At 1645 on Sunday afternoon, the last thing I wanted to do was write this blog. With the amount of negativity surrounding this club, this team and our manager; going out of the club was unthinkable. However the team and the manager were not finished yet and the produced a comeback even the most positive me couldn’t even have believed.
Calling it a turning point would be too easy and lazy. Calling it a potential catalyst is fair but whether this is the pivotal moment for the season we will only find out in May. The first half on Sunday was unfortunately all too familiar. The team lacked drive, creativity and were lacklustre in their general approach. Villa scored their goals through a clever corner routine and a lightening breakaway goal. The mood at half time had gone beyond anger and the faces in the crowd were etched with the resignation of, ‘we’re out the cup’. Even though I was shown on the big screen indicating a 3-2 score line with my fingers, I didn’t truly believe this team had what would it took to turn it around. I reminisced about that match at Highbury in 2001 where we turned around a 2-0 deficit to Villa in their silver shirts, but that team had Henry, Vieira, Bobby, Wiltord and Freddie; they knew how turn games like this around. This team didn’t.
Ye of little faith.
The team responded with the fight every fan would have wanted them too, and with a little help from Villa, we pulled off a fantastic cup comeback. I’m not going to re-cap all the events of Sunday but two things caught my attention.
Firstly, Arsenal pressure on Villa in possession in the second half. Too often we are prepared to let teams have the ball and play a game of ‘you play, we’ll play’. Unfortunately the opposition rarely enjoy playing that game as they end up losing the match, so instead they suffocate us into our own mistake leading to goals. Incidentally we have conceded the highest number of goals through ‘unforced errors’ in the league. However, in the second half we closed down and pressured Villa all over the pitch and were able to force mistakes, allowing us to turnover possession. If you’ve ever watched Barcelona you will have noticed them pressure the opposition all over the pitch in order to regain possession. It works, no player likes to be chased down and harassed for the ball. We need to continue that kind of work rate in other games, not wait until we’re losing to increase our pressure.
The knock on effect of the players increasing their work rate to stifle the opposition is that the crowd react to it and want to get behind their team. The atmosphere in the second half was the best it’s been for a short while. It was apparent that the players were feeding off it as must as the fans were driving the team. Amazing what happens when we all pull together in one direction isn’t it?
Next up Bolton away, this is now a massive fixture. Results last night mean only a win will do, unfortunately I’ve said that for every game on 2012 so far. Win’s for Liverpool and Tottnum, a draw for Chelsea mean we currently sit 5th but with 4th place still firmly in our sights.
With a number of returning players, we are slowly getting back to our ideal first team. Sagna is back, Arteta is back, Gibbs in back in full training, Diaby is expected back from rehab work soon and Henry is ‘ready’. Bad news continues to loom about Wilshere but we need to forget about that and get back to winning performances.
In Bolton’s last league game they defeated Liverpool, they won’t be pushovers so we’ll need ‘second half’ Arsenal from the first minute.
Come on The Arsenal!
Comments welcome – @Tottz82