I must say ‘welcome back’ to the Arsenal. Where have you been? We’ve been hanging around your dodgy cousin that smells a little bit and looks a lot like you, but has a limp, gammy leg, croaky voice, German measles and quite frankly, it’s been an unpleasant experience.
I thought that I’d just have to get used to it, but it turns out that it was an imposter and as a result, I’m one happy Gooner this morning. I feel like I’ve been Gift Aided my football team back.
Stoke are a thorn in an Arsenal side. Every season they show intensity, drive and purpose against us, regardless of where they are in the league and if I’m honest I couldn’t see such an emphatic result as I witnessed yesterday. I just didn’t see how it would happen. But after five minutes of the game yesterday, I could feel like there was something like that on the cards, because every single Arsenal player looked switched on and up for it.
Arsène rotated. The team looked strong and well balanced, but if I’m honest I didn’t think that playing Ollie G against a physical pairing of Martins Indy and Shawcross would work. And for the first 15minutes I’m not sure that it did. Stoke sat off and let us have the ball, content to see Arsenal suffocate possession from them and when they got their first scary chance via a free kick after a rash Mustafi challenge, I have to admit that I feared the worst. But as it sailed over the bar, I should have realised at the time that this wasnan Arsenal team that knew exactly what it needed to do, and would execute its plan to the letter.
So from the moment the first goal I should have realised we weren’t going to let this game get away from us. Coquelin – in for a probably fatigued Ramsey – turned pre-assist extraordinaire to put Bellerin in behind and Ollie G was there the tap home. And from that moment on we were probably destined for victory. I liked that goal and not for the fact it was the first, but because of the fact it came from us penetrating in behind a back line, which I’d wondered whether we’d forgotten to do.
We haven’t. Monreal had laid the groundwork by hitting the post, which was unfortunate for him because he had a blinder yesterday. At the time I wondered if this was going to be ‘one of those games’ but hindsight is a wonderful thing and with that in mind I can say I needn’t have worried. We dominated from start to finish and goals from Özil, Alexis and then Ollie G made the result sound as dominant as it was. No Stoke mocking, no chants of ‘do the Wenger’, no singing up about a Rugby team, just an Arsenal side that had a job to do and did it. Well.
The second goal was a thing of beauty, wasn’t it? A perfectly weighted Alexis ball, the majesty of Özil’s first touch, then a flick over Butland that shows just how special the German can be. I thought he was superb yesterday. He looked like his old self. Pinging balls around, finding space and owning the whole pitch, whilst also cropping up with his 12th goal of the season. It was the Özil of the beginning of this season and I for one am glad to see him back. And guess what? It was another ball in behind that did it. I love those. It’s what Arsenal do and when we’re finding that space we look like a different team.
Even the cheating of Peter Crouch couldn’t bring them back into the game. I guess something like that was always going to happen, after all we were being reffed by Mike Dean, which means something bad always has to happen to us, but we just need to make sure the badness is mitigated by being better.
And we were. Alexis saw to that with the third goal and from the moment it went in we looked like we could run riot. Ollie G stepped up to add the fourth with help from a resurgent Rambo, but we could and should have had more, because suddenly we were creating chances at will.
This morning I am well happy. But not because I think we’ll make the top four. I suspect that hope will disapate in East London after lunch. No, I am happy because it seems like this formation is clicking and that’s just what we need ahead of the cup final, because that’s what this season is no riding on. If we can beat Sunderland and Everton we’ll go in to the cup final on a winning streak and that’s all that I’ve wanted for the last few weeks so it’s fair to say I’m a happy bunny this Sunday. Perhaps a little bit overly happy given we’re still in fifth but as I get older I’m realising just how important memories like cup finals are so if we can make another one in a couple of weekends time, then I’ll say ‘screw it’ to this season and be thankful that I get to see The Arsenal in the cup final.
The formation appears to be working. That back five looked really good and if they can get another couple of games in the bag like that one yesterday, then this temporary formation might be something to consider for next season. We can’t forget the horror-show that has been this season at times, but seeing Arsenal win and win comfortably is why we’re football fans and when it happens we can all be happy. Even those with the banner. In the summer we need a change, but right now we need results, so at least we’re getting them.
Up the Arsenal.