RVP - one of 50,000 smiles yesterday
It is so nice to be writing a blog post in a happy frame of mind. The second-half yesterday provided Gooners with a performance that has acted as a very welcome tonic after the ills of the past few weeks. The win over Bolton wasn't without it's moments where criticism is warranted, but the players did more than enough to deserve their 3-0 victory.
I'll start with the bad, much like Arsenal did yesterday. In the very first minute we saw David Wheater winning a header all too easily in our area and nobody reacted to it, causing Wojciech Szczesny to make a top class save, and then dish out a very welcoming telling-off to his colleagues. The rest of the first-half was fairly uninspiring, though Gervinho should have done much better when Arteta set him free on goal, only to mis-control the ball when he realised where he was. The only other moment of danger for Arsenal came when the visitors were already reduced to ten men. Somehow we managed to get everyone caught upfield and a smart save was again required from Szczesny. This lack of concentration and collective defensive discipline is typical of the way the team has performed, and a better quality opposition would have again exploited it. A better opposition would also have done Arsenal damage by hitting us on the break in the first-half where Alex Song was almost always the most advanced of our midfield players - we were so exposed at times, yet Bolton lacked the ability to do anything about it.
The second-half, overall, was a showcase for what Arsenal can do well. Robin Van Persie scored 40 seconds after the re-start and, after that, Theo Walcott finally showed that he can make the sort of runs behind a full-back that he should be making in every game he plays. It was a shame Theo missed the best chance of the entire game as his second-half display was among his best for the Club, in my opinion. I gave him some stick on here on Friday but I am always keen to give credit where it is due, and Theo deserves it this evening. I hope he is fit to play at White Hart Lane next Sunday as his pace will be a much needed outlet in the derby game.
Robin Van Persie added his name to the list of legendary Arsenal forwards with his 100th goal for the Club. I believe the goals have come among just 175 starts in an Arsenal shirt - that's a tremendous strike-rate. Such a statistic only serves to show us how much more he might have done, and how much more Arsenal might have achieved in recent years, were he not so injury-prone. His record since the start of this year might have coincided with the dismal run of form suffered by the squad, but you wonder where we might be were he not around. I know Chamakh got a good goal last week, but we really don't have any cover for Van Persie - the fact that Ju Young Park doesn't even get a place on the bench at home to Bolton perhaps tells us all we need to know about his overall quality.
At the back yesterday Koscielny and Mertesacker were more than equal to the physicality of Kevin Davies. It never ceases to amaze me how referees can watch Kevin Davies looking straight at his marker before barging in to them, and yet never seem to give a free-kick against him. It did make a change, however, for a referee to not give Davies a free-kick himself all the time. As regular readers will know I have no time for any referees, but I believe Mark Clattenburg is very much the best of this very bad bunch - and he showed it yesterday with the advantage for the first goal and the red card decision (his linesman, who was right in line with the incident, was giving nothing at all). I was particularly pleased for Mertesacker who actually got off the ground a couple of times to win headers. The German bears more than a passing resemblance to Tony Adams when he has the ball at his feet. Now he just needs to add some TA6 steel to his game and he might just be okay for us. I also want to give some much deserved praise to Kieran Gibbs tonight as I thought he was outstanding yesterday - he is particularly good in the air and got forward far more responsibly overall.
As I said at the start it feels good to be writing a positive post this evening. The game was far from perfect, and I hope Arsene Wenger concentrates on the negatives a lot more than the positives when dissecting the performance. The last thing I want to hear is any "we've turned a corner" nonsense. The players need to think that yesterday was still below par to a certain extent - then they might come out on Wednesday with the appropriate motivation.
Once again I have a busy week ahead, but I'll try my best to find the time to get something posted before and/or after the Olympiacos match.