It’s always a great time when Arsenal win and Spuds lose. And, when that happens in the very same match – the game that should have been named the North London-Middlesex Derby – the whole Universe finds balance and peace.
It wasn’t an easy game. Our opponents have spent more than 100 million euros since the opening day of the transfer window and two narrow victories at the start of the Premiership suggested that they might fill the huge Gareth-Bale-shaped hole in their team. Of course, one might suggest (and wouldn’t be wrong) that two narrow victories that came from two penalties and no goals scored from open play suggest that it’ll take time for the new Spuds’ signings to gel with their new team-mates.
And, like facing Soldado, Paulinho et al wasn’t enough, our challenge became even tougher with the injuries that have plagued our team since the season started. I don’t know whether it has had something to do with our new fitness-coach or with a curse that has been thrown at us at some point, but it sounds unreal that we don’t have enough senior players for the match and it’s only Week 3. A long-term injury to Lukas Podolski was another blow for our already thin squad but it wasn’t the latest blow before the game kicked off. Sagna was ill so he couldn’t occupy his place on the right side of defence, while Wilshere started despite being sick too.
And, again, we managed to win the game. It was a brilliant finish from Giroud that turned out to be the crucial moment of the match and it’s great that the Frenchman has been consistent in scoring goals so far (touch-wood). Our goal was a bit of blue-print for all our dangerous attacks until the end – huge pockets of space between Spuds’ central defenders and full-backs allowed Cazorla and Rosicky to find the space for a good pass, in most cases to Walcott. We could do better with our finishing but Lloris gave an exceptional performance.
Still, it was our defending that saved the victory from Spuds’ attacks. Koscielny and Mertesacker were excellent again and took a good care of Soldado, Dembele and others who tried to do something down the middle. The main problems for our defence came from our left side where Townsend – who gave an excellent performance against us while playing for QPR last season- had a lot of space and time to make dangerous Robben-like cut-ins and shots that Szczesny managed to save. At the end of the match, when Spuds threw everything at us (including their new signing Lamela), it was the entire team defending that kept us a clean sheet and three points. It was the same kind of defending we saw during our brilliant run-in where Olivier Giroud is our first line of defence. Granted, it wasn’t pretty to watch all those attacks from Spuds in injury time but there was a lot of respect for an Arsenal shirt from those who wore it on the field and that’s the most important thing.
Today’s victory was mostly about team spirit but there should be a word or two about some individuals as well and I’ll go with those who might not get the attention they deserve.
Mathieu Flamini is a signing that might turn out to be a great reinforcement for us and not just because he played well today. He might be rusty with today’s game being the first one for him since May but let’s not forget he is a young veteran (29) who – unlike any of his team-mates – actually has won trophies with Arsenal (Community Shield 2004, FA Cup 2005) and was a member of the 49’ers (players that participated in the 49-match-unbeaten run) and his versatility was an important weapon in the 2005-06 Champions’ League campaign during which he participated as left full-back in a rock-solid Gunners’ defence. In the absence of Arteta, Flamini’s experience might prove to be crucial to balance our midfield.
Tomas Rosicky has been a lion so far. He fights for every ball and the fact he went through the whole pre-season without any serious injuries made him stronger and more determined. His ball for Walcott was one of the most important moments that happened today but what I like mostly about his game so far is his never-say-die attitude. Injuries and tactics forced him to play deeper than he is used to but he is still one of the most reliable players Arsene Wenger has under his command.
Wojciech Szczesny didn’t have the best intro into the season but ever since that nasty afternoon against Anthony Taylor and Aston Villa he’s been nothing short of brilliant. Two clean sheets against Fenerbahče, string of wonderful and important saves against Fulham and a confident performance against Spuds… With our cheeky Pole at this level of form, we shouldn’t worry about a goalkeeper position for at least a decade.
Theo Walcott is still searching for his shooting boots but he is creating assists on a regular basis. Four assists from five matches isn’t a bad contribution and goals will come sooner or later. He scored 21 times last season and some of those came after similar shots like the one he had in the first half of today’s game (goals against United and QPR spring to mind) but world-class goalkeepers like Lloris require much better finishing technique-wise.
And, a word or two for the manager. I’m not the happiest man around with his handling of the transfers but he proved again that he has Andre Villas-Boas’ number. Wenger used his resources in the best possible manner today and that paid off. Although I agree with his point about Flamini at the press-conference, he should know that our squad is too thin to handle all challenges that are ahead of us – the tough Champions’ League group with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Olympique Marseille will require our best team on the pitch in every game and after each one is an away game in the Premiership waiting for us.
My question is:
Shall we materialize this victory over Spuds and add some top-class players, Mr Wenger?