What a weekend of football it has been… Weekends like these, although good for the neutral, are hell for Gooners. Down at the Emirates with a whole host of friends, soaking up the atmosphere and ready to roll at 12.45 yesterday. The atmosphere was nervous, but confident. The line up was announced, and it was the same as last week, with Benayoun and Gervinho both starting on the wings:
Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs
Ramsey – Song
Gervinho – Rosicky – Benayoun
My seat was in the North Bank, upper tier, behind the goal and it was a good view of the entire pitch.
And what a great start it was to see Benayoun score in the first minute. No doubt about it, the Israeli was a decent acquisition last Summer. Someone who can compliment the squad. We won’t have him next season, and hopefully we’ll have recruited the world class winger that we all want. But nevertheless, it was a great goal from the Israeli and our nerves were settled.
But then… Aaron Ramsey went nuts. Yes, it wasn’t only his fault – but he was so poor, positionally, next to Alex Song he was non existent. If I had to contribute a bad performance to any player during one game, this was the game, and he was the player. But Arsene didn’t really have a choice with Wilshere, Arteta and Diaby all out injured. But I doubt Arsene thought it was going to be that bad. When you watch the game for the first time, you can instantly see how poor Ramsey was, but it made Song look bad too. He was covering two positions, and it was just too much for one person.
We lost the first goal to a complete lack of midfield and really, we should have had more sense. It didn’t help that our vice captain Thomas Vermaelen decided to run up the field and leave Koscielny and Gibbs to deal with the Norwich striker force and midfield. For me, it was a nervous performance and one that lacked cohesion. Norwich looked like the Arsenal of old, and we looked like the Norwich out of the Championship.
Van Persie came to the rescue and turned 2-1 into 3-2 but even he missed a plethora of chances. At 3-2 up, we lost composure, and instead of keeping the ball, we panicked and before we knew it, it was 3-3.
Arsene spoke after the game, a very disappointed manager, but also acknowledged Aaron Ramsey’s bad performance:
He was unlucky with the first booking, it was a good tackle. It is part of learning your job, you have to deal with all kinds of situations and he will do that. He is very strong mentally and is going through a difficult period at the moment. But he will come off that stronger.
Arsene did go on to talk about how 3rd was no longer in our hands… but thanks to the sensational results today, where Aston Villa head Sp*rs and Newcastle lost at home to Man City, we’re still in 3rd. Something I really didn’t think would happen this time yesterday. It’s back in our hands and we have one game, a game in which we need to win, a game where a win would mean Champions League football, but anything but a win and it’s the Europa League.
Today my facebook status reads:
After a poor start to the season, you’ve shown me that you’re actually a decent side. It’s not been pretty all season, and I 8 – 2 say it but we’ve had some bad moments. We’ve also had some excellent moments (AFC 5 – 2 THFC, CFC 3 – 5 AFC)… but after our amazing March, you’ve lost it big time with 3 draws and a loss in the last 4. Sp*rs and Newcastle should have sped past us, butit comes down to the last game of the season. We’re 3rd. All we have to do is win. Win against West Brom and bingo, Champions League next season. We’ve got another chance. It’s a serious chance. Stand up, be counted, make it happen, and keep our talisman, Robin Van Persie… 1 game, 3 points. Fix up, look sharp. Til next weekend…
Basically next weekend is a Champions League qualifier – one game – one win. The question is whether we can sort out the defensive frailties of the weekend and get the goals we’ll need to win. It was interesting how we ended the game, with AOC on the right, Gervinho on the left and Chamakh and Van Persie in the middle. We looked so dangerous.
I really do hope we can use AOC next weekend from the beginning as he really did make a difference. I prefer him on the wing right now – I know Arsene says he can play down the middle, but so can half the other team. Without Walcott, AOC really can bring some pace and precision to the right side. He linked up very well with Coquelin, who stepped in for the injured Sagna and looked very good.
Next weekend sounds like an eternity away now, but right now, we need to focus, prepare and get ready for the biggest game of our season.
Til tomorrow fellow Gooners, keep calm.