If every match goes this way, we would all live a very long happy life. However, football and Arsenal in particular are not generally that nice to us or our hearts. Today, Arsenal won without much difficulties and without being overworked. There’s one or two moments but hardly constituted as too much of a worry compared to other matches in the past.
The momentum continues with our 4th consecutive win in the Premier League. We remained in 7th position but pulled level on points with Liverpool and Spurs (who have 2 games in hand). It feels like such a long time but maybe, just maybe we’re finally seeing some sort of consistency from Arsenal. The part of the team that has been missing since that day (Carling Cup final or 4-4 at Newcastle, depending on where you stand).
No major surprises in terms of the starting line-up. With the exception of 2 changes, it was the same side that started in midweek against Marseille. Robin Van Persie and Laurent Koscielny both returned to the starting line-up in place of Park Ju Young and Per Mertesacker respectively. Despite the minimal changes, the pace of the game just wasn’t there.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Arsenal were in total control of the game and were holding the majority of the possession. We were patient and bid our time in finding the right pass or the right move to attack. It’s not easy on the eye but it was a necessary tactic. Roy Hodgson came with the intention of claiming a draw and set his side to play a very defensive game.
Almost at all times, WBA had 10 men behind the ball. It was literally, wall after wall that Arsenal had to pass through just to get a shot in. We had 5 shots on target and scored 3 of those. That statistic tells the whole story really. We were toying with the opponent and when we decided to up the tempo, we opened the scoring.
The initial 20 minutes saw us almost exclusively playing at a pedestrian pace, moving the ball to the closest team mate. It was a ploy to get the WBA markers out of position. When Aaron Ramsey decided to go for the second option (not the nearest team mate), he played a through ball behind WBA’s defence for Theo Walcott to run onto. The shot was saved but Robin Van Persie was on hand to snap up the rebound.
The second is very similar in fashion. After a corner was cleared, Alex Song decided not to just cross back into the central area of the penalty box where we had players waiting to head the ball. Instead, it was lofted further wide for RvP to clip back across goal. The pass was behind Gervinho but Thomas Vermaelen was on hand to slam it past Ben Foster.
Two nil up at half time and based on the performance of the first half, it was hard to see a way back for WBA. Wojciech Szczesny was a mere passenger in the first half, not having a single shot fired/headed/deflected at him. If I’m being brutally honest, we were in cruise control. Of course, with Arsenal, the two 45 minutes halves are hardly ever the same.
Roy increased his attacking options in the second half and managed to get 2 shots in but none of those were clear cut chances and Szczesny dealt well with them. The one time our defence failed to clear their line, Vermaelen showed us how tackling is done. Already on the ground trying to block Somen Tchoyi’s first attempt at a shot (which turned out to be dummy), he somehow was able to slide further to block the actual shot.
With a 2 goal lead, it sounds and looks to be very safe for us but there’s the danger of WBA nicking one back and making it a very nervous finish. Changes were needed and Arsene Wenger duly obliged. Yossi Benayoun, Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin all came on for Gervinho, Ramsey and Walcott. Those changes gave us the increase urgency and we got the goal that sealed the tie.
It was another example of what could be achieved when we moved the ball just the little bit quicker. Interchanges of passes saw Rosicky released on the right and the Czech cut it across for RvP, who in turn, lay it on a plate for Mikel Arteta to precisely passed the ball into the net. Game, set and match.
In a match such as this, it is hard to find any particular individual to be critical of. All 14 of them played well and did the necessary to ensure that we get the win. Though, several players deserve a special mention. Carl Jenkinson is improving with every passing game. He never allowed Jerome Thomas the chance to get past him. On the attacking side, his crossing and delivery into the penalty box is a real delight. Once the others get the hang of it, Jenkinson could really start to rack up those assists.
Arteta was also splendid and thoroughly deserved to get the third goal for the team. He worked tirelessly and rarely lost possession of the ball. He was doing a lot of pressing high up on the pitch but did not receive the support from his team mate. Pressing almost never work in solitary. As next week is the international break, he’ll be getting some well deserved rest.
If we take into reference Wenger’s past remarks, this was definitely where the handbrake was engaged. However unlike previous occasions, we never let that bothered us. Winning with the handbrake on you say, I’ll take that. The clean sheet just make it sweeter.