You can’t classify these types of games as easy can you. Arsenal also played their part by making it hard for themselves. From being in total control of the match, a silly mistake and then we had to dig deep for the rest of the game. Just a month over a year that saw the last Arsenal player being sent off, this just had to happened. Thomas Vermaelen becomes the first Arsenal player to be sent off this season but we held on for the 3 points and moved back to the top of the pile, although that may only last for less than 24 hours. It was a day to be proud of the players as we fought against being a man less and emerged victorious.
For the sending off incident, Vermaelen switched off and allowed Franco to slip away from him and from that moment on, was always going to be second to the ball. A soft penalty but there should be no arguments about it. It may not have been a real goal scoring chance for the West Ham striker but the letter of the law dictates that last man fouls are accorded the red card.
For all his critics this season (which also includes mine), today Almunia can lay claim to be the saviour for Arsenal. If we do end up winning the league this season, his contribution in saving the penalty would be vital for us to achieve that. Very seldom, we get to see our goalkeeper win the match for Arsenal, not since Lehman has that happened too often. However, today was one of those days. That save was the difference between 3 points won or 2 points dropped. Despite the man advantage, West Ham did not manage to impose themselves on the game and Almunia was pretty much a spectator in the second half. Carlton Cole had one shot that flashed just wide and touched the post on the way out but that was all they could muster.
To say that Alex Song has improved by leaps and bounds would be a major understatement. If there is an award for the most improved player, that would be him. He was a monster in the middle of the park in the first half and in the centre of defence in the second. A monster is a very good way. He was decisive in his tackles and neat on his ball control. Nowadays, he has also master the art of skilfully gliding past oppositions as well. It is easy to see difference which he brings to the side. When he slotted into Vermaelen’s vacant position, our midfield looks exposed and West Ham players was able to effortlessly exchange passes in midfield without anyone picking them up. I’m not trying to say that Denilson did not do his job but sometimes during the match, he was not aware of the movement of West Ham players around him. Denilson scored a wonderful goal to give us the lead and this was a much better performance from him.
Emmanuel Eboue completes the trio of players that had one of their better days today. The Ivorian was full of running and was also very good with his distribution. Those endless fouls committed by the opposition on him are further proof of the threat that he possess when going forward. I dare say that he is the best dribbler we have in the squad. He may sometimes be short on ideas once he gets into those positions but generally had Jonathan Spector on his backside for most part of the game. Even when others started to run out of steam, Eboue just kept ploughing onwards.
He deserves a big pat on his shoulders today from Wenger and was instrumental in Arsenal getting the second goal. Fabregas nicked the ball from Behrami and rolled the ball to Eboue, who again drove right at those West Ham defenders. Even though he was covered by 3 West Ham players, he still managed to slip the ball back to Fabregas. Our captain lifted the ball with hope of getting past Upson but the England centrehalf had other ideas. Upson stopped the ball with his hands inside the penalty box and Fabregas duly step up to convert it. A tale of 2 penalties of which Arsenal came out tops.
The suspension of Vermaelen for the visit to Birmingham is a real worry. It also ends his wonderful run of featuring in every single league game for Arsenal this season. But with the assuring Song and plenty of midfield options, we can live without him for one single game. Overall, a very good performance by the lads today. If anything, it keeps the pressure on the other 2 to match our result.
The sending off spoilt the party but 3 points was of utter importance today. Till tomorrow.