In yesterday’s match preview I said that a thumping win would be great, but after the previous couple of games, all we really needed was a win and three points. And that’s exactly what we got, so I’m a relieved gooner this morning, safe in the knowledge that we at least managed to tread water with the teams at the top.
City won, Chelski won, United won and I’m expecting the Spuds and Liverpool to win too. So all that really mattered about yesterday’s game was that we secured all the points. Which is just as well, because the performance wasn’t exactly all that.
Arsène made a number of changes from the City game – some forced and some not – with Gibbs being recalled to the starting XI in place of Monreal, and Giroud returning to the attacking line in the absence of the injured Walcott. The rest of the team remained unchanged and so you can’t really put the selection of those two players down to the disjointed nature of our game.
It all just felt a little flat. Some of that was down to the opposition; West Brom came for a point and Tony Pulis set his side up accordingly with bodies in and around their own 18 yard box. The aim of the game for the tracksuit wearing vulgarian was to frustrate and if there’s one thing his teams can certainly do, it’s that. So the Baggies remained compact as a unit, tight in the middle of the park, with the match turning into a bit of a siege from about 15 minutes in. The problem was though, we aren’t a team with the swagger and confidence we had a few weeks ago, so as soon as West Brom had got to halftime with the score at 0-0, you just knew it would make the second half even harder.
So it was that we continued to huff and puff. But we never really broke beyond their lines. Foster made a few great saves and Alexis hit the post, but it did feel like it was going to be one of those games, which made for frustrating viewing.
I wasn’t at the game, but I was watching a live stream, so imagine my delight when for a change the curse of the commentator didn’t strike. About a minute before Giroud scored he’d said that no team had scored more goals in the last ten minutes of a match than Arsenal this season. Then sure enough, up pops Giroud with a looping header and one that not only vindicated the decision for him to start, but also showed his worth against a team like West Brom. He’s the only striker we have who’s strong enough to outmuscle his marker, as well as plant his head firmly enough for it to loop over Foster, so you have to give props to everyone involved in the decision to start him. I thought he had a good game overall and deserved his goal.
It wasn’t pretty, it was frustrating at times, but this time in the year is purely about churning out results. We did that yesterday.
Now we can turn our attention to another guy who will undoubtedly try the same tactic in Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace on New Years Day. He’ll have seen that performance against West Brom and he’ll look to better it with a stronger attack that they have, but a defence that is perhaps not as compact, so whilst I’m hopeful that the team will create more chances against the Eagles, I’m mindful that we might also have more scary moments in our own defence.
Still, onwards and upwards, and all that jazz.
Right, I’m going to see if there’s a way of shedding all of this Christmas blubber I seem to have accumulated.