A game of two halves is quite frankly a horribly unoriginal way to open a post but it perfectly positions the match report. The opening 45 minutes were so painfully flat the serial moaner behind us could barely muster the passion to abuse Gervinho as he struggled to stay balanced running without the ball (the moaner still left at half time).
There were occasional reminders there was a top class football match going on. Gervinho dragged a shot wide when hitting the target would have resulted in a goal. Cazorla fired a volley wide after connecting with a very precision Chamberlain cross.
It was surprising how much space the Spaniard was given and how little he was doing with it. West Brom played a very disciplined flat lined midfield. We lacked the confidence to turn and run with the ball which resulted in a very laboured process of working the ball up the pitch.
We were lucky not to go a goal down when Vermaelen fell asleep allowing Brunt a free shot on goal, which whistled just past the upright. I had the perfect view of it. It was close.
Gervinho was having a disaster. He finds space so many times in a game but his final ball and finishing is barely Championship most of the time.
Our opener ended up coming from a penalty. Jack played Cazorla into the box, the Spaniard cut the ball back and had his legs swiped (so I thought). Arteta stepped up, to much crowd trepidation and cooly slotted home down the middle
Our final chance of the half fell to Jack who failed to turn in a cross from 6 yards after Gervinho did well to craft a chance… Gazzaesque (Euro 96 semi).
The second half saw a different side emerge. A team full of fight, confidence and adventure. That had the fans on their feet singing and engaging in the match with far more passion.
The chances came thick and fast. Gervinho headed terribly wide after finding himself 8 yards out and unmarked. Jacks cross deserved more. The Ivorian was the centre of bad attention again, this time he was first to a Giroud knock down… From 7 yards he struck what looked like an air shot. His technique is so poor mainly because he has zero balance or poise.
Chamberlain who was having another anonymous game out on the wing helped secure our second. After losing the ball to the West Brom full back, he kind of pushed through their player, the West Brom chap toppled over, Chambo picked up the ball surged into the box and was badly tackled. Another penalty came our way. Initially Cazorla looked like he had it, then Giroud took the ball… Arteta took exception and wrestled it back and buried it. Giroud wasn’t interested in following in, he skulked off to the half way line. What an embarrassing show of ill discipline from someone older than 14. I don’t think they showed it on the highlights.
It was hilarious after that to see how much quicker Myhill was taking his goal kicks. Not as hilarious as Jack squaring up to Olsson who is about 2 feet taller and 4 stone heavier! The crowd loved it regardless of the mismatch.
The final talking point of the afternoon was Podolski missing from 6 yards out at the death! Wow. You don’t expect to see that from your £90k a week striker.
3 points is the most important thing that happened today. This is a big month, we simply have to capitalise on an easy run and start piling positive figures onto our miserable figures.
The first half was so bad the effort put in barely deserves a mention. What happened at half time is a mystery. Someone put a firework in the dressing room because the improvement was immense. Why can’t we start like that? Why do our players need to be reminded they have to turn up at home?
I’d say it’s an irrelevance, but it’s not, it’s an issue we’ve faced all year. Each turning point tends to just be an extra mile in a straight journey in the same direction. We need go break the cycle of bad starts and find our way from the off.
So onto the positives. Jack Wilshere has finally started to click back into gear. A hugely exciting performance from the young Englishman. What he gives you is bite and endeavour. If he can’t get to where he needs to be using finesse, he’s willing to go to war. His passing was slick today and in the second half he started to cover far more of the pitch than I’ve see all season. Left, right, through the middle… he was everywhere. When form is on its knees, sometimes the only way to gee up your team and support is to start some trouble… ruffle some feathers and see what happens. Jacks rough behaviour, though ill disciplined at times, had everyone on their feet. It showed he cared.
I didn’t find out until after the game that Cazorla dived. What can I say? I don’t approve of diving. I hate cheating, so it is what it is. Justifying it by pointing out other guilty culprits makes you look a moron. It’s bad he felt he had to do it and he’ll no doubt suffer with referees as a result. The media frenzy will be ridiculous as it always is when an Arsenal player takes a tumble.
Have we stopped talking about Pires yet?
Other positives were the defence. There were only two dodgy moments, one from Thomas and one from a handball in the box from Mertesacker. Outside that, the midfield did a really good job protecting the back 4. I thought Arteta had a very solid game and his cool head under pressure for both penalties was impressive. He’s the real leader of Arsenal. A clean sheet… nice one.
My other thoughts about today centred around Giroud, now, forgetting the sulky behaviour, I wonder if he’s enough for this Arsenal side? I like him. He is definitely a plan b striker. The sort we could have done with last year. Is he a number one? Does he offer enough to merit being a lead man in our system? Would I prefer him over Adebayor (once with all the nasty bits chipped away)? It’s a tough question. He would certainly look better playing alongside someone. He could make Theo a superstar, but that would involve Wenger conceding we perhaps don’t have the players for our current set up. He’s a good player. Is he every going to be a great player? He could be. I just feel a little underwhelmed with him at the moment. It’s hard to make your mark on this league without explosive pace or power.
I think one thing is for sure, we need a Diaby this winter window. We miss someone with pace in the middle. We miss a power house who can turn and lose 2 men in one slick move. That man will never be Diaby over a season. So we need to act sharp and bring in someone who can give us the same. A big ask, but that’s why we have a scouting network and a manager paid to find players like that.
This story finishes with a start. We need to build a run from here. Points, wins and guts is the only answer to the questions we’ve asked of the players and the management this season.
If there is anything factually wrong in the above, it’s because I don’t get replays and I don’t watch match of the day in the evenings. It’s difficult to take notes when you’re in the heat of a game.
Christmas cards anyone?