Much like Easter, I do prefer it when St Totterigham’s Day is bought forward in the calendar, as it enables us to enjoy it more I think. It was nice for the authorities to see fit to grant a national bank holiday in honour of the occasion.
I spent my St Totteringham’s Day in the garden, doing classic bank holiday tasks of cutting the grass and pulling down ivy from the side of the house, hardly the most thrilling of days. But it was still an enjoyable one by the time my head hit the pillow.
Arsenal saw to that.
I looked at this game, at the form of Hull, wondering whether or not we’d face a side scrapping for their lives and having picked up six points in their previous two games, keen to catch us off guard with a quick start. But as a bit more of a natural pessimist, I vastly underestimated the level of confidence the team has right now, evident even before we scored our first goal.
Arsène named an unchanged squad from the Chelski game and although I had expressed a desire to see us play with more width and pace, I was hardly upset by any inclusion, because the form of every player playing regularly in the team is good now. So after the first ten minutes of near total domination of the possession, I knew that this was a Hull team that feared being overrun if they came at us too strongly, pushing bodies forward that would inevitably leave space for our creative players.
But despite trying to play deeper and not give us too much space, the form of players like Özil and Santi, meant that space was created by movement and quick-thinking. The way we popped the ball around in the first half was majestic. Cazorla – who is becoming the very definition of an American Football-style ‘quarter-back’ – sat deeper with the play in front of him and saw things that even watching on TV, with a better vantage point, I was unable to observe without a replay. To think that this is a little Spanish chap who many thought would not get in to the team this season. Madness.
In front of him an Özil who looks like he’s been sticking two fingers up to the critical English media since he came back from injury, was in fine form, cropping up all over the park and always giving a team mate an option. I haven’t looked at any heat maps, but he covered pretty much every blade of grass, also finding time to make some very good runs in behind the back three of Hull’s defensive line. Accusations of lethargy pointed in the direction of the German are so far off the mark they fall off the page.
His little flick in the second half though, eh? Vision, composure and the deftest of touches, make him every bit the superstar at Arsenal. Thank goodness we have him.
Not just him though. Thank goodness we have a lot of our players. They entertain us all season and at the moment they do it with a swagger and technical ability that far outdoes any other more ‘pragmatic’ teams at the top of the table. Alexis was on form last night too. The first goal may have been fortunate in the deflection it took, but it was the least his performance merited. He was his usual effervescent self, but it also felt like some of that rubbed off on the other players too. Ramsey will always be Ramsey and will always close down the space to pressurise opponents, but Özil was nicking the ball away through the higher press too, with he result of his interception leading to the free kick from which the first goal came.
The second goal may have also had a slight tinge of fortune to it in the deflection from Brady off Ramsey’s shot, but again the ball from Cazorla and the running from the Welshman to create the space was sublime, so it’s hard to deny such a fabulously worked goal some credit by dismissing it as a bit of a ‘fluke’.
Goal number three had no such hint of fortune though and again the pass to set it up was brilliant from Ramsey to find Alexis in between the defenders and then beyond Harper to touch the ball into an empty net.
We may have conceded in the second half (a questionable one given that Meyler fouled Koscienly in the build up) to make for a five minute period of a wee bit of jitteriness immediately after the goal, but it is a marked difference in this Arsenal team in comparison with some of its predecessors, that the ship was steadied and the three points secured as we tuned the remainder of the game into a bit of an exhibition match by limited Hull’s chances and retaining possession. As I’ve said on previous blogs, it feels like we’re building for next season, which means that maintaining momentum by winning games is vitally important. Winning yesterday all but guaranteed a Champions League spot next season, but that’s not the benchmark now, we need to be going for more. We need to be picking up enough wins to make others take note for next season, but more importantly we need the players to go into the summer believing that they will win the league next season.
Tis’ the season to be jolly and on this St Totteringham’s Boxing Day we must give thanks to those that made it possible.
Catch you tomorrow.