Popular goal all round
Apologies for the long hiatus since I last produced any nonsense on the blog. I've been doing plenty of Tweeting (@ARSENALDvbrisG) and had a mini-rant after the Sheffield Wednesday game on the Facebook page (It's MY Arsenal Opinion). However, I haven't been able to find the time to write properly despite us playing three games since I last penned anything. I missed the Everton game as I had to go to an in-laws family party down in Dorset. I watched the game later on but was then working on the Monday. I went to Hillsborough on Tuesday for what can only be described as a debacle against Sheffield Wednesday, and then I was on nights for the rest of the week. I did get to see the Swansea game via Canal+ on the internet but I was busy yesterday so this is the first chance to get anything written throughout that time.
Everton seems far too long ago to really write too much about, but I have to say it was a great win following a demanding week for the players. Towards the end I think a few of them, especially the defenders, were out on their feet and it was a credit to them that they hung on so well for the three points. What followed at Sheffield was nothing more than an embarrassing, shameful disgrace, from the monstrosity of a kit that bore the Arsenal crest, to the performance of most of the players. I do not hold any of the youngsters responsible as they were mostly out of their depth and not helped by their more experienced colleagues. The injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott (he was due an injury after a whole two months of fitness) were down to the bad attitude displayed by the players and the coaching staff. My Dad noticed before kick-off that instead of doing what small warm-up the subs might do, Theo was over the far side of the pitch kicking balls at the reserve goalkeeper with Giroud and Campbell. It was indicative of the display that was to follow, and no real surprise, that he limped off shortly after coming on for the similarly under-prepared Ox. The lack of genuine attacking options, other than Theo, on the bench meant we would always be in trouble if we went behind. That the experienced players were largely in the back six for us on the night makes it a disgrace that we conceded the goals as we did. Giroud might as well have come in stood in the Leppings Lane End with the rest of us. The only "senior" player who genuinely tried hard on the night was Joel Campbell who came in for the most unjustified stick I think I've ever heard. Yes, what he tried didn't often come off on the night, but when everyone around you is either not good enough or not trying then you've no chance. I appreciated his effort.
The injuries to Ox and Theo leave us short on the right side of the pitch. However, you can't legislate for injuries to those two, Rosicky, Ramsey and Welbeck all at the same time, especially with Gnabry away on loan (and not getting a game in a cloggers team at West Brom). What worries me more is that we can very much legislate for the fact that Theo's injury leaves us with one striker in the squad when we knew before the transfer window closed that Danny Welbeck was turning in to Danny Thomas (ask your Dad). We are also so reliant on Santi Cazorla to partner Coquelin that he can't possibly be moved wide. All of this, of course, means we will be getting to see more of Joel Campbell. I'm not disappointed that he will finally get the chance to show what he can do surrounded by decent players.
The win at Swansea on Saturday was excellent. I would have happily taken a draw there before kick-off so to end up with the three points was a massive result. Watching the game on the internet, via French TV, meant I didn't have the commentary on. As such I didn't think we were as out of sorts before half-time as I later learned Sky told everyone we were. I couldn't understand why my Twitter feed was so negative at half-time but, on watching the Sky highlights, I realised what it was all about. What I will say is that we were incredibly lucky not to concede a penalty when Mertesacker virtually punched a free-kick away instead of putting his head on it. For all his exceptional qualities of reading the game the BFG is a chicken who regularly fails to put his body on the line and rarely attacks the ball properly in the air. I'm not really sure why he appears to have regained his place ahead of Gabriel. I also can't not mention the intervention of Hector "The Flash" Bellerin to help deny Gomis the opening goal. With Mertesacker wandering off in to midfield and Koscielny playing a bizarre offside trap the little Spaniard came from nowhere to save Arsenal. His pace is truly astonishing, as seen in the final minute against Bayern Munich the other week. We weren't without our own chances before half-time with Giroud missing an open-goal and Campbell curling a great effort just wide.
The second-half saw us dominate pretty much from the off with Mesut Ozil taking the game over. Alexis had an awful day and Ozil stepped up to the plate in the grand manner. Giroud scored a good header having lost his marker at a corner (lovely delivery by Ozil) and then Fabianski handed Koscielny the second - let's make it clear here that there was no foul and the Pole simply regressed to his Arsenal days in that incident. Cech had intervened between those two goals to preserve the lead and it does feel great to have a goalkeeper who you feel is more likely to actually make a save than be picking yet another one out of the net. Arsenal clinched the win thanks to the highly impressive Joel Campbell as he grabbed a very well taken, and very well deserved, first Arsenal goal. Campbell was outstanding all through the game with a great work ethic. He made three or four really good tackles and interceptions, chased back to help Bellerin get the better of the dangerous Montero, and played his part at the top of the pitch too. I was really pleased for Campbell, as was most of the team judging by the way they celebrated with him. Time will tell whether he truly has the necessary quality, but he can only go on delivering like he did on Saturday if he wants to prove himself. Let's also bear in mind that he is playing out of position at Arsenal - for Costa Rica he plays the lone striker role, a la Giroud for Arsenal. I wrote at the World Cup that he looked really impressive and was worth a decent chance with us. Maybe the injuries have given him that opportunity and I really hope he goes on to be a surprise to everyone. If he can help us through the next couple of months and get a few goals then it might make all the difference in challenging Manchester City at the top.