Last night looked to me like one of those games you get in the Champions League from time to time. If that sounds like I’m getting my excuses in early for a second half in which Arsenal simply failed to show up then, of course, I am. I’m disappointed at that second half no show, obviously, but what was important was to get the win. We got that and we did so despite having to come from behind. Which isn’t something that happens to us very often in Europe, so let’s take the positives where we can get them.
We can talk about the resilience shown in the second half, if you like. However, I’m not sure the width of the crossbar or Belhanda shooting straight at Mannone from 4 yards has anything to do with our resilience. Of course, as I said on Sunday, football doesn’t deal in conditionals, but I think the manner in which we came from behind was far and away the most impressive thing about last night’s performance. It was almost as if Belhanda’s addition to the list of penalties inspired by Panenka and Pirlo (and, lest we forget, our own Thierry Henry) in turn inspired ”great vengeance and furious anger” in Arsenal hearts. No complaints about the award of the penalty, by the way. Vermaelen really should know better than to dive in as he did.
Anyway, I was saying something about vengeance and anger, wasn’t I? Within minutes of falling behind, Arsenal had taken a lead not to be relinquished. Diaby at the heart of a slick, 19 pass, move that also involved Cazorla, before Giroud played in Podolski with a deft first touch. Podolski’s first touch sat the keeper down, leaving the goal relatively gaping for an unerring finish. Carl Jenkinson then sent in a fantastic cross for Gervinho to tap home from about two yards. Three goals in two games for the Ivorian, who’d have thought he’d reinvent himself this season as the fabled “fox in the box” we’ve been waiting ten years for?
We might have had other chances in that first half, I don’t really remember many. I do remember that Giroud volleyed well wide from a Gibbs cross and that Montpellier were producing some good last ditch stuff in and around their box. But it felt like we were fully inc ontrol of the match and that, if cool heads prevailled, the game was there to be won with ease. What was important was not to give Montpellier any encouragament.
Having been booked after 22 seconds for a tackle where, although he won the ball Diaby went in with a hint of “studs up”, Abou had an equally inauspicious start to the second half, dwelling on possession for far, far too long. In the fucking penalty area. Luckily for him when he lost the ball, the shot that came in was high and wide. Perhaps rattled by that mistake, he was fortunate when an attempted backheel on the edge of the box resulted in us losing possession but Montpellier failed to punish us. It wasn’t just him though. Cazorla attempted to run the ball out of defence. Having just skipped past one challenge, he promptly ran into another and lost the ball.
We just couldn’t get anyone on the ball, to try and slow the tempo down and get the team a bit further up the pitch. Which seems bizarre with the likes of Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla on the pitch. As we got to the hour mark, a substitution seemed inevitable, particularly with a flagging Diaby walking a disciplinary tightrope. As it happened, it wasn’t till past the 70th minute that Steve Bould introduced Aaron Ramsey and he replaced Giroud. Ramsey did introduce a bit of calm to proceedings, for about two minutes anyway.
Diaby teed up Cazorla in the area, but the keeper parried his left foot shot, I think Cazorla might done better, although- as our only attempt on goal in the second half- an Arsenal goal would have been harsh on the hosts. Not that we’d have given a flying one.
I guess, in mitigation, it has to be said that aside from that one moment of skill from the player who was falling over a lot, and that Belhanda miss… actually, no. I’m not going to say that Arsenal never felt like they were in trouble, because I was swearing at my television like they’d never been away. Despite having the likes of the Ox, Walcott and Coquelin available to reinforce us, it was only in the last minute that the latter two appeared. Which I found odd cos, whatever you may think of Walcott and Coquelin, there were some Arsenal players visibly out on their feet long before the 90th minute. Perhaps Bouldie was loathe to change things up whilst we were under it. I can understand that, to a certain extent.
Afterwards, the watching Tony Adams declared himself, rightly so I think, “unconvinced”. I didn’t linger too long on the post match analysis. It hardly seems mental to say that Arsenal will have to play better in the coming weeks, particularly this Sunday. But nor does it seem mental to believe that we will play better.
And maybe this Sunday.------------
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