I felt that recently we had quite good performances but did not get the results. Today we got the performance and the result, which is ideally what you want.
- Arsene Wenger, post-match wibbling session
Arsenal’s January has been like the ice-skating learning curve from hell. A few steps in semi-confidence, building up speed as the ice-dust scattered under our feet, a running jump for the finishing pirouette and taking the mother of all falls, every time. Our immediate rivals have been far from Kristi Yamaguchi themselves, but whenever Chelsea looked back sheepishly after a tumble, they’d find Arsenal flat on their arse, spitting bloody teeth out while swearing outlandishly at the fine margins governing a finishing pirouette. As our astute manager has already opined, we got the entire routine right today, the first time this calendar year that we’ve done so, and can ergo bask in the unfamiliar warmness of three points.
And there was selective rotation on show, both in defence and midfield. Ramsey finally got a breather after being Arsenal’s energizer bunny for so much of the season, and the Coq got another chance to parade up and down the right side as Wenger decided to ease Sagna back in. Our front-line of Dutch destroyer flanked by two English fleet-foots remained unchanged, and started diddling Blackburn’s defence right from the off.
The first 30 minutes reminded me eerily of the Sunderland game earlier on this season. Arsenal started with rocket-boots on, a failed clearance falling to Coquelin, who niftily slipped in an onside Theo Walcott to square to a gleeful van Persie for a freebie within ninety seconds. It was exactly what we failed to do against Bolton, and any plans that Blackburn had of being compact or playing for a draw were knifed in the chest. As the half wore on, the visitors rarely saw the ball but were rarely made to chase shadows as well. Arsenal were content to keep it, but never really went for the jugular. A deflected Rosicky shot and a Koscielny scramble from a corner are the best chances I can remember before Blackburn scored their customary ‘away team at the Emirates’ goal.
It’s happened enough times to not be funny anymore. Teams come to the Grove, spend two minutes on the ball, and score from their first shot on target. Wolves, Sunderland, Stoke, Blackburn; the list is frustratingly endless. When Koscielny got booked for giving away a foul on the edge of the D and Pederson lined up the free-kick, I exchanged glances with the Arsenal fan sitting next to me and we mouthed ‘goal’ at the same time. I got a text from another gooner manic-depressive reading ‘This is going to be a goal’. And it duly went shot, swish, you get your wish. Not funny.
That is fortunately when proceedings ceased to remind me of the Sunderland game and Arsenal started easing off on the handbrake ever so slowly. The pace of the game picked up and picked up before we finished it off with a quick one-two jab to the Blackburn solar plexus. We re-took the lead when Song threaded a brilliant ball to Theo, who squared for van Persie to yawn and tap in again. Two became three, scorer became provider as van Persie played a precise slide-rule pass to Chamberlain who exhibited magnificent first, slick second and vital third touches in the space of a few seconds to break his Premier League duck.
If the goals didn’t asphyxiate Blackburn’s confidence, the sending off surely did. Givet went in two-footed on van Persie, who thankfully got out of the way in time. Marching orders were given nonetheless, and Givet apparently apologised to Wenger on his way to the tunnel. Nice gesture, but his head would have been on a stick outside the Emirates by now if he had injured RvP. I’m just saying.
And the first twenty minutes or so was one big uninterrupted, sweet, sugary pirouette. There was no slacking off, pedestrian passing or back-flicks for the clickety-click of the cameras; just a long overdue professional dismantling of another football team. A half-cleared corner came out to Arteta who steered a shot of controlled ferocity into the right-hand corner. Three minutes later, Walcott thundered down his flank, cut in, drew the entire Blackburn defence towards him before feeding it into Chamberlain. The sprightly teenager was calmness personified once again, checking onto his right foot and sliding it between the defender’s legs for his second and our fifth.
The scoreline started escalating with the periodicity of petrol prices; Coquelin swivelled away from his marker and fed a cross into van Persie, who flicked it with a wave of his magic boot beyond Robinson’s portly frame. A hat-trick with barely an eyebrow raised, and double-digits started being discussed in the common room.
Wenger decided to put Kean out of his palpable misery by making substitutions that resulted in the game going all stutter-y. Henry and Sagna came on for Chamberlain and Koscielny, with Benayoun soon joining the fray as Song departed.
Nothing of consequence happened for twenty five minutes, before something did.
Nice way to end your last match at the Emirates. Au revoir, good sir.
A hugely important win before we herald in a hugely important week; Sunderland away, Milan away and an FA Cup game away in the space of seven days does not sound like pleasant viewing at all. If we end up on the wrong side of things, this win will look like very scant consolation indeed.
Just make sure you have that pirouette routine down, eh Arsenal? Cool? Cool.
This post also appeared on BigFourZa------------
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