1 nil to the Arsenal. That match was in many ways reminiscent of the previous generation sans Arsene Wenger. Like it was in many games during the George Graham era, we dig deep to pull out a result from the game. We didn’t create an awful lot of chances but put away the one that counted. Add to that the defensive resoluteness that denied the opponent goalscoring chances, the similarity are there to be seen. The win takes us up to third, pending the result of Chelsea’s game later today. In trouble, yes. Crisis, no.
Wenger stuck with the same line-up that beat Reading but the game was altogether more different than the one we experienced on Monday. Ironically, Reading also produced a different performance later on, losing out by a solitary goal at the home of the champions. There was a lack of fluency from our game yesterday and had we not won the game, I was worried that Wenger might churn out the same excuse of poor pitch. Never like that excuse. Both teams play on the same pitch and as professionals, they are suppose to be able to play in all conditions. Not in the same manner as on a good pitch, but enough to warrant a win and that’s what we did.
Mikel Arteta’s penalty in the end was the only thing that separated us from Wigan and got us all 3 points. It came off the back of a Theo Walcott being bundled over, driving into the penalty box from the right (gasp!). There was contact but I still think that it was a soft penalty for the referee to call. It wasn’t the only wrong judgement (in my opinion) from the referee in the game either. He gave Jack Wilshere a yellow card for a challenge in which he got the ball and was in no way being dangerous. In fact, if it was a foul, it should have been a yellow shown the way of Shaun Maloney. This is not even the bias in me speaking. There was a distinct lack of protection from the referee with regards to Wilshere. He was kicked all over the pitch but the referee did nothing to stop the hounds from coming, again and again.
In any case, Arteta stuck to his task as the chief penalty taker and tucked home his third in as many tries. This time, it was halfway down the right. Had the keeper dived the right way, it would have been an easy stop. But taking a penalty is as much as the accuracy as is a psychological battle between the taker and the keeper. This time, Arteta won. However, he was the only Spaniard in red who had what I consider a good game. The other in Santi Cazorla was another shocker of a game. Kept the ball well in the opening period but his control and passing faded away as the game wore on. We all know his quality but there must be some hint of a worry at the increasing number of games where he’s not even hitting par. Or perhaps the bar has been set too high.
Whilst I said earlier that we were defensively resolute, Wigan did have their chances to score. Wojciech Szczesny reacted well to a deflected shot, changing his direction quickly and saving the shot. Apart from that, we survived with some good defending as well as poor strikes in front of goal by the home forwards. A clean sheet is always welcomed, the second one in the last 3 games. Though it’s strange that when one centre back is beginning to find his form again, another is starting to go off the rails. Thomas Vermaelen looks more and more like his former self with each passing game while I’m going to take a punt and say that Per Mertesacker might be tired and could do with a game or two watching from the bench.
Over the course of the season, there will be games like this. Where we won’t be firing on all cylinders but there will be certain players who will come to fore and produce performances to balance back the others who are struggling. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked out of sorts in the first half but improved tremendously in the second. There have been a fair few times even in this season where we struggled and it was the entire team struggling. Thus, it was good to see some players standing up for the count yesterday when some of their team mates didn’t. That’s what team game is all about.
Onward and forward.