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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Arsenal bring back the memories

Like watching this lot

For ten minutes last night Arsenal played with searing pace, firing accurate passes through midfield and beyond the West Ham defence. There was simply no answer to such speed and precision football. The way Arsenal broke down the left and created goals for those in the middle was reminiscent of Wenger's greatest sides. You could have been forgiven for thinking that we were actually seeing Vieira, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp and Ljungberg (I couldn't find a photo of just the five of them) back in harness as the attacking five. There have been occasions, sadly all too rare, where this group has played quickly. Every time it's happened they have hammered the opposition. The obvious question would have to be why they don't play like this all the time. Far too often we sit through ninety minutes of Arsenal going sideways across a packed back line, lacking the movement or the imagination to create space and opportunities. We're not talking rocket science here, but simply playing to the various strengths of the players we have. No defence likes facing players running at speed with the ball. And once you get a player with the range of passing that Jack Wilshere possesses (and Santi Cazorla when the mood takes him) you can thrash your opponent. Some of Wilshere's passes beyond the full-back last night were astounding. I imagine the watching Roy Hodgson will have been smiling ahead of England's next game.
It strikes me that when Cazorla and Podolski play well (when they want to play well) Arsenal invariably are too good for the their opponents. I have stopped short of criticising Podolski when perhaps he actually merited it. His goalscoring has regularly masked a tendency to not get involved enough. However, last night the German put in the complete performance. He is obviously an amazing player as his record for Germany, at such a young age, would tell you. With his power and strength he should be perfectly suited to English football and, when he puts his mind to it, he covers the ground very quickly indeed. If last night was an indication that he has fully come to grips with the Premier League then he has an exciting Arsenal future to look forward to. I hope it was not a false dawn.
I have to single out Aaron Ramsey for some praise last night. Ramsey has had a bad time of it for a while now, with the poor displays far outnumbering anything good. Last night he played deep in midfield and used the ball very well indeed. His clearance off the line showed a hunger and determination that has too often been lacking from him. Given the opportunity to stake a claim in the absence of Arteta and Coquelin, and playing in a role to which he is eminently more suited, he showed he still has some ability. Maybe he has been lacking confidence, and such a performance might help Rambo back to the level we all hoped he would get to before his leg was shattered.
It looks like Thomas Vermaelen might well miss the game at Brighton on Saturday. Ironically he was injured by Ramsey as the boyo got back to make his goal line clearance. When Vermaelen went off in the second half it was notable that the armband passed to the people's champ Jack Wilshere. In a team that contained Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs and Walcott I thought it spoke volumes for Wilshere's qualities and standing in this group of players that he was the chosen one. In his post-match interviews this season he has displayed a high level of maturity and has said all the things you want to hear from your skipper. With Mikel Arteta out, and Vermaelen doubtful, it looks as though we will get Captain Jack at the Amex this weekend. You just know it won't be the last time we see it.
All in all it was great to get a win, any win, last night. To do so playing such a sublime brand of football was gratifying in the extreme. To thrash a team run by Allardyce adds a certain cherry to the top of the already well iced cake. There is something rather nice about seeing the fat walrus faced cretin chewing harder and harder on his gum as Arsenal banged in the goals last night. My fear would be that such results and performances will see Wenger feeling vindicated and failing to spend money before next week. Signings of necessary quality already look remote. I just hope Wenger isn't stupid enough to think he has a squad of adequate strength and quality to finish the season well, and possibly end the trophy drought.

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