What vital win that was yesterday. Arsenal knew that they needed to get a result against a Tottenham side that had been given a leg up with Leicester undertaking massive rotation and basically throwing their match at the Toilet Bowl Stadium. The Scum had gone a point clear of us and a draw or defeat would not have been enough to nudge us in front of them back in to fourth. In comparison to Leicester, however, David Moyes surprisingly named almost the strongest possible team – Antonio aside – and as we counted down to kick off there were a fair few of us that got a little more worried given the West Ham line up.
But perhaps an up side of the fact the West Ham players had played on Thursday was that there was a slight lethargy in their approach to the game. Last season they blitzed us in the first half and it only took a brilliant second half performance to bring a point out of the game. I really did feel like we were going to get a similar approach to last year and that maybe we just needed to hold them at arms length and that might have explained our slight tentative start we made. We had more of the ball I thought, we were in control of the game in patches, with West Ham looking to hit us on the counter. But it was a little laboured given our week off and having had plenty of time to prepare.
Afterwards Arteta described it as an ‘ugly’ win and I certainly agree with that sentiment. But we did still create chances. Fabianski made a number of decent saves – one in particular from Nketiah before we scored our first – and I thought we were maybe just edging what felt like a pretty edgy game. But then stepped forward the most unlikely of heroes in Rob Holding and what a pleasing sight it was to see us score from the corner. We’ve got much better at that this season and you can tell the team is working more on those set pieces. His leap was good, the goal gave us a fist pump moment, we were up and running.
But, as is the case with the Arsenal, it didn’t feel like we were in front for very long. Just on halftime Bowen’s goal felt like a real gut-punch and I thought it might derail us in the second half to concede when we did. And indeed, when Ramsdale came rushing out of his goal and Bowen went down, I thought that was it for us. But thankfully Mike Dean showed sense for once and didn’t give it and a few minutes after that we were back in front. I thought Gabriel had been looking shaky lately and so scoring as he did at the back post was just the kind of shot in the arm both he and this Arsenal team needed.
And from there it felt like we were able to see out the game and manage it well. Ramsdale made a couple of saves and we hit West Ham on the counter, but it was a match in which we were able to see out and pick up what feels like a massive three points. And it does feel massive. There are still more twists and turns to come and we will need to ride our luck some more I think, but next weekend see’s the Scum travel to Liverpool whilst we play Leeds at home. If we get the results we are hoping for – a win for us and a loss for the Scum – then we open up a five point gap going in to that North London Derby week after next.
But as we saw with Brighton, Southampton and Crystal Palace, this team is vulnerable to make mistakes and as we creep ever nearer to the end of the season, it feels like the nerves are cranking up with each match. Yesterday we looked shaky at times and there were a few stray passes that went about in that first half. This is a young team but a team that is dealing with a fair bit of pressure. They need to keep up this winning approach for another three games and if that happens we could see some top four glory at the end of this merry month of May.
Still a lot of work to be done though.
A couple of stand out performers to finish off on. Firstly, take your hats off to Tomiyasu, because to come in and do nearly all of that match after being out for as long as he has been, is a testament to the type of player he has. He looked like he’d been playing with us all season. Also, let’s have a shout to Eddie Nktiah, who didn’t score yesterday but showed us just what you get with a bit more energy and a striker who’s actually willing to take shots – you get chances. He has to stay in the team for the foreseeable if he’s going to keep giving us these types of performances.
It’s a good bank holiday Monday today and we can all smile knowing that we go in to next weekend with all still in our own hands.
Catch you all tomorrow.