Well now, isn’t it nice to start the week run up to Christmas knowing that whatever happens, The Arsenal will be fourth on Christmas Day. We may not stay there, we may fall away and have a shocker of a Christmas period between now and the new year, but as it stands we can smile a little bit at least. And so too can Harry Kane smile, because he knows that he essentially has some kind of England captain diplomatic immunity when it comes to the domestic game and it’s refereeing. His ‘tackle’ on Robertson yesterday was reckless, could have broken the players leg, yet it wasn’t even looked at by VAR or the on-field referee, who then decided to have a look at Robertson’s stupid challenge in the second half and rightly send the player off. Inconsistency and stupidity in refereeing decisions we’re used to seeing each week, but when it is happening in a game as clear cut as that…well…you can see why people talk about corruption or at least something dodgy going on at the PGMOL.
And unfortunately I have to too the horn once again of my contempt for Mike Riley and his old boys network of shoddy referees currently managing our beautiful game. The standard of refereeing in the Premier League is nowhere near good enough and something needs to be done. It won’t because the PGMOL is a closed and undemocratised club that is self serving in nature and designed to keep people in jobs for life. It is a terrible society that needs root and branch change that will never come.
But let’s not dwell on the negatives too much, because we’ve had a weekend in which Arsenal have done exactly what they needed to do and I tell you what folks, it STILL feels very good just two days later. I am still buzzing. I’ve put my Arsenal away short on today for work, I’m feeling that jolly about our performance and some of the players. Even my Spurs supporting cousin was messaging me yesterday saying how impressive our attacking line up of young players look and whilst the United and Everton games had us all concerned of another death spiral, three wins on the trot have got us all feeling the good juju right now that is being sprinkled over our team.
Actually, that’s not quite right, because it there isn’t anything ‘lucky’ about the way our team is playing. Yes, Leeds were as open and welcoming as a parliamentary office party at Christmas, but we still had to do the work and play the right way to get the result. And we did exactly that. We were superb in defence, build up and our finishing, but for me the most exciting thing about the last two matches has been how we’ve managed to get in behind back lines. Of course it has been Martinelli spearheading that, but I feel like it’s been years since we’ve had players running in behind defences and bearing down on goal. I’m sure it has happened, but the last time I felt like we did that with any kind of regularity was right at the end of the Wenger reign. I have one moment in which we’d just signed Auba and Ozil slipped him in at home to Everton. He missed the first one but was slipped in for a second time and flicked the ball over the ‘keeper. The fact that I’m referencing an incident that I can remember from about five years ago shows you just how few times we have had our players bearing down on the goalkeeper in recent times. So to have it in the West Ham game with our first goal, then with Martinelli on his second goal on Saturday, it felt good, I gotta tell ya.
Perhaps it’s because it was the Thierry Henry era in which it felt like we saw it every week, but one of my favourite goals to see is when a pass is slipped in behind a defence and a striker bears down on goal with a goalkeeper. Those are the moments that have you slowly rising to your feet, building the anticipation, then pumping the air with your fist. It is a slow build up to a celebration. An unexpected shot from 30 years, a header from a corner, a dodgy own goal – all have explosive moments of celebration, but when a player bears down on goal you have a few seconds of build up and the excitement grows incrementally in those few seconds. That’s why I love it.
And I want to see more of it. A lot more. We may not get lots more because teams tend to sit in low blocks against us and certainly now teams have seen how red hot Martinelli is right now we know that they will be studying him specifically and the runs he makes, but right now it is good to dream and hope that this purple patch Martinelli is on can continue. It feels like it can. He looks sharp, he looks like he’s found his place in the team and he looks like he’s ready to make that step up. His confidence will be sky-high and with Lacazette, Odegaard, Smith Rowe and Xhaka all knowing that he will be making those runs, they’re going to be more likely to see if they can slot him in behind when he starts off from outside to in during games.
But I also wonder if we’ll start to see more players stepping up too. Smith Rowe keeps bagging goals but can’t get in to the team. That’s nothing on him, but Arteta rightly can’t change a winning side and with us not playing until next Sunday in the league (League Cup tomorrow against Sunderland will see heavy rotation I suspect), it means a chance for those players who started on Saturday evening to potentially get some rest and recharge the bones before some quick games in succession. But Arteta is going to have to manage the next 10 games and I suspect there might be a few rotated in the next 10 games. Certainly tomorrow there will be, but I wonder if Smith Rowe will be earmarked to start against Wolves at home, perhaps? Or Nketiah even getting a look in for one of the Premier League games after Christmas, as well as the League Cup. Personally I don’t think it would work because he can’t do what Lacazette does in dropping deeper and hold up play. Not that I’m saying Lacazette is amazing or anything, but we have a particular type of striker working in our current system and we don’t really have any other striker that does a similar job. So it is interesting to see how Arteta divvies up the minutes over Christmas.
I think I’ll leave it there for the day. I’m feeling good and going to get my booster shortly so hopefully that good feeling isn’t replaced by a sense of nausea that a jab or a Harry Kane post match interview could induce.
Catch you all tomorrow.