I feel I owe you an apology. I said yesterday that the game last night didn’t really mean as much as a league game and that I was pleased that I didn’t have the same nervous rumblings in my stomach that I usually got.
In my defence, I think I lied to myself as well, you know. I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter what transpired that evening, it didn’t matter how the game progressed and because Arsène was going to rotate it didn’t matter that we could end up going to Leicester off of the back of three straight defeats. It was self preservation, you see, a mind fortress I’d constructed to protect myself from more anguish.
Yesterday’s North London Derby did mean something. It meant quite a lot actually and in the context of the season only time will tell, but already I have a feeling it is the appropriate boost before the team travels up to the Midlands to face the foxes. Thierry said it afterwards; it didn’t really matter who was playing, because the whole club will be lifted today and when the players walk in to the training ground, everyone will have that little extra spring in their step.
As I hurtled home from a day in The Big Smoke yesterday afternoon, I found myself very nervous, because I wondered how Arsenal would overcome a boisterous Spud support and a team that would be fired up to play us. After the Zagreb game there were rightly questions raised about some of the squad, so it is a mark of trust that Arsène didn’t waiver in his desire to embark on wholesale changes to the team. Almost the entire side bar Ramsey were rotated and talk on the Whatsapp group I am part of did not hold much hope. Again, possibly fellow Gooners with that whole self preservation thing, so let’s all not be too hard on ourselves.
The game itself looked exactly like one in which a host of players on both teams hadn’t played very often. It was a tense start with only one shot – mustered by us – in the first 20 or so minutes I believe. I thought we looked relatively comfortable across three of the defenders, but Debuchy looked to be having a tough evening up against Kane, Chadli and Erikson when they drifted across, as well as when Rose skipped forward. He looked quite rusty I have to say, with the yellow card he got for scything down Rose a perfect example. He was the most vocal about losing his place this season, but I think even he would have to admit that he’s unlikely to win it back too soon after performances like that. It just goes to show you the importance of a run of games, because unless Hector gets injured, I can’t see him returning more regularly.
But in the main I thought we coped quite well. Ospina made a couple of saves and Gibbs showed a much improved performance going forward as well as defensively. Per was Per and I thought Chambers had a good game too. He’ll be disappointed with the own goal he conceded, but that was a blip in which ultimately we weren’t punished for, so in the context of the result I’m sure we can all let it slide.
Midfield and attack were the biggest worry for everyone I spoke to yesterday. A deep-lying axis of Flamster and Arteta has not been seen for quite some time and the fears were that they would look rusty too. I would say that two yellows – one a piece – for them both is indicative of that, but it’s pretty much par for the course these days. If you’re a betting man/woman, it’s easy money.
But both had decent enough displays in their main duties, it was in the final third that one in particular stood out, as we all know by now.
Wow. Flamini. What a brace. The first coming through a natural strikers instinct of following up a parried Ox shot in the first half, but the second…oh the second…
This morning I woke up and checked my Twitter timeline to find somebody has already overlaid Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart will go on’ from the movie Titanic. Very rarely do I ever actually ‘Laugh Out Loud’, but that had me going. It was a strike that will be remember for some time by us and probably forever by Flamini. The technique, the timing and the connection were pretty much spot on and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was one of our more creative players that got on the end of it rather than the Frenchman. I leapt in the air and made a noise that sounded more akin to a One Direction concert, such was the pitch of the sound, but I didn’t care. That goal was good enough to win any North London Derby.
We saw the game out with some counter attacks and the Spuds left home unhappy. It was the perfect tonic to any midweek blues.
Offensively I still think we looked a bit sluggish and Giroud had a difficult evening, often isolated, but after a victory against your neighbours I suppose it can just be consigned to the annals of time that we didn’t quite click in attack. Joel Campbell looked ok but stood out more for some of the tackles he won whilst tracking back and the Ox does lose the ball in worrying places sometimes. But we coped and we won. So I’m not going to dwell on that too much.
Instead I’m just going to enjoy today and make sure that I keep replaying that finish from our Flamini.
Catch y’all tomorrow.