Is “rescue” the right word to use? Arsenal were never behind in this game and were never chasing the game. Yet, the word is rightly use in context of the title race. With current league leaders, Chelsea winning away at Blackburn, we can least afford to drop points at home. As it is, status quo remained and I’ll take that.
Despite this being a game between the second placed team in the league against a side occupying the basement spot, the game itself showed how irrelevant those standings are. Perhaps for the first time this season, West Ham defended far better individually and as a unit than they normally do. Arsenal found space hard to come by and probably laboured towards the finish line.
When the opposition sets out to defend from the start and manage to organize themselves well, it requires certain imagination and drive from us to create openings. That we failed to do despite having both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri on the pitch. Both were lacklustre and were guilty of losing possession especially Fabregas, something which is very rare even in the worst of situations.
Even when we managed to create an opening for a shot on goal, we found a keeper in inspired form. That part really stumps me. Whenever I see Robert Green in action against Arsenal, he has always been splendid. Always in the right position with quick reflexes to make a save. Quite how he performs the exact opposite in other games and even for the English national team is beyond me. Goes to show that sometimes player really do perform exceptionally against specific opponents and not against others.
Somehow luck was on Green’s side. Even when he was beaten by the shot, he is saved by the post. Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott can both attest to that. Nasri’s fiercely struck freekick from midway inside West Ham’s half unluckily bounced off the bar. Then Walcott was released by a superb Fabregas through ball but his shot found the bottom post instead of the goal. At that point you really fear that the goal may never come.
But it did come and it was provided by an unexpected source. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are attacking fullbacks in the Arsenal mould but crossing has never been their strong points despite the numerous practice they usually get in a game. However, sometimes those crosses do work. This, highlighted by the way we got the winning goal.
Clichy perhaps wary of his record on crossing with his left leg, chose to cut inside and deliver a cross with his right foot instead. It wasn’t travelling much but it was pinpoint and was met gleefully by the onrushing Alex Song. With 3 goals already this season, Song has surpass his record for last season. It was a late break into the box and showed good desire to get to the ball. I’m one of those who thinks he gets forward far too often for a defensive midfielder but when goals come his way, it is really hard to fault his movements.
It was a huge sigh of relief to get that goal as Arsenal never got going with the referee seemingly card happy for Arsenal but reluctant to show any to the visitors. Scott Parker must have committed like 5 or 6 fouls but never got a card. Even when he did it in succession of minutes, he only drew a talking to from the referee. Whether it is in the mind of the referee the couple of decisions that went our way in recent weeks or just more leeway for English players, remains to be seen. If you need another showing of just how poor the officials really are, find the replay of Nani’s second goal today against Manchester United.
Whilst this is not by any means a vintage Arsenal performance, it is still a win. They say that the hallmark of championship winning sides is when they win even when they are struggling to get into the groove of their usual game. The 3rd consecutive clean sheets is a very welcome statistics. As long as we keep on winning, the margin really doesn’t matter.