One last job was required of Arsenal on the last day of 2011 and the job was duly delivered. 3 points was what we wanted to see Arsenal end the year on a high and it was a performance that deserved exactly that. The win moves us to fourth in the league, just 3 points behind Tottenham and 9 points behind both Manchester clubs. For many of us in this part of the world, the match started in 2011 and ended in 2012.
Perhaps it is by coincidence but the first half was reminiscent of the year we had in 2011. Showed plenty of promise but ultimately, unable to find the breakthrough and we sat around wondering why we didn’t seize the opportunities presented to us. The second half showed just how much we have improved as a team. The intensity and desire to come out on top was first class. Hopefully that would be that sign of things to come in this new year.
Arsene Wenger’s selection for this game was rather peculiar. Knowing we have so many games in the space of a short period, he decided to put out his best eleven bar Gervinho. Andrey Arshavin started in his stead. I would’ve thought that more players would be given a rest to avoid injury complications. It was a gamble but thankfully it didn’t backfire spectacularly. Well, apart from Thomas Vermaelen anyway. Said in the preview yesterday that he’s been putting in a lot in an unfamiliar role and now we’ve lost the last available player in the left back role.
We had chances to open the scoring in the first half but failed to take advantage. RvP lifted a shot wide after doing really well to create the space for himself. We had two big penalty calls which really should have been given. Martin Atkinson deemed both handball decisions to be not valid of a penalty. Replay will show that he was wrong. Both times, the shot hit the hand of QPR players, mind you hands that are far away from the body and wasn’t in protective actions.
Had Atkinson got the calls right, Joey Barton would have been sent off before half time. Barton was already on a yellow for a late challenge on Mikel Arteta when he handled the second of those dubious non-penalty calls. It was good to see Arsenal players, especially the centre backs cornering him when he clattered into Arteta. I can’t put in words how vile a man Barton is.
Credit to the team, they kept plugging away and to force the issue but found Neil Warnock’s men defending stoutly. When the breakthrough came on the hour mark, it was down to the opponent’s mistake. Shaun Wright-Phillips’ pass back found none of his team mates and it went straight to Arshavin. The Russian had saw the run of RvP and played the inch perfect pass to the captain. No second touch was needed and RvP slotted the winning goal with aplomb.
I’m glad that Arshavin made the goal. His form has been dire in 2011 and hopefully this herald a return to the genius we remember him. One certainly can’t classify this as one of his best match for Arsenal but yet it showed just how crucial he can be. At least, he showed a lot more desire in this game than other ones that we’ve seen lately. Arshavin could’ve easily make a mistake with that final pass, either hit it too strong or too close to the defender but he didn’t. A good start to the year for the Russian.
When Vermaelen suffered that calf strain, Wenger was left with no option but to play Francis Coquelin as a left back. How the young Frenchman impressed. He was tenacious with his tackles and gave SWP no room to maneuver. He also got forward a lot to support the attack. He was assured on the ball and possessed very good control. Dare I say, the new Flamini? He was not the only defensive standout performance. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker once again displayed brilliant understanding in their partnership. Composed and calculated throughout.
With that goal, RvP does not get to beat Alan Shearer’s record. It was one goal shy of the record and I’m glad that we will stop talking about it now. It was clear that it’s something which has been playing on his mind, especially in the last 2 home games including this one. There was an opportunity late on when he should have left it for Gervinho to run on as RvP was in an offside position. Hopefully now that year calendar year is over, RvP will have less on his mind.
There were chances to increased the lead after the goal but that didn’t happen. Gervinho with a couple of chances but either took too many touches/dribbles or skewed it wide. He would not be happy when he looks back at those missed opportunities but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we won the game. With Manchester United and Chelsea losing at home, not forgetting Tottenham’s draw at Swansea, we are the big winners from yesterday night.
The result sends us into the new year in very pleasing fashion and hopefully that’s the sign of things to come for this year. On a day when Mr Arsenal finally met his bronze self, the victory was so much sweeter. If there’s a new year resolution for the players, then it should be to bring success to Arsenal Football Club. Happy New Year everyone.