but you have to put this win into context. It’s only our third win in the last 15 league games. The last game we won in the league was on May 1st when we beat Man United 1-0. Before that it was Blackpool away.

This is a team under massive pressure with little in the way of confidence, coming into a game with new players who have only been at the club a couple of days in some cases, on the back of an 8-2 thrashing, and any expectation that the feelgood factor provided by the transfer market activity would instantly spark an on-pitch revival was misplaced.

I said it yesterday, we are going to have to fight and scrap our way into anything approaching form. Yesterday was the first bout, we might have ended up a bit bloodied, but we did what we had to do. Yesterday was never about performance. Would people have been happier if we’d played scintillatingly well and drawn/lost? I don’t think so.

Confidence and form is built far more on results than how you play. How many times have we spoken about how well we played but just couldn’t find the breakthrough? I’d really rather not be sitting here this morning trying to dissect one of those games. The importance of the points was paramount, it didn’t matter how we got them, once we did. And we did.

The goal itself was remarkable. The otherwise assured Vrom in the Swansea goal must have had something short-wire in his brain after he tried to roll the ball out to his defender. Perhaps he thought the player was not made of actual matter and expected the ball to simply pass through his legs and into his path, but sadly for him he was real flesh and blood.

It fell to Andrei Arshavin, just outside the box and first time, from an acute angle, he curled it home to make it 1-0. That was his first Arsenal goal since the game against West Brom on March 19th. You can say what you want about the keeper’s mistake, and it was a real howler, but that finish was not easy by any means, so credit to the Russian for that.

And, let’s face it, we ought to have scored more. Mikel Arteta was impressive on his debut, setting up a great chance for Aaron Ramsey after just a minute of the game. The Welshman’s shot was high and wide, he should have done better. Again Arteta’s eye for a pass saw Theo Walcott in behind but his effort was cleared off the line at the last minute. Late on, Marouane Chamakh forced a good save from Vrom but in the second half Arsenal really struggled as the nerves kicked in.

It seemed to be a case of what we have we hold, even if we’re not quite sure we can hold it. At the back we were solid enough though. Mertesacker looked assured while in goal Wojciech Szczesny showed why he was named player of the month, in a month in which we conceded a mountain of goals. Early on he made a quite brilliant save from a point blank toe-poke, and when we were under pressure in the second half he dominated his area, coming for crosses and corners, catching and punching with real confidence.

It would have been cruel then had his only error of the game cost Arsenal two points. An injury time corner was the only thing he missed all day and when Danny Graham turned and shot from 6 yards I expect everyone was fearing the worst. Somehow he managed to spoon it over the bar, and that was the bit of luck we needed and, after everything that’s happened recently, deserved.

Afterwards, Arsene said:

We know that confidence goes quickly and comes back slowly. You could see in the second half that we just wanted to get over the line and we didn’t make a mistake.

When you don’t win you have a deep problem, that’s for sure. The longer it lasts, the deeper the problem becomes. As soon as you win things are different.

I know we live in a world where reactions are instantaneous and expectations are high but I really think we need to step back and look at where this Arsenal team is. This has been the worst run of form under Arsene Wenger since he took over in 1996. Apparently, our start to the season is the worst in 20 years. This comes on top of our collapse last season and our run of draws and defeats, with the odd three points thrown in, has been confidence sapping and dismal.

Now, I’m not trying to make any excuses for that. You know that by any standards, let alone the ones set by Arsene during his time at the club, it’s been pretty bad and there is certainly criticism warranted for it. However, you can’t on one hand criticise because we’ve been so poor and then totally ignore that poorness when we take a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction.

You just don’t stop being poor overnight and revert to the slick, fun to watch team you’ve been before. It takes, and it will take, a lot of hard work, a lot of grinding out games, a lot of discipline and effort, and it probably won’t be pretty to watch for a while. It’ll need some patience too and as long as the results are right I think that’s entirely warranted.

Nobody’s blind enough to suggest yesterday was brilliant or that we’ve turned a corner. Nobody’s saying  we don’t still have issues. But at the same time nobody should ignore the fact that we all wanted the same thing from yesterday, three points.

We got three points. Let’s see how we go from here.

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