I’m really liking the weekend’s of football action in which we win, other teams at the top of the division drop points and momentum and high morale seem to be with us.
I dared not to say it pre-game yesterday, but Aston Villa were the perfect team for us to play after a hard-earned qualification from the Champions League on Wednesday. Arsène admitted they got back later than usual from Greece and he was concerned about the fatigue levels, but his team responded perfectly, giving him and all of us a textbook post-European game performance.
Score an early goal, probe an get the second in the first half, don’t exert yourselves too much and head home with three points tucked under your arm. That’s the perfect blueprint for games away from home like that and the team did what was needed. Walcott’s early run that earned the penalty was indicative of the shabbiness of the opponents I’m afraid. Flamini’s ball didn’t look too hard to defend against, it was just a simple one over the top for Walcott to run on to, but Alan Hutton never really stood a chance and when he hauled Walcott down the only real question was whether Giroud could hold his nerve. He did, we were one up within ten minutes, which sent Villa into some sort of punch-drunk malaise for which they never recovered, so for us it was just about making sure we got the second as a buffer.
We did and it was Aaron Ramsey at his absolute best, winning the ball on the edge of the box, then busting his gut to get on the end of the Özil assist. That’s two in two league games for the Welshman playing centrally and as much as we all miss Santi, if Rambo keeps up his scoring ways and keeps popping up in the box like he did for 2013/14, then we’ll have found another way to compensate and hopefully it can steer us towards that first league title.
Ramsey was by far the best player yesterday too. His presence at both ends of the pitch was needed and ahead of next Monday’s game against City, we need players like him on top form, so it’s great to see. It may have been a game in which Villa looked bereft of belief at times, but that didn’t stop Rambo from running his guts out as if he was in the cup final, playing his last ever football match. That energy he brings to the team, especially with us missing somebody as effervescent as Alexis, I think is vital to driving the team on. He is the engine and I really hope that he can form a good partnership with Flamini. We’re gonna need them to in the coming weeks and months.
We have to be thankful that Villa effectively gave up after the second goal though, because it enabled the players to retain possession for large swathes of the match, which of course ensures that fatigue levels don’t drop too drastically. We don’t have a game for a whole week now, which will allow the players to recharge, but if we did have a game it would have been pleasing to know that the team looked at times as if it was poodling along in second gear.
You have to fear for Remi Garde though. The guy is an ex-Gooner, he has a decent enough reputation in the French league and surely must be wondering what he’s let himself in for. Based on what we’ve seen in the Midlands yesterday, he’ll need some sort of miracle to survive in the Premier League, unless the plan is to go down and have a proper go at the Championship next season.
Elsewhere, as I mention at the start of the blog, it was almost as if all of the planets had aligned to give us even more enjoyment with other games. The Spuds lost, the scousers drew, the red Mancs were defeated and even the one negative result of the weekend – City winning – was laced with some positives, because Swansea are a team pretty low on confidence – but they were really unlucky not to pick up a point. It would be a dream come true to see Moneychester City play that poorly against us next Monday. It won’t happen, we all know that, but at least it gives us hope that we might be able to get a win.
November’s hiccup is now well and truly behind us and we’re back on track. We’re top of the league and unless Leicester pick up all three points against Chelski tonight, we’ll stay there for the whole week, so I think it would be good to wrap up on that bit of positivity.