Morning, delicious and ebullient individuals.
Recently, I was discussing my beloved team’s fortunes with a friend of mine and I used the following point; Arsenal have not played exceptionally well for quite a while. Now, that might sound like a fairly strange thing to say, but it’s something I stand by absolutely, and a statement intended to highlight a very good thing.
Yesterday at St James’ Park we battled and dug our heels in to get a very, very good result. Resolute defending and togetherness against a side capable of giving anyone a game is what saw us past the finishing line. Yet, we didn’t play well. Our attacking players created little and there was a litany of unnecessary blunders and the cheap giving away of possession – Szczesny was almost left with egg splattered all across his face when he adopted a blasé approach to clearing the ball. Oh, silly Wojciech… Please stop doing that. Please. One of these days, you’re not going to get away with it.
The point I’m making here is this; we can perform better, create more chances and take greater control of games. And we will. As the season progresses, the sign of any team with title aspirations is the ability to pick up results without performing to the high levels they are capable. Leaving our best form until the final few months of the season will certainly see us genuinely in contention if we continue to pick up results like yesterday’s.
That’s not to say I thought we were appalling at Newcastle. The combination of Mertesacker and Koscielny at the back was absolutely magnificent, and even with my unabashed bias, I still feel I can say they are comfortably the best central defensive partnership playing in England at present. The two compliment each other perfectly; one has the wise head and the other the verve and exuberance. Aside from the blot on the copybook at Manchester City, our succession of good results owes as much to the solid defensive performances of those two – and the rest of the back 5 – as it does anyone else.
One person due a mention is Tomas Rosicky. He was astounding yesterday. His contribution might not have been up to his usual standards, but to see a player his age keep running and closing down until the 90th minute was a sight to behold. Where does he get the energy? I’m only a couple of years older, and I doubt I could run 300 yards to the shop without taking a couple of breaks, let alone do it for a full match in the Premiership. Perhaps he’s a touch Benjamin Button? Could be – we should definitely being offering him a contract if that’s the case.
Lastly, we come to that hulking brute of smouldering French discontent that is Olivier Giroud. Nobody quite does exasperated flaps and wails of sorrow like Olivier, do they. Recently, he’s found himself on the business end of quite the amount of snarky vitriol and angry keyboard warriors irritated becuase he didn’t cost £50m and isn’t the second coming of Thierry Henry.
It’s often overlooked how much he does on the pitch. As someone whose name escapes me recently stated, “His contribution to the team will only truly be appreciated when he isn’t there”. I concur. Olivier might lack the speed, grace and ostentatious technique of his predecessors, but he is a valuable member of the team, and I don’t give a f**k what any of you bitter souls have to say as an argument. I was genuinely delighted he bagged the winning goal, and, again, whilst I can’t put forward a case for it being a vintage Giroud performance, he never stopped trying.
With a bit of luck, the confidence that has deserted him in recent weeks is on some way to being replenished. Goals will have that effect on strikers. He still needs some help up there, and Arsenal certainly would benefit from being able to deploy someone with the ability to mix things up and offer an altogether different threat to opponents. However, Giroud being our first choice striker doesn’t fill me with the dread it does others. I’ve always liked him as a player.
That’s all for today, folks. We will see out 2013 as the top team in the Premiership, and whilst that counts for nothing, it’s still a good place to be. Reservations about a title challenge aren’t unfair or disparaging at this point, but why not dare to dream? There are plenty of elaborate twists and turns to be navigated between now and the final day in May. Regardless of what the so-called experts may tell you, we’re in with as good a chance as anyone else.
You know the drill, boys ‘n’ girls. Take a moment to pop down some of your thoughts in the comments below. Tell me what you thought of the performance and who stood out amongst the players. I shall look forward to flicking through your responces. I might even respond to a few if I’m feeling chatty.
As always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.