Yesterday’s result meant that we’ve broken our own record for the season. This was the first time in the 2012/13 season that we’ve won 4 times in a row. That is inclusive of all matches, domestic and Europe. The “achievement” puts us up into 4th place and only a point behind Sp*rs. This is a run, a good consistent run and I’m glad that we’re able to do that, at least once this season.
Arsene Wenger played the same starting eleven for the second consecutive games and it paid off, though not without a little hardship. For this match at least, it just felt that we went back into the phase of starting slowly and not imposing ourselves in the match. Steve Clarke had his players well set-up against us and were very comfortable coping with our short passing.
The moment we mixed it up and started finding the run beyond the last defender, we suddenly found more room to exploit and the opening goal came from such a move. Scrambling to get back into position, WBA were in disarray and Gervinho made the run that set up the goal. Tomas Rosicky was the quickest to react and got his first Premier League goal of the season.
When the 2nd goal came, early in the second half via the same source, we looked so comfortable. For a good part of 20 minutes after that, there were nothing in the match to suggest that we would have to slogged it out for the final period of the match. That was before we switched off our concentration. Per Mertesacker allowed Shane Long to escape away and was fighting a losing battle from then onwards.
The German had to take down Long to give away a penalty and received a sending off. It was instinctive and really hard to blame him for doing that. You can blame his initial position or his poor reading of the play at that point in time but can’t blame him taking down Long. On hindsight, if Mertesacker had a little longer to think – he might be able to see that we’re 2-0 and we could afford to concede one but still have 11 men on the field. Sadly, decisions on the pitch are taken in a second.
The red card earned Thomas Vermaelen a way back into the side and he came in with plenty to do. WBA had their spirit lifted by the goal and were piling on the pressure. For the longest time, it felt like the field was shorter and play was only restricted on the Arsenal half. Wenger made a conscious decision to get his team to sit deep and that probably gave WBA more impetus to push more men forward.
We did clear almost everything thrown at us. Laurent Koscielny and Vermaelen dug deep and repel crosses after crosses. Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta worked diligently to deny WBA players the opportunity to shoot from outside the box. More often than not, these clearances were into the path of Olivier Giroud and there lies my biggest problem from yesterday’s match.
Giroud is like Gervinho. When he’s given too much time and space, he doesn’t know what to do. When he’s in tight spots, his flicks and dinks are a delight to watch. Time and again the ball came to him yesterday and possession was surrendered very meekly, almost immediately. When we’re down to 10 men, we needed him to hold onto the ball and give us some defensive reprieve. His touch and his control let him and us down. The coaching staff has got to be worried about his ball control abilities.
7 more games to go in the Premier League and if we keep this momentum going and pick up wins after wins, it will be hard to see how we don’t take one of the top four spots. Yesterday was about resolve and stubbornness, which wasn’t really good for the health of Gooners all around the world. Given what transpired, it was a massive 3 points. Time to sit back and see how Sp*rs and Chelsea respond to the gauntlet that we threw at them.