For me personally yesterday was almost the most perfect sporting day I could have hoped for. First and foremost, which will take up the bulk of today’s blog for obvious reasons, was the 4-0 away win over Bournemouth that Arsenal delivered to us on that most precious of things: A Saturday 3pm kick off. But earlier in the day I’d been pottering around at home with the TV on in the kitchen, the lounge and my office with the Ryder Cup on as Europe absolutely battered the US to go within striking distance of winning the Ryder Cup. Fingers crossed they get the four point needed today from the 12 available today. But whilst the Arsenal match was going on, we were also treated to the news that United were losing – then lost – to Crystal Palace. But more interestingly than that, Man City also lost to a Wolves team that pretty much nobody would have expected them to drop points to. That meant our victory on the South Coast puts us within one point of City ahead of the game at the Emirates next Sunday. And what a match up that promises to be!
The only thing that stopped it from being a real ‘iconic’ weekend however, was the game that happened between the Scum and the Scousers, but the best possible result (both teams lose) was impossible and so there was variations of disappointment that were going to be inevitable. The way in which the media love in continues for the Scum is interesting given the helping hand they were offered yesterday by VAR and a card-happy referee, but this morning I am choosing to see it in a similar way to my Arsenal going pal Dave who wrote:
Very true indeed. So if they are getting excited about conditions like this falling their way, much like they did last weekend in the North London Derby (Rice injured at halftime anyone? Arsenal missing Martinelli and Trossard as attacking options for those games?), then perhaps it isn’t so bad that we saw Liverpool lose. They look to be a far greater threat to us than Them and with that being the case, let’s just be pleased that a defeat to Liverpool delivers them more dropped points. As for VAR, well, what more can be said that hasn’t already been said online in various discourses? That we are once again having to see apologies from VAR for not even checking clearly onside goals is scandalous. That it wasn’t called back as a goal is crazy. That the PGMOL have had to come out and explain that both referee and VAR in Stockley Park thought the other had said something different (VAR thought they’d said that the on-field decision was a goal, not an offside, which is what the on-field officials ruled) is criminal. And I’m not buying it for a second. I could say so much about this but we’re here to talk up The Arsenal so let’s park it for now and focus on the good stuff.
And wasn’t it good yesterday, eh? In the morning I had genuine concerns about whether this could be a banana skin. I know Bournemouth are languishing towards the bottom and I know they are having trouble scoring goals, but we had a mini injury crisis going on and when you look at who they have played so far, it hasn’t exactly been the easiest of starts. Yet the first wave of relief came in an hour before kick off as Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka were both fit to start and that meant that the team Arteta picked was almost as strong as we could have hoped for given long term absentees. Saliba was also good to start and as we hit kick off the confidence started to kick in after the first six or seven minutes. There was a couple of early misplaced passes in those early exchanges, but from about minute six onwards it was pretty much Arsenal in control from thereon in. And when yo start to see how we popped the ball around, controlled possession and moved what was a high line Bournemouth about, it was great to see us take a relatively early opportunity too. Fantastic work from Odegaard to float one in at the back post, a good header that was unlucky to hit the bar from Gabriel Jesus, followed by the easiest awkward header tap-in from Saka to get us on our way.
We dominated the opening half in terms of possession, but still had a couple of half-chances that almost threatened to turn in to something for Bournemouth but as soon as Eddie broke in to the box and saw Aarons swipe at him, you knew that once Odegaard converted (which he did) then penalty, then it would be very difficult for Bournemouth to come back from two down. They’ve struggled for goals this season and we’ve also looked pretty assured away from home in the league, so as halftime hit I was pretty confident that we should be able to pick up our fifth win of the season in the league.
And in to the second half we only had to wait eight minutes before the third goal was dropped. I have absolutely no idea why Christie was sliding in as he did on Odegaard in the box like that – it was as stonewall a penalty as you’re ever going to see. But then the unexpected happening which was also lovely – Odegaard telling Saka to give the ball to Kai Havertz to slot it away for his first of the season. Arteta referenced it afterwards, as did Declan Rice, but that was a wonderful gesture from a collective and a team that are clearly very united as a group and it’s wonderful to see. Him getting off the mark gets the monkey off his shoulder and that means that there will be less people focusing in on the zeros of goals and assists and hopefully means he can start to find a little bit of form. The away fans sung his new song for about 10 minutes and that too will have helped. I also thought his performance was better too, even before he slotted the penalty away, as he found pockets of space, made some good runs and was connecting the play well. He’s a good player that has been out of form, but we need him to now step up in to being an elite player. Hopefully we get that guy from Leverkusen back now.
There was also room for more as we saw in stoppage time with Ben White nodding in for what I think is only his second goal for us. Certainly in the Premier League I’m sure it is and it put the gloss on a dominant performance that felt right. I don’t know what it is but 3-0 in itself is a hammering, but it doesn’t feel like a ‘proper’ hammering like 4-0. And away from home too. It was a dominant Arsenal performance despite some questionable refereeing decisions like how Senesi was able to wrestling move Gabriel Jesus to the floor without a booking, but Havertz was booked for his first offence in the first half, but let’s not dwell on that too much. Ultimately Arsenal won, picked up more points and remain unbeaten in all competitions. How long that can last for given an away trip to France and then the toughest fixture of the season against City I don’t know, but it’s good going so far and we have to be happy about that.
A teeny-weeny sour note from yesterday though – Bukayo Saka once again limping off. As soon as that third goal went in Arteta really should have taken Saka off and I think given what unfolded today, he’ll feel the same today when he looks at the match again. He had been limping at the end of the NLD, he hadn’t trained all week according to Arteta, yet he left him on until the 75th Minute. It was the wrong move and it could be costly ahead of the game against the Champions in a week’s time. Let’s just hope Bukayo can rest up and be ready for that game. We need all of our best players available to get anything from that match.
But, like I say, just a teeny weeny note of disappointment on an otherwise wonderful day of sport. Catch you all tomorrow.