My overall feeling after last night’s game was far from positive. Those who know my work from various Arsenal blogs down the years will know I rather lost patience with Arsene Wenger’s approach to this team a few years ago now. However, there’s no point in repeating oneself and the fact is, whether we like it or not, this season we’re in nothing more than a battle for fourth place and hopefully the FA Cup, so there’s little point in expecting good runs of results. We just won two in a row against West Ham and Brighton (the latter not without a great deal of difficulty, but let’s not go into that) and probability-wise we were due a slip-up against Liverpool.
They’re not a good side, but we made them look great in the first half. As with so many other recent games, we just didn’t start well at all. Despite that, if I’m being generous I’d say we were pretty unlucky on the first goal: it all started with a slip by Sagna, which is a shame because sometimes it just happens, and on this occasion Suarez messed up the initial pass and there shouldn’t have been any danger. Sadly the ball found its way to Glen Johnson and from that point on we had two chances to clear it but didn’t. In between that Szczesny made a pretty good save from Sturridge and the eventual shot from Suarez deflected in. As I said, pretty unlucky on two occasions, even if also poorly defended on two occasions.
Not much to say about the second goal, it was just pretty rubbish from everyone. Again, Henderson’s initial shot bounced straight back to him allowing him an easier finish, but by that point Santos had let him run so far (and this is Jordan Henderson remember, not Ronaldo) a goal was pretty inevitable. Then again, it’s also pretty bad luck that Kieran Gibbs got yet another injury and had to go off to be replaced by the Brazilian buffoon.
Onto the positives…
1) We responded quickly. Yes it’s incredibly frustrating that we only see the best in Arsenal in second halves or when we’re already 2-0 down, but we really do cause teams nightmares towards the end of games. Suddenly we were battering Liverpool with crosses and shots and even in that short period of time we could have won the game with better finishing. After scoring twice in two minutes I thought we’d do it, but not on this occasion. If we cut out the mistakes and get over this mental block we have in first halves we’ll generally do well enough against most teams in this league. Liverpool aren’t great, but they’re better than most, with players like Reina, who is a good goalkeeper on his day, who made a very good save from Walcott late on.
2) Spurs could only manage a draw with Norwich. They remain 4 points above us and that’s something we really have to sort out quickly, but remember it was much worse this time last season when we were 9 points behind our neighbours. Ok, so we were 5th rather than 6th and we were actually only 2 points behind Chelsea who occupid 4th, but still…
3) Finally, the biggest positive for me at the moment is Olivier Giroud. He’s genuinely really good. Yes he missed a bit of a sitter towards the end, but that happened to Henry a few times as well. For me, he is really looking like becoming a vital member of the team. Walcott had been playing very well upfront, but Giroud has now made himself undroppable. His goals and assists record is improving by the game and when you look at each of them, you can see the quality the guy possesses. See his little flick for the equaliser today – quick, instinctive, perfectly-weighted and so hard to defend against. He tries a lot of these passes in every match and they don’t always work, but in recent games he’s made them his speciality, even if it’s not a direct assist, sometimes it plays someone in who then sets up a goal (ie to Podolski for Cazorla’s goal against West Ham). He also seems to be able to score a variety of goals, be it with his head, his left foot or his right foot, from outside the box or in. If a player aims the ball at him there’s always danger. Like with his passes, his feet are excellent and he can quickly direct a very fast-moving ball into the goal (think of his finish against Spurs or his second against West Ham) which gives this illusion that the ball is kind of bouncing off him, but it’s not luck – it’s skill.
He spearheads an attack that generally looks very dangerous right now. Walcott is continuing his fine form and Jack Wilshere has given us a real boost with his return. They’ll all be very hard to handle next season when they’re really used to each other. It would of course be nice if their good work was rewarded by a backline that wasn’t conceding so many, but I don’t really see that changing under Wenger. Still, at least he’s shown he’s still got the touch in the transfer market with Giroud’s signing. I was pretty convinced he would be another Chamakh or Gervinho, but I really think he’s going to be brilliant for us. Sadly of course this means the links to Barcelona and Man City will inevitably surface at some point.
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