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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Nice to win again

The Brighton game saw me reach my lowest point as an Arsenal supporter in my nearly 39 years - I’m not quite old enough to genuinely remember what it was like at the end of the Terry Neill era - and I really couldn’t see how we’d get out of the rut. The performance in the first-half at the San Siro, therefore, was as welcome as it was unexpected. The players came out with a different mentality and actually played to score goals. Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Ramsey, Welbeck and co were superb on the night - special mention to Granit Xhaka - and a 2-0 away win against a traditional European giant, in very good form in Serie A, was not to be sniffed at at all. I could have done without the players reverting to type and trying to pass the ball to death in our own half after the interval but I could forgive them with the final score. It was a genuinely nice feeling to have seen Arsenal go out and be The Arsenal, if only they were being forced to dress appropriately on and off the field things would have been ideal.
Off the back of the win in Milan, and with the second leg in mind, Wenger made a number of changes for the Watford game last Sunday. Some of the players who came in really did very well on the day with Holding and Elneny particularly impressive. I really enjoyed Holding taking on Troy Deeney in the same way he did Diego Costa at Wembley last May. It seems that Holding might need to be up against a total s***house of a centre-forward to get him playing well. Seeing Deeney try to barge him off the ball but end up on his backside waving his arms at the referee was a joy to watch. We scored a couple of nice goals and Aubameyang got his 3rd in 5 games (add in the missed chance at Wembley against City and the wrong offside call against Spurs at the same ground and he could easily have been on a goal a game) with Mkhitaryan also being heavily involved again. The penalty save from Cech brought the crowd to life for the last half-hour and it was nice to rub Deeney’s nose in the dirt just that little bit further. At the same time Watford had real chances to get goals that a decent set of strikers would have taken so our defensive issues are as present as they ever were - our next defeat will still be not too far away.
I was sadly working Thursday night so missed a decent crowd for the home leg against Milan. I watched the whole game back on TV yesterday morning and we certainly rode our luck at times. We gave up far too many goalscoring opportunities to not be concerned had we been up against Griesman and Costa, for example. The penalty we got was not something I want to see again from an Arsenal player. I can’t be doing with diving and I go out of my way to criticise the Tottenham players who are being praised for the cheating they are starting to perfect. I hope we don’t see anything like that again from Welbeck, or anyone else in an Arsenal shirt, but the headlines he got yesterday were unbelievable given what Kane and Alli have been up to. Clearly it’s a different standard when it’s Arsenal players as far as the press are concerned and John Cross of the Daily Mirror really was a disgrace in his paper. The man is clearly miffed that Arsenal have chosen David Ornstein of the BBC as their media mouthpiece rather than a man who considered himself an insider at the club after his years on the Islington Gazette. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the penalty Arsenal created plenty on the night and were worth the win, despite the fact it might have been different had Milan taken some of their opportunities.
So we’re in to a European quarter-final for the first time in a long time. There were two teams to avoid in the draw and we predictably drew one of them. A 1st leg at home, and our abysmal record in Russia, does not fill me with great optimism. Arsenal should beat CSKA Moscow every day of the week but our players are fragile and don’t travel well. We need a handsome win at home to get through I fear. I’d actually have rather played Atletico Madrid than CSKA. Still, we’re in the competition and it offers the season some salvation. I’d very much like to be in Lyon in mid-May watching Arsenal take some silverware. If it saw Wenger sign-off with the only European trophy of his career I think we’d all take it.

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