Our beloved Arsenal were the only English team to win in Europe this week. Surely that deserves some respect? As much as we do, the media do seem to look down at Arsenal and not give us the credit we deserve. Yesterday we played a decent game, a tactical game, rode our luck at times, but came home with the three points. 9 players were missing through injury - Thomas Vermaelen, Sebastian Squillaci, John Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Ignasi Miquel, Ryo Miyachi, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Yossi Benayoun, Theo Walcott and Gervinho – and additionally, three first team players in Gibbs, Ramsey & Van Persie started on the bench – which meant that we didn’t exactly have the ideal starting line up to crush a team, but we had a team that could do a job and that’s exactly what we did. We saw United without Rooney draw 3-3 at home to Basel, so with 12 players missing, it surely means we’ve done a good job!
The starting line up yesterday was Szczesny; Sagna, Song, Mertesacker, Santos; Frimpong, Arteta; Arshavin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Chamakh and it was a bit of a risk and gamble from the manager to rotate. But it paid off – the players coming in will be better for having played yesterday’s game and the one player who really impressed was Oxlade Chamberlain. I was discussing his name and what we call him with the infamous “Bob” yesterday and although he has Chamberlain on his back, isn’t “Oxlade” much better, it rhymes with blade which is a weapon, so much cooler… From now on, he is the Oxlade. Oxlizzle… okay, that’s going too far…
It was Oxlade himself who opened the scoring when he collected a pass and dribbled to the left of the penalty area before dispatching a left footed shot across the goal. We started well and Oxlade was in the centre of everything. He does look like a real gem. In fact, all the action happened in the first half hour – with some good play by Santos, crossing well and then receiving the ball when it came back out to score from the near post. Our defending was a little bit suspect – but it happens when you change the back four – which we did again, with Song & Santos coming in for Koscielny and Gibbs. We conceded a headed goal shortly after going 2-0 up and for the rest of the game, we rode our luck. Late cameos from Robin Van Persie and Aaron Ramsey added some extra attacking prowess near the end and the introduction of Gibbs – playing in front of Santos helped us see out a nervy last 20 minutes or so.
A win is a win is a win and despite the depleted squad, it was a good outing. The question of course, is whether we’ll have the likes of Gervinho and any one of our missing central defenders back for the game at White Hart Lane this weekend. It would be nice to have a slightly stronger squad for that game… against super favourites Sp*rs…
With Arsene Wenger serving his last game of his suspension, Pat Rice was calling the shots and spoke very highly of Oxlade after the game:
He can go inside, he can go outside, he’s got that injection of pace and I think what he needs now is to be consistent in his play. I am sure that is something he will be working on because he’s certainly not a stupid boy. He has good people around him and they are telling him all the right things. He is a very confident boy, a strong boy and he listens to what people tell him. I think he makes his own mind up because when you are a professional footballer loads of different coaches tell you lots of different things. What you have to do is pick out the best things that are applicable to you. That is something Alex will no doubt actually do. He is very friendly with Theo and no doubt he will give him the benefit of his experience as well. From Arsenal supporters’ point of view, they are going to be seeing a lot of this boy. Whenever he breaks in permanently he has a big, big challenge to now get in front of Theo. I know that Theo is a very strong-willed guy as well and he won’t give in easy. It all bodes well for England anyway.
Indeed, Alex’s performance bodes well for us and for England and it looks like his prominence is immediate and he could make a real impact this season. He’s another option we have at our disposal and direct competition for Theo Walcott, which is definitely needed. Competition for places is paramount to keep players on form and Theo’s been good but a little inconsistent this season.
We don’t know whether Theo will be back for the game on the weekend, but we will have to wait and see how the rest of the week pans out injury wise – if Theo doesn’t make it, then Oxlade could be thrown into the deep end (again) in the North London derby!
The man man for us this season has been Szcznesy, who had another commanding presence in goal yesterday and he was proud of the defending yesterday and spoke after the game himself:
It was a very tough game. We knew before the game that it was going to be a very tough game. I think you have to give credit to our defence for keeping the result at 2-1 because they did put pressure on us. It was a great defensive performance in the second half. We did very well. I think we lost the ball too many times in the middle of the park and that created some problems and they looked dangerous on the break. We won the first half, we were 2-1 up, it was all about keeping the result that way and we managed to do that. I think we knew what we had to do. We had to keep the ball as long as we can. I thought we looked the better side in the second half and deserved the win.
It’s very interesting to see the reliance we have on Szcznesy and very welcoming to Arsenal fans to actually have a decent keeper in between the sticks. He’s been on fire this season and has really won us some points. I remember the penalty save against Udinese and I have to say, that save make the biggest difference of any save he’s made.
It will soon be time to turn our thoughts to the North London derby this Sunday – where we are not favourites for the win – don’t we do better as underdogs anyway?
Til tomorrow, enjoy the win…