part one of what is a very tricky threesome is out of the way and successfully overcome. Now we just have the trifling matter of a trip to Milan to play some team who have barely any pedigree in the Champions League and … erm … yeah.
Still, we should be boosted by what we did on Saturday. While there’s little in football as deflating as conceding a late goal to lose a game, there’s not much (beyond a trophy win) that a late winner can match. Add to that the fact that the we came from behind to do it and there’s all kinds of goodness to take from it.
It was noticeable when James McClean scored his goal that Thomas Vermaelen immediately put his hands to his head. It’s a normal reaction when you concede but given the number of times we’ve been on top then let one in you have to wonder if there was more to his head holding than just that. That it’s the second time in a couple of weeks that we’ve come from behind to win a game won’t do us any harm – especially when there’s still the issue of how often we concede. Some more clean sheets would be nice.
Obviously the impact of Thierry Henry on the pitch goes without saying, but Arsene Wenger says he’s been a big influence off it too:
We must say that he was on fantastic on the pitch and off the pitch in the dressing room. He has given us a big boost at Sunderland and against Leeds as well, so let’s hope we can continue like that.
He is intelligent and he has the respect of the players. He has done it before so they listen to his advice. He just has a helpful attitude and when you have done what he has done, players listen to you.
He was also very positive to keep the confidence level high, because we were in a bit of a crisis with losing three games. When you are a young player, the spirit drops quickly. He just tried to keep the spirit high in the camp.
Of course Henry isn’t the only experienced player in the dressing room, you’d look to the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, Sagna, Vermaelen, Roscicky and van Persie to have an impact too, but I guess nobody else comes with the reputation and history of Thierry Henry. The ironic part, if you can call it that, is that he never really faced a situation like the one we currently face during his time at the club.
Sure, there was the final season at Highbury when we battled for fourth and only won it on the final day, but that was a serious aberration for an Arsene Wenger team. It wasn’t so much about them not having the quality in the side, whereas this season you can’t help but wonder if we’re under-performing because we don’t have the players to get us through it.
Whatever impact he’s had off the pitch (and the youngsters have been quick to talk about how much they’ve enjoyed having him around), he has, more importantly, had an impact on it, and hopefully that will inspire them just as much. The lesson to take from Saturday is to never give it up, there’s always time enough for a goal and hopefully that’s something they’ll take with them through their careers.
Meanwhile, I imagine we’ll get some news on Per Mertesacker’s injury which looked quite worrying at the time. For a 6’7 centre-half to pop up in the air like something has to have gone badly wrong. I know there are those still unconvinced by him but I like him, he adds depth and experience to our squad and, frankly, the last thing we need right now is to lose any more players through injury.
You can argue all you want about Koscielny and Vermaelen being your preferred partnership, and there’s a good case to be made for that (on paper at least), but even if that’s the case I’d rather have a fit BFG to provide competition for places and back-up should anything go wrong. It’s hard not to the fear the worst though, so fingers crossed we get some good news on the injury front. Given the season we’ve had it’s hard not to think we deserve it.
Jack Wilshere is also having a scan this week to see how his injury is faring. From what I’m told this is fairly routine, there are no great expectations of anything being much better or much worse, but perhaps we’ll have a clearer time-frame as to his return once we get the results of that.
Finally, Gervinho returns this week having missed a penalty for the Ivory Coast in the final of the African Cup of Nations last night. There are those who will say he’ll come back a broken man, shorn of confidence, a heavy burden on his shoulders. Maybe he will but that’s football. While I feel sorry for him because he’s an Arsenal player, he’s got to put it behind him. He’s got a job to do here and that’s more important than any international tournament, to me at least. And who knows, maybe being thrust back into club football will do him the world of good.
Didn’t Drogba miss a penalty in a shoot-out in a final a few years back? It didn’t see to do him any harm when he came back to play for Chelsea, did it? And he might reflect on the fact that without his great semi-final goal they wouldn’t have got there (plus the fact that Kolo Toure missed a shoot-out penno too). It might sound harsh but there can’t be too many Arsenal fans who care that much about the tournament he’s returning from, they just want to see him do the business in red and white, and that’s what he’s got to concentrate on.
Right, have at it. Back tomorrow.