Last night Arsene Wenger used the tactics he should have exercised against Fulham last week. He loaded the team with capable second string players, dashed it with a bit of youth but most importantly, he left some explosive pace and class on the bench. Those heading into the ground yesterday may have been disappointed Thierry didn’t start but that was tempered with the excitement sight of seeing Oxlade on the wing.
Andrey set tone with three early chances, Chamakh providing the best from outwide which saw the Russian blaze over from a central position. Ignasi had a freekick headed wide by Squillaci. One thing you can’t knock the Frenchman for is his nose for getting on the end of a set piece.
Arsenal were using the width of the pitch really well for once, we created a number of solid chances, the best coming when Arteta was played in by Rambo after some smart interchanges, his shot teasingly hit the outside of the post.
Down our end some indecisive defending form Miquel and Koscielny let Leeds in for a shot that was put over.
Chamakh summed up his threat in front of goal when he was played in from outwide, he was flagged offside, but still contrived to stick his six yard tap in over the bar (do bear in mind I haven’t seen the game on TV and I was down the other end).
Coquelin made things interesting on 35 when he hobbled off with an injury. He was replaced with Yennaris.
We went in level at half time, I said to the people around me the last thing we needed was Thierry coming onto save the day. I wanted the players we had on the pitch to prove a point by showing a bit of initiative and class.
Well the second half started with more vigour. Oxlade showed his skill with a surging run that ended in an effort just wide of the post. Andrey also shot wide after being fed in by Miquel. Arteta slipped a passed shot at the bottom corner after Chamakh laid of an immaculate 3 yard pass, the Leeds keeper did well to get down and save.
I felt like inept performances were conspiring to set the stage for the king to return. You don’t believe I thought that? Well, I tweeted it…
Andrey beat his man outwide, flew at the byline and crossed to an empty box. I screamed, ‘where is Chamakh?, the guy next to me said, ‘he should be at the ACN’… At the time I thought that was hilarious. On reading back, not so much!
Anyway, the crowd began to buzz, Thierry stood on the touchline. The ball took an age to leave the pitch, when it did, Walcott was first on, then the red carpet camera flashes pinged like mini fire works, a hero had returned, the crescendo of cheers erupted… he was back!
Within minutes you could see the visible difference in the intelligence of the runs he was making. He straight away looked more mobile, which considering his age was an utter slap in the face of Chamakh’s inability. Alex Song perked up, he floated a long ball into Thierry that was just a touch too far. In typical Thierry fashion, he didn’t clap the ball. Song had to do better. On 86 minutes he did, he picked out his run perfectly, one touch for Thierry and bang, curled into the bottom corner.
Goal 227 and our first of the night. You’ve never seen so many people hugging and back slapping. It was like a hippy festival of love.
Leeds tested a few nerves at the end, but no one was going to spoil Thierry day. The whistle blew, the crowd roared and burst into Thierry’s song! Most who attended hung about to salute his return! Walking back to the pub was amusing because of the crazy amount of man love going on outside the ground as well. Joy is a beautiful thing. The King was back and we all loved it!
I guess we learnt a few things last night. Namely that your career isn’t over at 30. Experience and class are so very, very important especially when trying to split a tight game that should never have been tight. We also learned that the crowd respond well to heroes. Since moving to the Emirates we haven’t had much in the way of that. The buzz of a new player will never match the one for Henry, but I bet it would come close. If we felt like that, how did the players feel? That squad needs help, it needs an injection of quality and it needs it for longer than 6 games.
Our second string played as we expected them to. There were some stand out performers. Arteta had a blinder. His class and resilience was on show for all to see. I thought Ramsey was excellent. How anyone can knock a player with his tenacity and drive is beyond me. Once that finishing improves he’ll be a force. Even Andrey put in a shift. It’s default to exacerbated by him, but he worked hard last night and deserved
more. Did you see him get geed up by Thierry? Finally a man who can motivate Andrey!
I also thought Yennaris did well. Going forward he was totally unfazed. He held his own and you hardly noticed his youth bar the fact my sister is bigger built than he is.
Our problem was true defence splitting creativity. With that though you need defence splitting movement. For me, Chamakh doesn’t have that in his locker. We need more sparkle in midfield and we need a long term solution to our back up strikers who are clearly not Arsenal quality.
So in the end, we lived out the cheesiest American sports movie ending you could conceive. Actually, the cheesiest ending I can concieve is Thierry scoring the winner against Spurs before leaving us… Sorry, my point being, we loved it regardless of the flaws it flagged in the current squad. I just hope Wenger wasn’t overawed by the occasion, I hope he sees that he’s treading a dreadfully wobbly tightrope that could end in us falling out of the top four… something tells me he can’t see what we see.
Onwards and upwards, Villa next at home in the cup, hopefully we can put together a nice run because we all love the cup!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’LeGrove’ show_count=’yes’]
Happy Tuesday! See you in the comments!