So the progress and the momentum continued yesterday with a win so routine it made you sit up and realise how long it’s been since we won a game quite so easily. Having beaten us here last season West Brom clearly decided that was enough and really didn’t offer much at all. I was a little concerned initially as they sat back, as expected, denying us any space to use the pace of Walcott and Gervinho, and it is a system that has stifled Arsenal in the past.
It requires total concentration though and when they switched off for just a moment Arsenal were clever enough to take advantage. Aaron Ramsey’s pass split the left hand side of the West Brom defence wide open, Walcott’s pace took him into the box and although Foster saved his shot Robin van Persie (who else?!) was there to bash home the rebound. That was his 11th goal in 11 league games and [insert superlative of choice here – then double it].
They did have one dangerous moment in the first half, a cross from the right found Jerome Thomas in the box with a relatively clear sight of goal but Koscielny didn’t buy his trick and robbed him before he could work Szczesny. Our second came after a corner was half-cleared, Song’s pass found van Persie at the back post, he drove it back across goal and the onrushing Thomas Vermaelen gobbled up his first goal since Stoke away on that fateful night in 2010.
We had chances to go further ahead in the second half. Foster saved from Song and Gervinho, Vermaelen headed inches wide from a corner and Aaron Ramsey shot wide after a lovely touch and turn inside the box. The third goal was pure Arsenal though, perhaps a sign the team is really beginning to gel too. Robin picked up a pass from Song, turned beautifully away from his marker, played it to Rosicky and kept going into the box before laying off the return pass to Mikel Arteta who stuck it into the bottom corner. Definitely the goal of the match and it was nice to see us score like that again.
If it wasn’t already the game was certainly over then and it was late in the game when Szczesny had his first save to make – a header from a corner which he should be dealing with comfortably enough. Afterwards Arsene said:
Overall it was a controlled performance where we had complete domination of the game. It was a good pace in the first half – in the second it was a little bit off – but we were never really in trouble. We are getting stronger and overall it is a positive afternoon. We scored five goals last week, three goals today and didn’t concede.
We have a positive goal difference for the first time this season, that’s two clean sheets in a row, and although van Persie was involved in both the goals he didn’t score, someone else scored them. In terms of performance I thought it was controlled and professional and to me that’s very encouraging. The confidence is obviously returning and I think there’s a real relationship building with our midfield trio of Ramsey, Song and Arteta which is great to see.
The Spaniard got a goal for his efforts and I’m pleased for him. He seems to have settled in really well now and, over the last few weeks, has been doing a very important, if unshowy job in midfield. I think he’s more naturally inclined to go forward but has curbed that instinct – most likely under orders, in fairness – to provide a fulcrum in midfield. He keeps the ball and he keeps the ball moving. It’s not spectacular but it’s so important.
And without wanting to overhype Aaron Ramsey at all, we’re beginning to see him make the kind of incisive passes that we’ve missed since Cesc left. I’m not comparing the two but yesterday’s ball to Walcott was exactly the kind of pass Fabregas made, and if you look back over the last few weeks you can see the impact the Welshman is starting to have.
Defensively we were very solid, the Vermaelen/Koscielny partnership looked good without ever really being tested, and I have to give some props to Carl Jenkinson at right back. If you look at the By the numbers post you’ll see he had a pass completion rate of 93% and if we were the kind of team that thrived on good crosses from out wide then I’m sure he’d have had an assist or two yesterday. The quality of the balls he whips in is just fantastic, every single time, and it’s great to see him developing. Even Arsene said:
Today he had a very interesting game with the quality of his defending and the quality of his crossing. The pace of his improvement is very interesting. His energy levels are absolutely amazing.
He’s still got lots to learn but it seems pretty obvious that he’s learning and learning quickly. Other than that you can’t be anything but pleased with the result, the performance and that we’ll now go into the Interlull on the back of a good run – that one flukey defeat at that place aside. Naturally the Interlull comes at a time when we’d least want it but when you look at the league fixtures following it – Norwich (A), Fulham (H), Wigan (A), Everton (H) – the chances, if we continue to work hard, of picking up where we left off are pretty good.
We’ll just have to keep everything crossed that the players who go away come through their games without any problems or maimings, and that when the real football resumes we’re playing with a full deck again. Anyway, that there’s little else to say or to analyse is no bad thing really, the peace and serenity of winning games is very welcome indeed.
Final proof reading of the book to be done today, will announce details of the contributor list, the launch and everything else early this week. For now, it’s bacon time.