It’s been a dramatic couple of days in the land of association football. From an Arsenal point of view, we had Alan Davies unwittingly drawn into a world of insults and death threats regarding his views on Liverpool playing, or not playing, on the anniversary of Hillsborough. I don’t want to go into that particularly, not least because it’s already been discussed on this website. I had a couple of points I was going to make, but frankly (Mr Shankly), I can’t be arsed. What’s the point? Generalising just a touch, Scousers are the touchiest of touchy and will insist, as we’ve already seen this season, that their point of view is the only one worth recognising.
Even when they are so very, very wrong. As we have already seen this season.
And theeeen, then we had Mario Balotelli escaping any kind of censure at all for his shocking “tackle” on Alex Song. The FA said, rather vaguely I thought, that where an official has seen a “coming together”, they can do nothing further about it. First off, “coming together”? What? Coming together is what happened with Song and Yaya Toure. What Balotelli did was recklessly endanger a fellow professional and by any standards, he should have walked. The FA have not said which official saw it, but you’d hate to think that it was the linesman on that side and TV pictures clearly showed Martin Atkinson had no kind of view to judge it properly, so was it the lino on the far side?
Of course, the FA being the muppets they so clearly are, then compound this decision by upholding Shaun Derry’s red card for, basically, nothing and- having unfairly missed 77 minutes of QPR’s game at Old Trafford- he also missed their win at home to Swansea. Meanwhile, Ashley Young is free to take his inner ear trouble to Manchester United’s next game. A disgraceful situation, and the message the FA have sent is obvious. So, the next time someone gets their leg broken, hopefully they will spare us any platitudes.
And breeeeeeeeeeeeathe. I went to bed on Monday night, following Spurs hilarious defeat at home to Norwich, mentally totting up the points Arsenal need to guarantee third. A dangerous pastime, perhaps, but one that was unavoidable as I tried to sleep. It does seem to me now that Newcastle are a far more likely threat to our third place- the dream scenario of both Spurs and Chelsea missing out on the Champions League becoming a reality with each game that takes place. Spurs max finish, as with Newcastle, is 74 points. Having won at Wolves last night, we are three wins away from securing third with two home games to come. Yes, I know that only takes us to 73 points, but neither Spurs or Newcastle are going to win all of their remaining five games. Well, I suppose Newcastle might.
I seem to have got ahead of myself here. Last night’s visit to Wolverhampton, with the home team rock bottom, was an obvious banana skin. But one, I felt, that with the memory of QPR still fresh in our minds to be easily avoided. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t bother with streams, the stress of finding one that works just adds to the stress of knowing that the guys are in action. I have enough stress in my life.
And I was confident about last night, so confident that I walked past a bookies thinking “3-0″but didn’t stop to put it on. By the time Jo and I sat down to eat last night, a cursory check on Sky Sports News revealed that Arsenal were two up and Wolves down to 10 men and I knew that, with this Arsenal side, I could rest easy. So it proved, with a “Benayoun… Benayoun, YOSSI BENAYOUN!” goal adding to the early strikes from Walcott and van Persie.
Van Persie? Yes, having clearly not wanted to score for the last few matches, Robin decided that last night he did want to. His chance came when Sebastian Bassong pulled down Theo Walcott in the penalty area, a clear pen and the Wolves player sent for an early bath. If Robin has been bothered by his relative mini-drought, he didn’t show it, shaping to fire into Wayne Hennessey’s bottom right corner, but cheekily chipping the ball into the space the keeper had just vacated. Having put Walcott in for the penalty, the skipper then put Theo in again and this time Walcott finished the job himself. I think he’s on for his best ever season in terms of goals.
It seems, after the excitement of Sunday, the guys settled for a less dramatic night, content to keep what they had. And, what I love about this Arsenal side is, they can do that. We may be less spectacular than the Fabregas/Nasri iteration, but we also feel less flaky, less prone to implosion. And I think the influence of Arteta in our midfield is a key part of the stability we now enjoy. Of course, it also helps if you’ve got a goalkeeper who will make the saves when needed and, last night, Szczesny was needed to make a couple of very good saves. One in particular, from a Kevin Doyle header, was excellent and that’s two clean sheets in a row for the Pole in goal. The inclusions of Djourou and Santos seem to have barely disturbed the tranquility of our defence.
Have I really just used the words “tranquility” and “defence” in the same sentence? Yes, I have. Let’s hope we stay that way when we welcome Wigan, fresh from shocking the champions, next Monday night.