Don’t really know what I was worried about yesterday. Perhaps I’d read too much into the various pre-game tactical analysis about Villa, coupled it with the reappearance of the worst ref in the league Antony Taylor, then rebooted a few old memories of past discrepancies against our Midland opponents yesterday.
I probably should have looked more closely at the stat which said that Villa hadn’t scored for something like five Premier League games, then worked my confidence up from there, because yesterday was a rampant Arsenal that were in control from start to finish.
It is funny though, because when you’re there and you aren’t influenced by the chatter of pundits or fellow fans on Twitter and other social networking sites, you do tend to be a bit more nervous inside the ground. At halftime the talk should have been about us going on a finishing this game off, but inside the ground my peers and I found nothing but worry that we were going to get sucker-punched. Let’s not forget that our only defeat at home since we last lost to Villa was a sucker-punch from a pretty average United side, so we have recent memories of how it can happen.
But my natural sense of pessimism which has been forged in recent times as an Arsenal fan, also impedes my ability to see the world’s easiest accumulator contributor, because with the form we’re exhibiting at the moment we were always going to win this. Oh hindsight, you can be such a valuable ally.
It only took us eight minutes to get on the scoresheet and when Ollie G flicked the ball over Guzan for the first, it was thankfully the start of things to come rather than the end of all that was good. Everyone seemed up for it yesterday. Mesut Özil was in sparkling form (the flick for the first goal will have had Cristiano smiling, remembering the ‘good old times’ had he been watching, I’m sure) but he was joined by Santi too, who showed once again how undroppable he is right now. Those twinkle toes of his are something to behold and Villa just couldn’t handle him yesterday.
But it wasn’t just Cazorla they couldn’t handle. Giroud won most of his aerial duels, was composure personified with his goal and showed why he is first choice at the top of our formation. He’s been brilliant since returning from injury and suspension and the very fact that we see few online keyboard warriors bemoaning his existence, shows how well he is playing, so long may he keep it up.
Theo and Rambo may have had moments in which they looked rusty, but they both still impacted the game with the former scoring a well taken side-footer to make the game safe at 3-0, whilst the former worked tirelessly and showed that even when some of the stuff that makes him amazing didn’t come off, his work-rate and attitude helps him to come through well.
I haven’t even mentioned Coquelin yet who, with the kind of display that looked like he’d been a first team regular for the last three years, broke up Villa play perfectly and formed the perfect anchor weight for the rest of the creative players to build on. As Nigel behind me noted, he’s got ‘legs on him’ which whilst sounds like the world’s most redundant statement, anybody who watches football and knows it’s lingo will understand what it means. His anticipation is superb and he loves a tackle. In England, the sort of floor-sliding, ball-winnery will always get the fans cheering your name and Francis has become as undroppable as Santi in my opinion now.
But the good news doesn’t stop with the attack and midfield. Defensively we looked like we could have held our goal untouched for days. I don’t know whether that’s because Villa have no real cut and thrust about them, or whether we are just too good at the back right now. That’s four clean sheets in five now I believe and with new signing Gabriel and Calum Chambers able to spot in should the worst occur, we also have options at the back for rotation.
Yes, you read that right: we have options at the back.
We have options everywhere, actually, because let’s not forget that Monreal is keeping Kieren Gibbs out of the side at the moment. Nobody would have seen that coming this time last year, would they? He, like many in the team at the moment, is in form and keeping his place on merit. Much like Bellerin. Given his age and his rawness when he first started appearing in the first team this season, it was natural to assume the Chambers would take the right back spot, but Hector had another fine display and one that will have the manager wondering who will be his first choice right back next season if he maintains this trajectory. He even chipped in with a composed side foot planter right into the bottom corner in injury time.
I’ve started, so I’ll finish with the praise in the team, so step forward David Oooooossssspina! I don’t know if you can see it on the TV, but after we were awarded the penalty on Chuba, I happened to look down the pitch at the defenders. Ospina was out of his goal and talking to Monreal, Per and Kos and looking authoritative and organised. He did that all day. He marshalled his defenders, then when called into action, caught balls into the box, claimed crosses and made a couple of very smart saves. Again, there on merit and whilst I’ve always been a fan of Szczesny, I just can’t see how he’s going to get back into this team right now.
The arrival of Gabriel, coupled with the form of so many players, is making this current moment in the season an enjoyable one. We still need to win more games and next weekend’s North London Derby will be crucial, but our squad depth at the moment looks frighteningly good. No Alexis, Welbeck, Ox, Debuchy, Wilshere or Arteta, yet we still smashed an admittedly ailing Villa team to pieces. People in the media keep asking Arsène how he is going to fit in all of these players into his team! I remember four years ago we were bemoaning the leeching effect of the deadwood in the team, but now we look like we could field two sides, such is the strength of the side Arsène has built.
Hopefully this bodes well for the remainder of the season. We are putting together the sort of run that we had last season at the start of 2013/14, so it ‘feels’ to me like we are ready to really cement our Champions League credentials. The games will start coming thick and fast after Saturday’s game, so rotating a big squad will be essential and having players in the squad that are in form, is the sort of thing that you see from sides that win trophies.
We still have a long way to go, but we’re playing the right way at the moment. We’re winning, with swagger. Let’s have that next weekend please, boys.