Often, when watching Arsenal over recent seasons, we have found ourselves coming away from matches knowing that we should have won yet being undone by a moment or three of stupidity and numerous instances of wasteful finishing. Last night against Montpellier, we didn’t quite do to them what has been done to us on so many occasions but I think it’s safe to say that if the second half was a boxing match it might just have been stopped.
The game started strangely, a yellow card for Diaby almost directly from the kick off in the 21st second making him the fastest carded playing in the competition and before the ten minutes were up we were behind, a soft penalty awarded for Vermaelen’s no-need-to-challenge-challenge.
A brace in the space of two minutes pulled us in to the lead, Giroud showing a deft touch, as he would do all evening, to set up Lukas Podolski to allow him to score his third goal in three games and Gervinho, not to be outdone, grabbed the second making his tally three in two.
Most of the attention pre-match had been on Giroud and if he would break his short scoring duck however if anyone had stopped to consider the situation they would have realised that Montpellier would be paying extra attention to their former front man and that’s exactly what they did, allowing him only one half-chance all night. To Giroud’s credit, he worked hard and his unselfish play is the type that forwards rarely get any credit for. Some of his passes and touches were unexpected in their deftness and despite Alan Smith, commentating for Sky Sports, saying that the Frenchman had a poor night, I respectfully disagree.
We took our lead in to the break and it seems that we just didn’t get started again in the second half, what we had at halftime I don’t know but it certainly wasn’t energy drinks. I don’t know if it was good defending, or poor play in other parts of the pitch, a combination of both perhaps as Diaby let us all know he’d found one of Alex Song’s stupid pills down the back of a Colney sofa and as the half wore on legs got heavier and we struggled to hold on.
But hold on we did and points win prizes in this competition and we have three of them on the board. Whether Bould, filling in for the suspended Wenger, was simply toying with Arsene by having the team undergo a real-life training drill, I doubt we will ever know, but it was tough going for both the players and the fans over the second 45.
Credit where it is due and praise must go to Montpellier who, in the second half, worked harder than I’ve seen a team work in a long time. They gave us no time on the ball in any area of the pitch, but for all their industry and forcing Arsenal in to harried clearances and sloppy passes, our defence, the defence which has only conceded two goals, one from a goalkeeping error and one from the penalty spot, stood up to whatever they choose to throw at us.
It was perhaps not what we were expecting, looking to see more free flowing football and carving out of chances, one shot was all we could muster in the second half if my memory serves me right (it often doesn’t) but while the Arsene way will always be to try and win games through attacking prowess, to have the ability to win games with a defensive display is quite handy to have in your locker. Post match, manager for the night Steve Bould said
“It’s fabulous to get an early away win. We’ve had a decent start to season. We’ve got great team spirit & that was evident tonight.”
Did we rock in the second half? Yes we did. The important thing though is that we didn’t fall over.
Next up, Man City. Joy.
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