So THIS is what it feels like? It had been so long that I’d almost forgotten about that winning feeling. I forgotten the fist-pumpingly deliciousness of a performance that bags three points, an away one at that, with some pretty good goals chucked in as well.
And they were all from open play too!
And so this morning we can bask in the fact that we are three points further away from the bottom three and three points closer to the top six. Which is a-ok with me.
Freddie’s third game brought a victory but most important of all, it brought a team selection that most were happy with and plenty of us had been desperate to see. We had Tierney and Bellerin at fullback, Chambers in the middle, Xhaka and Torreira at the base and width in the shape of Martinelli and Nelson. Auba up top and Özil behind completed the side and even though it was only on paper you could tell we would have more balance to us.
Even when Bellerin pulled up in the warm up to be replaced by Maitland-Niles, then Tierney went off in the first half because of his shoulder injury, to be replaced by Kolasinac, we still looked ok and I’ve seen a few people saying both replacement fullbacks were poor at times. I can’t be having that I’m afraid. I thought Maitland-Niles struck up a good partnership going forward with Pepe and the overlapping and underlapping that both did was superb all evening. And when Kola came on he too looked good, also playing his part in getting us back on track with his excellent cut back to Martinelli to mark his first Premier League goal.
I’ve also seen people say how dire the first half was and whilst I’ll admit it wasn’t great, culminating in what I thought was an unlucky goal to concede off the back of Maitland-Niles’ head, I thought we’d looked more controlled in possession than a lot of times this season. Calum Chambers in the middle of the defence put a good shift in and Lucas Torreira in front of him sat and protected the back four more than we’ve seen him do at any stage when he’s played this season. The only problem – which is a big one to be fair – was that we lacked any kind of incision inside West Ham’s penalty box in that first half.
But in the second half that changed and we took advantage with some very nice goals I thought.
The first was a well-worked, well-passed, well-executed finish by Martinelli who despite most of us suspecting he wouldn’t ply much this season, now looks like a shoe-in for the first team. He’s all action; he’s a terrier running back towards his own goal to cover ground, he’s quick, energetic and has got a natural eye for goal that right now feels vital. He looked good all night and despite the fact he’s said he prefers playing out wide, he looks the sort who can play in any position across the front three. More of the same from Gabby next weekend, please.
The second goal was also a peach and by Jove, aren’t we all glad that Pepe got it? There’s so much desire for him to be a success at The Arsenal and up to now he’s been languishing in a team that hasn’t been able to hit anything other than its highest heights this season. But he had played well all night up until his goal and so when he picked the ball up and stroked it around Alvin Martin’s boy in goal, the reaction from the Arsenal players was awesome. Absolute limbs, as they say these days.
A second goal. A second goal from open play. And a goal in which I think we all hope explodes Pepe into life. We need it.
Of course, not one to not get in on the goalscoring act, Auba’s goal was pretty classy too and when it hit the back of the net I kind of knew West Ham weren’t coming back. They’d not really tested Leno all night so to see us go behind early on felt harsh, but as I said to the lads in the studio before the game when we did the GunnersTown show last night, it felt like one of those that when your licks out, it’s out, as we suffered another deflected goal.
But you have to give credit to the players and their reaction to going behind last night, because I didn’t think they’d have it in them to come back, so to get the result we did feels like an important monkey off our backs.
And you could tell that at the end of the game with the reactions of Freddie, the players, and the fans, that there was a little bit of faith restored.
What needs to happen now though is that we react, even as quickly as Thursday night, against Standard Liege. We are practically through but we still need a performance from those players that will be rotated in and having a second win before we play City on Sunday feels like it could be really important.
Come on Arsenal. Back on the horse.