Heading into October, things have really started to get a touch on the tasty side. Pre-game, Spurs and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw at the Lane. I have to say, I wasn’t really impressed by either side. Spurs lacked pace to their game, Soldado who? Chelsea seemed to lack in lots of areas. How Mourinho can’t get that squad ticking over is a mystery. He even had to resort to bringing Mata back into the frame…
The Premiership took on two more violent twists that afternoon… Aston Villa took City down by 3 goals to 2. Then, to cap off a marvellous pre-1700 afternoon, West Brom took down United. Not just that, the Reds had a goal disallowed at Old Trafford at the death. Can you imagine that happening during the Fergie era?
So, we always arrive at a point like this in a season. It’s usually when we know we’re not ready to make a go of the league. Could this Arsenal side take down a good Swansea side away from home… with all the pressure on us?
Well, the answer was yes. It wasn’t easy. Swansea made things difficult for us, especially in the first half, but our class told when we came out in the second half and took a more direct approach to seal the win.
The first half was controlled in the main by Swansea who dominated possession like they normally do. Control the ball deep and try and pick out one of the pacey wide players. You wonder what sort of a day it’s going to be when Jonjo Shelvey controls the game. To be fair to him, he was excellent in patches against Liverpool. He doesn’t hide.
Despite their possession, we opened up with the first chance. Gibbs took a solo effort on out wide, breezing past his full back, flashing a dangerous ball across the 6 yard box… Giroud couldn’t connect. Our striker was fed in shortly after when Ozil turned superbly in the middle of the park, fed him in, but the cut back from the striker was a poor option and the play broke down.
Arsenal really weren’t at the races, especially in the final third. I felt Ozil went missing for large parts and Giroud wasn’t having a good day. He’s far more suited to playing against big beast defenders. When he’s played against players who play the game like Arsenal, he struggles a bit. He was played in after Gnabry cut inside and drove through the middle, he took a touch and dragged his chance harshly wide. A really bad miss. He should have hit the target at the very least.
There was a final bit of panic before half time played out… Chesney was tackled from a back pass by Michu, the Spaniard chased down the loose ball, our keeper watched it go out of play, Michu brought it in, our keeper gave up praying for the lino to flag, and the ball was flashed past our goal. The lino eventually raised the flag… the keeper was right… but jeez, there was some serious borderline arrogance. You always play to the whistle. Simple as that. Outside that, he was having a good game… it’s the moments of youthful madness that make you ponder his suitability.
The second half set off better for Chezzer… he raced off the line nice and early to see off a possible one on one. That early intervention was important. Our first goal came from some lovely Ramsey, Giroud (accidental) and Jack interplay… the Welshman played a reverse pass into the path of Gnabry, the young German powered a low drive into the bottom corner to open his account. A superbly taken goal and the icing on the cake of a really impressive 3rd game for the club.
The floodgates seemed to open after that. The next major chance fell to Ozil who found himself in acres of space with lashings of time… he elected to strike his shot at the near post and forced a good save. He really should have buried it. Still, we know the major weakness in his game is the goals. They’ll come though, for the time being, he’ll have to learn from Aaron Ramsey..
Oh, did I just spoil the next goal?
Jack Wilshere, who came to life in the second half, chased down a loose Aaron Ramsey blind flick, he slid, won it, released Giroud who back flicked it back to Jack… he powered on with the ball, passed to Giroud who laid of Ramsey in an area full of Swansea shirts, the Welshman looked up and smashed it home into the top corner. A splendid goal. 9 in 8? Something ridiculous.
*Also worth noting the second goal started when our keeper pulled a back pass back from behind the line… the ref missed it.
We still managed to make things difficult for ourselves. Poor Sagna tracking allowed their left back Davies to make his way into the area to connect with a Bony pass that he kneed past our keeper. A little disappointing to concede, but there you go.
We saw the game out. We didn’t have the strength from the bench to take off Giroud, which you’d have thought was a must. I don’t know the state of Nik B and his fitness, but our French talisman needs to be wrapped in all the cotton wool, bubble wrap and polystyrene protection we can find.
Final whistle blew, that was us done, top of the league by 2 clear points. 8 clear of United an 5 clear of City. Quite amazing. I know it’s only early days, but if you can’t get excited right at the moment… then give it all up. I’m going to be parading round the office on Monday, shirt off, covered in Arsenal face paint making as much noise as I can with a foghorn and one of those sixties rattle things.
… smugness just got serious. You know why? Because football is a cruel temptress and you just don’t know how long it’ll be before she drops you over her knee and spanks you back to reality in a way that is none too pleasurable.
We’re top of the league with a serious lack of first team players. Not many clubs could position themselves where we are missing Cazorla, Theo, Chamberlain, Podolski, Diaby (I joke) and Rosicky. We’re having a good run and sure, we were better off points and goals wise against the same sides last year, but we’re arguably weaker than we were squad wise. So it’s all evened itself out.
Our league destiny this year is decided by three things. We need a massive amount of help on the injury front. We’ve been dished out some bad luck so far, hopefully it won’t get much worse, but chances are, with our squad, it will do. Secondly, how we perform against top 6 sides is the major difference. Firstly, because over the last 5 years, we’ve been atrocious. We’ll never have a better season to put paid to that. City, Chelsea, United, Spurs and Liverpool are all in transition. The third key point, and this is something that has always let Arsene teams down… how we bounce back from disappointment. We’ll lose soon and it might come out of the blue. How we deal with that mentally is a massive challenge.
If we make progress on all three of those items, we should be well placed to have a good season.
Thoughts on the game?
Serge Gnabry looks a player. He’s only young, but mentally, he looks very strong. He’s German, of course he does right? He has a certain focus about him. A calm in his eyes that Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey didn’t have at the same age. He drove our attacking intent at times yesterday and he made a positive contribution with a very well taken goal. He’s a far better option than Gervinho already. That’s a seriously big compliment for a player so young.
Aaron Ramsey continued to be our most influential player on the pitch. He’s come on leaps and bounds this year. I remember writing a few years ago that I was told he covered the most ground in training, made the most tackles, had the most shots… so the raw ingredients have always been there, but mentally, he wasn’t quite mature enough in games. 2013 has seen a resurgence. Telling that he put his game down to being played in the right position when asked on Sky. He said that he’s worked hard and he struggled at times last season because he was put all over the place. Note that he didn’t blame his injury. This is a case of someone working hard and maturing. His injury had an impact on his progress, but the shackles being lifted on his game are down to him working on his game. A lot of credit needs to be give to him in this turnaround.
I think Flamini needs to be given a shout out for allowing Ramsey the freedom to control things. His pace and tenacity take some of the defensive burden off him. If you watch, when other teams are on the counter attack, Flamini almost drops into a centre back position. He has the pace to do that. Arteta isn’t naturally that guy and I think his mobility issues sometimes exposed us last season.
Our keeper has to be given a nod for another assured performance. He’s had a rocket put up his backside when Arsenal seriously considered replacing him. Viviano doing him the world of good. Bar the madness with the back pass, he had an assured game. He pulled of a very good saves late on. What he’s doing well this season is the basics. He’s calm from crosses and his kicking is getting much better. Bravo.
Onwards and upwards people, Napoli on Tuesday.