Last night’s win was our third in the league this season. That puts us on double figure in terms of points tally. The pressure was on us not to let Chelsea open a 10 points lead on us after their win over Norwich, earlier in the day. That we did, despite going behind early in the game. A comeback victory against in a game we knew was going to be difficult and against a manager who has a modicum success rate over us.
The news filtered through that Olivier Giroud was to be given his first Premier League start since Liverpool away, a move that turned out really well. That meant Gervinho being shifted back on the right flank, while Aaron Ramsey was tasked with forming partnerships with Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. At the back, we saw the return of the big German, Per Mertesacker as Laurent Koscielny drops to the bench.
We started the game on the front foot and started to put a mark on the game with our recognisable type of game. The ball was fizzed around at pace, with movements of players being very good. Cazorla and Ramsey were at the core of the impressive start to the game as we kept the ball well and the passing were crisp. When we couldn’t find the opening goal, slowly but surely, every passing minute gave the home side increasing confidence. That’s when we fell behind.
Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson between them failed to block the progress of Mohamed Diame cutting in from the left hand side. The former more culpable than the latter but it was just poor defending all around. Diame picked his spot and beautifully planted it to that spot past Vito Mannone. This and one late chance for Kevin Nolan to equalise apart, we did not allow West Ham to cut through us for the rest of the game.
All that’s left is the question whether we can find the goals to come back into the game and/or to win it. For the best part of 20 minutes after Diame’s goal, it never looked like coming. Moves break down just before the penalty box and when we had crossing opportunities, all of them went to the far post and looked over-hit. Perhaps the bumpy pitch played it’s part or perhaps just poor delivery. Either case, I’m baffled as to why Gervinho didn’t pick that up and stayed a little wide in anticipation of that kind of cross.
Just like it was against Chelsea, we did managed to equalise before half time, even though we weren’t giving Jussi Jaaskelainan an awful lot to do before then. The ball was played out wide to Lukas Podolski whose pinpoint low cross was turned in by Giroud. That’s predatory instinct to score that goal. Podolski did his job defensively but either side of that assist, contributed very little in the attacking sense. To be fair, Gervinho was an even worse contributor than the 100-cap German. Indication that the Ivorian doesn’t quite fancy his chances out wide again anymore? Your guess is as good as mine.
Amongst the name mentioned in the paragraph above, one name did shine. Giroud had a tremendous game for us. He not only took his chance well to score, he was also influential in helping us to get ahead in the game. He slipped the inch perfect pass for substitute Theo Walcott to score Arsenal’s second in the game. It’s about awareness and the ability to play the team game that enabled us to score that goal. For Walcott, it’s another goal coming off the bench when the some player on the field were feeling heavy legs. Coincidental? Not likely. However, praise goes to him on passing the ball into the net instead of lashing at it.
Yet, Giroud wasn’t the only newbie at Boleyn Ground who shone. Cazorla will receive plenty of adulations for his performance yesterday and none of it would be wrong. The third goal, the icing on the cake as it turned out, gave us the breathing space heading towards the end of the game. It was just what the little Spaniard deserved for a very good all round performance. Close control and always aware of what’s happening around him, there’s a lot of joy that can be taken by watching him play a game of football.
The injury to Kieran Gibbs was a blot on the night, apart from the conceding of a goal. The left back was pulled off for a thigh problem and remains to be seen how long he will be back. That gave Andre Santos a run out yesterday. After Cazorla’s goal, we even got to see Koscielny brought on to make it a 3-5-2 or 3-6-1 formation. Interesting one but not much to elaborate on with the formation being tested on a longer game period.
The least said about Phil Dowd the better. Here’s him being to enthusiastic about a West Ham throw.
It’s the result that we all wanted going into the international break. Hopefully the players will all come back healthy. It’s the result that shows our strength to recover from last week’s disappointment in what could potentially be a banana skin fixture for us. Mental strength, we may finally have got reacquainted again.