There are some Sunday mornings when the temptation to post: “We won, enjoy. See you tomorrow” is quite intense. This, I will freely admit, is one of those mornings. But hey, I’m here now, and it’s already too late to do that, so I might as well just crack on.
A fine win away from home yesterday keeps us level with Man City on points at the top of the table, and another clean sheet did our goal difference some good. It was a game that reminded me of the the Watford one a few weeks back. We had chances to go ahead – Giroud and Campbell curling efforts off-target when they probably should have done better (the former in particular) – but then so too did Swansea.
There was a moment in the first half when Bafétimbi Gomis, who for the rest of the game played like a man who had just received his masters from the Emmanuel Adbayor School of Offside, actually figured out how it worked and found himself through on goal. He really should have scored but when Petr Cech stood up and didn’t make it easy for him he dallied and dithered, then dither-dallied a bit more, which allowed the amazing Hector Bellerin to get back and nick it off his toe. Look at the ground he makes up.
There’s so much to love about the young Spaniard but the fact that he chased back there, when plenty would have stood and watched and hoped, is the best thing about him. The reward for his effort was to make a tackle that prevented us going behind, and the game taking on a different complexion. That defensive desire was there again in the second half where, despite an offside flag, he stopped a ball on the line before crashing into the post.
To me he’s like a dog. And I’ll explain that by saying that when you get a dog who is ace, there are these moments when you wish he’ll never get older, that he could just stay the age he is forever. And I feel a bit like that with Hector. If he could just be this Hector until the end of time that’d be great. It’d also mean our right-back position is sorted for a long, long time, but hey.
As at Watford, the game was won in the second half. Four minutes into the second period and we were ahead. After a few corners, Giroud hid behind Mertesacker, used him to propel himself into space, and when the ball came in from Mesut Ozil he nodded it into the bottom corner. If you look at the replays his movement is really, really smart, and the finish was one that he made look simple.
Swansea looked to hit back quickly and put some immediate pressure on. That was dealt with Cech who again showed his quality and experience by swatting away one attack, making a good save from some bloke’s shot, and then palming away from a dangerous corner. The benefit of having a really good goalkeeper seems obvious, but it’s still feels almost surprising that we’ve got one.
This recent habit we have of scoring, then scoring again pretty soon after, is a very nice one, and we did it again yesterday. When Lukasz Fabianski Fabianski-d a cross, allowing Laurent Koscielny to slot the ball home for his second goal in as many games, that probably would have been enough to see the game out. But then Mesut Ozil decided he hadn’t been assisty enough and set up a third.
The build-up play which saw him get into the inside-left position and fizz a ball across goal was lovely. The fact that the ball came to Joel Campbell, who took a touch and curled in a shot to the far post, was even lovelier. This was his first Premier League start for the club – it may have come by default with so many players injured, but he played really well yesterday. He worked hard on that right hand side, doubling up well with Bellerin on Montero, and the goal was just reward for his efforts.
It was a goal which made a game we probably would have won anyway completely safe. It meant another three points, and our sixth clean sheet in eleven Premier League games. For all the attacking flair we have, I’m enjoying this defensive parsimony. Long may it last.
Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:
We had a difficult first half but we came through it. I rested eight players on Wednesday and gave them a little breather this week, and it took us a little while to get into the tempo of the game. I am pleased because we could keep a clean sheet during the difficult moments of the game and you are never in a hurry to take too many risks going forward. Once we scored the first goal it was a completely different game.
Maybe what’s most pleasing is that it wasn’t what you’d necessarily call a great performance. There were one or two players who didn’t play as well as they can, but it was a thoroughly functional display with exactly the right outcome. We needed a win, we got that. We didn’t concede. A guy given a chance in team because of injury absences stepped up, played well and got himself a nice goal. You can’t ask for much more than that, especially when you remember that we played a team that beat us home and away last season.
I don’t want to talk about the title, it’s way too early, but we know from seasons past that these are the kind of wins you need to give yourself a chance. That was very pleasing. So too was the fact that even with one or two a little below par, others stepped up, Ozil in particular with two assists is really having a significant impact on this team.
Now, it’s Sunday. We won. See you tomorrow when James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you, and we can start looking ahead to the midweek Champions League action.
Have a good one.