Mikel Arteta - impressive debut
The best that can be said is that at least we have a win to celebrate. It certainly wasn't impressive or inspiring, but it was a win. Getting a result yesterday was always the main thing to worry about but, given the pre-match assertions from the players that they wanted to do something to ease the Old Trafford pain, the performance was seriously lacking. I have always said that I don't much care about how Arsenal play as long as we win. If, at the final whistle, we've won 1-0 with an own-goal in injury time, then I've had all the entertainment I require. That remains very much the case. However, I was expecting a bigger reaction from the players yesterday. The most concerning aspect for me was that Swansea played the better football throughout, and their pace was certainly more troubling of our defenders than we were at the other end. I suppose you could say that we battled our way to a much needed victory, and that is very important, but let's be under no illusions that Swansea should be getting swept aside by any team with genuine ambitions for the top of the table. Both Manchester clubs are obviously riding high on confidence at the moment (while Arsenal's is at rock-bottom) but the gulf in attacking quality of those teams in comparison to ours is frightening - David Silva has the look of Robert Pires about him while we have Theo Walcott who has the look of Eddie McGoldrick whenever he gets the ball.
There were some very positive things about yesterday, despite my moaning. In the first fifteen minutes of the game I thought Van Persie and Arteta were going to destroy the opposition, with Arshavin getting in good positions as we were playing forward all the time. If Aaron Ramsey had scored with his first-minute chance (and he should have done) it might well have been a very different afternoon all round. I was impressed by Arteta. His range of passing is excellent and he never seems to give away possession. In the second-half he says the Manager told him to drop deeper, but this was self-defeating as it meant our main creative outlet was too far back to influence our attacking play. The other impressive performances yesterday came from Szczesny, whose command of his penalty area in the second-half was outstanding (I'll leave aside the last minute error - though if that had been Almunia I doubt many would be so charitable - more on Almunia below), and also Frimpong and Koscielny. With Per Mertesacker making a debut it was important for Koscielny to step it up and I thought he had a really fine game alongside the new man. Mertesacker struggled a bit, for me, but I'm more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt after only two days with the squad. Frimpong was very good again in front of his back-four. Yes, he will give the ball away at times, but he gets his tackles in and provides great energy in midfield. The decision to substitute him was baffling and it left us open in front of the defence - Coquelin did plenty of running, but he lacked the discipline to hold his position in front of the back-four.
The other person I want to single out for praise from yesterday was Marouane Chamakh. Again the substitution made little sense - it was right for him to come on, but not in place of Robin Van Persie - how exactly did Theo Walcott make it through the ninety minutes again yesterday? Chamakh won every ball when he came on, and he held up the play superbly. It was a real shame that he couldn't direct his header better when he got on the end of an excellent cross from Kieran Gibbs. It was certainly much more like the Chamakh we saw plenty of before Christmas last season. I hope he can keep it going from now on.
As I said earlier, three points is ultimately what really matters. We have our first win of the season. Hopefully a little confidence has been restored. I have a real fear of what might happen in Dortmund this week, and there is plenty of work to be done in order to avoid another defeat on the road. For now, let's enjoy getting a victory and move on.
I have always been a lover of the fact that Arsenal is associated with pure class. It's always been said that Arsenal do things the right way. The Arsenal way. It's that touch of class that always set us apart. In recent times it has been in less evidence. It starts with the way the players arrive at matches in tracksuits with stupid earphones and hats on. While every other club seems to now insist on an official suit and tie we have gone the other way and it is unbecoming of Arsenal Football Club. Perhaps the players would play with some extra pride if they were forced to wear that cannon everywhere they go when representing the Club. Bertie Mee and George Graham always drummed in to their players this mantra: "Remember who you are, what you are, and what you represent." George would famously not allow the players to even loosen their top shirt button when on tour in tropical climes - they were representing Arsenal Football Club and would dress according to that privileged status. On the pre-match video montage there is a voice-over from Bob Wilson talking about how "wherever you went there was this feeling of wearing that big gun on your chest and, my, it made you feel proud." We need that pride back.
The lack of class was brought home to me by two things yesterday. The first was the fact that Arsenal's players were not wearing black armbands. Swansea's Manager, Brendan Rodgers, lost his father shortly before the match and their players showed their respect in the appropriate and expected manner. There was no way that Arsenal teams of the past would have been allowed such an oversight. It was really very poor form from Arsenal.
The second thing was what I found out about Manuel Almunia and how he is being treated at the moment. You will notice from the official website that there has not been a picture taken of Manuel this season, despite his still being the bearer of the number one shirt. I had assumed that he wasn't even at the Club, despite being an employee. I am now told that he is at training every day, along with everyone else. Except that he is not allowed to train with everyone else. Almunia is banished to train alone on the far side of the training ground, away from the squad. What exactly is his crime? Not being quite good enough to be the established first-choice? This is a disgraceful way to treat a man who has never given Arsenal any less than his best. The fact that his best might not have been quite good enough is not his fault. I was disgusted by the abuse that many "fans" gave Almunia last season when things went wrong - it was the Manager that continued to select him and failed to replace him, so why abuse the man himself? I believe that Almunia was on the verge of a move to Fenerbahce in the Summer but, for whatever reasons, it didn't happen (I understand he wants to stay in this Country, and who can blame him?) Now he is being treated like s**t by the Manager and that is an absolute disgrace. Manuel Almunia is a really nice guy, and always had time for the fans in pre-season etc - my brother has a pair of his gloves that Almunia presented to him after training one day - and I find this revelation quite sickening. Ultimately, if he is not wanted by the Manager then he should be released. Almunia would easily find his way in to another club on a free-transfer and would probably find his level. Make no mistake, Manuel Almunia is not a bad goalkeeper, he's just not quite good enough for Arsenal Football Club. Arsenal should show they still have some class and let the man go.
I've added a new poll to the site on the right of the page. Please take the time to vote. You have until this time next week to tell us who you think will be our pivotal last-minute arrival.