We are back on track again people, the setback of Chelsea last week is firmly behind us. Wins against Olympiacos in the week and yesterday against West Ham have restored the confidence and belief back to the fans and the players themselves.
Away to West Ham is not an easy game, the hammers were actually above the Arsenal in the premiership table before the game. Despite how much on paper the outcome favoured an arsenal win you cannot easily predict what will happen in a London derby. Throw in the factor that our nemesis of old Sam Allardyce is in charge of the east London club and you know we would have a game on our hands.
I know this isn’t Bolton we were playing but then again this isn’t the same passing football playing West Ham of old, Allardyce has added a more direct steel side to West Ham ‘s play and have the added factor of Andy Carroll’s aerial ability for opposition teams to contend with.
In our favour the in form Per Mertesacker overcame his midweek illness and returned to the line up to partner Vermaelen. Gervinho despite his goal scoring form of late was shift to one of the flank roles as Wenger opted for the physical presence of Olivier Giroud while Aaron Ramsey was preferred to Coquelin for the central midfield role.
We returned to our yellow strip away shirt from last season due to the potential colour clash between the teams. The change of strip had no effect on the way we play as we settled into the game and pretty much controlled the pace of the game as we dominated possession and looked classy in attack. The Achilles heel of arsenal has to be their vulnerability when in control of a game. A goal looks like coming soon enough and then totally against the run of play we concede with the first threat at our goal. That’s exactly what happened yesterday as West Ham scored through Diame. The ball was worked to the wing, with Ramsey and Jenkinson shuffling Diame out wide, the West Ham player cut inside way too easily past Ramsey and had a clear one on one against the keeper and blasted the ball into the far corner with ease.
Ramsey is not a specialist defender however you would expect him to at least bring the man down if he fools you that easily from the position he was in. He was outside the box when he burst past Ramsey, once he was gone there was no catching him. In Ramsey’s defence he will learn from that error and I would not expect to see similar happen again.
We were in that similar position as old habits seem to be returning each week however we continued playing our game and dominating possession. We were rewarded for not losing our composure as in a counter attack Olivier Giroud sprayed the ball out wide to Lukas Podolski, the German worked the ball to the by-line and drilled in a cross which was poked in expertly at the near post by Giroud.
Finally our Frenchman has got a premiership goal; an important goal as well as it brought us right back into the game. He was overjoyed at finding the back of the net and more or less the whole team ran over to congratulate him. That goal will do him a world of good and maybe now the stats masters will find someone else to bother. Giroud was dangerous long before he scored and definitely gave the West Ham defenders something to think about.
The game was level at half time but the important thing was to get that goal coming into the break. This allowed Wenger to plot how we would win the game rather than having a game plan of getting back into the game. We carried on our same classy passing game in the second half with Santi Cazorla pulling all the strings. The hammers did have their threatening moments but we generally coped with their attack. Gervinho probably had one of his least effective games in a while; he has clearly relished the central role that when playing wide his impact from predator to provider was heavily reduced. His misery was finally compounded when Wenger made a change around 60 minutes bringing on Theo Walcott for the Ivorian.
Theo made his case for more starting spots by duly putting us ahead in the game, a brilliantly worked ball from Cazorla found Giroud in a counter attack. The Frenchman spotted Walcott’s run off the defender’s shoulder and played a perfectly weighted pass to the speedy Theo. His pace took him clear and one on one with the keeper, he finished with a cool slotted ball into the near post. Through his calmness in that position it was almost like he passed the ball into the net, the goal was nothing more than we deserved and Theo clearly emotional from his finish ran to the away fans and celebrated. His actions got him a booking but he didn’t care, his goal was another example to Wenger that he can finish if he gets the chances.
We managed to come from behind to take the lead, we deserved our winning position however there was still plenty of the game left to play and we needed to be focused. West ham worked a chance soon after Walcott’s goal with Nolan blasting over when maybe he should have done better. We needed a third goal to make the game safe, step forward Mr Cazorla. With Theo trying to dribble past his marker the ball broke free about 25 yards from goal, Santi picked the ball up, took one touch then drilled an unstoppable shot past the keeper and into the back of the net. The goal was amazing and the perfect icing on the cake to cap a magnificent performance from our majestic Spaniard.
The goal killed any hopes the hammers had and we were able to close out the game with ease. Another win on the board, a first prem goal for Giroud and another potential banana skin away game out of the way. The only downer after the win is the prospect of another international break to disrupt our momentum. Now we have 2 weeks of no domestic football while we sit at home and pray our squad return from their international games without any injuries.
Wenger was in full praise of his team, on his assessment of the performance he said:
“It was a good test mentally as well, because we went 1-0 down with their first shot on goal. We came back and won this game. You could say that we had a good performance today overall.”
After the game everybody was waxing lyrically about the influence of Santi Cazorla on the team and this game. Wenger added:
“I think he was overall a delight to watch, from the first to the last minute today. He was very influential in our team and it’s fantastic to watch him play.”
Cazorla has really hit the ground running at arsenal it will be hard to imagine the team without him now. We do have players in reserve that could fill the gap if he was injured or needed a break like Arshavin or even Oxlade-Chamberlain or Ramsey but right now he is so vital to the new arsenal.
Some rumors surfaced last night that Theo Walcott is pretty close to signing a new contract now. The mirror claims he will sign a 3 year extension. I’ll wait until he has actually signed that contract before I start jumping for joy. He made his statement of his reasons for not signing so far and Arsene has dropped many hints over the past week that he will give Theo a chance in his favored position. I believe Theo will get his chances in the capital one and fa cup games in his preferred striking position but in the premiership games he will be played where Wenger feels he is needed for the good of the team. Once he adds consistency in that role and makes it impossible for Wenger to ignore then he will get his wish. But the question is whether he has the patience to wait for his chances, it works both ways really, Theo needs to keep plugging away and be prepared to play anywhere for the team but take his chances when they come; Wenger will need to honor his word if Theo keeps on producing.
I expect plenty more twists and turns on this contract situation but there could be a positive ending.
Enjoy your day people.
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