Greetings from a warm and sunny Maldives. The Management and I arrived yesterday and have a week away from the cold weather in the UK, which is lovely, although it has it’s drawbacks as I had to give up my ticket for the Palace game yesterday, which was the evening over here. And as I sat on the bed in the villa we’re staying in, I was pondering what would constitute a successful game for The Arsenal.

“What does ‘good’ look like?” I thought. And I concluded:

  • A win – that is kind of obvious and implicit.
  • Goals – We needed goals.
  • Goals from the forward players – we have to see that they are back into their scoring ways.
  • Clean sheet – that would keep up the defensive belief going.
  • Returning players – We’d been missing a couple lately so we needed to see some return.

And I think it’s fair to say that we got exactly that yesterday. Well, almost, but we can get in to the why’s and wherefores’ in a minute. But the important elements were that Arsenal are back on the winning trail again having deviated off it in December and January with three defeats in a row. And as the game kicked off and for the first seven or eight minutes or so, I did worry that the psychological wounds that had been inflicted on the team before the Dubai break were still there. In the first opening salvo’s of yesterday’s hammering of Palace there were one or two loose balls, a few players not on the same wavelength and I had a wee bit of nerves that we were going to get ‘one of those games’ again.

Palace had set up with a back three and just us I predicted in my preview blog the day before they wanted to contain Arsenal and then spring on us with long diagonals to Mateta up top and with Eze and Schlupp providing support. But that gameplan lasted just 11 minutes because as with a number of times this season already, Arsenal got their noses in front through a set piece. There was a few arguments from the Palace players that Gabriel had fouled Chris Richards in the build up to the goal, but that was never going to be the case and even afterwards I thought Hodgson’s comments felt a little half-hearted; like he probably didn’t believe them himself either.

Set Piece FC was up and running and we had the goal that our possession and control had merited. But in football that is never enough and so we needed that second one – ideally before halftime – to make the game feel that little bit more comfortable. So we did it again and it was big Gabby again who did the hard yards heading it goalwards to come off Henderson’s head. I thought it was a bit harsh that he wasn’t credited with the goal but it is what it is and the most important thing was that we suddenly had some daylight between us and a Palace side whose gameplan was basically done the second that ball hit the net. In the second half Palace would have to come out and attack us and the hope was that we would find the spaces to exploit too.

And that’s exactly what happened and why we all sit here today having seen The Arsenal bag five goals. Raya’s throw for the third one deserves special praise; he was quick to think and act and the pass from Gabby Jesus was inch perfect for Trossard to take the touch and fire it home. It felt like he definitely needed it; he’d been preferred to Gabriel Martinelli and up until that point I thought he’d been a bit poor. He’d not really got in to the game, had a couple of efforts which didn’t lead to anything and I’d seen him give the ball away a few times. So for him to bag that goal on the anniversary of him joining us was pleasing. It was a very tidy finish too I must say.

That really was game over but pleasingly we still managed to get ourselves number four and five to give this the feeling of an important psychological boost the team probably needed. Martinelli’s goals were almost identical carbon copies of each other and his finish for both were both cool, calm and collected (I’ve been listening to some Fleetwood Mac’s Isn’t it midnight). It was exactly what we needed and not only did it give us some of the mental bonus points the team might have needed, but it also will have helped our goal difference stats too. The win by that margin has notched us up from the seventh best goals scored tally in the league to the fifth, whilst the clean sheet ensures that only Liverpool have a better record than us. Hopefully Bournemouth can help us out today with that one.

There were some good and some less good points from the game yesterday in terms of individual players too. Zinchenko coming back in to the team was welcome; he’s been out for a while and having him back whilst Tomiyasu is away is important – we don’t want to be losing him for any more time because as we’ve seen, Kiwior at left back doesn’t really work for us. The less good was both Gabriel and Rice coming off with knocks. Gabriel’s one didn’t look too bad and he was in consultation with Arteta as he came off for Kiwior. The good news was that because the game was done at that point it didn’t impact the result  yesterday, but Arteta said afterwards that we are a little short in numbers and players injured so you wonder about whether he was talking of the likes of Big Gabby there. Then the other news was about Rice, who I’m sure you’ve all seen by now said to ESR as he walked off “hammy”. That doesn’t sound too great and the hope of every Arsenal fan right now is that it isn’t too serious and that he can recover in time for Forest.

The good news is that the game in Nottingham isn’t for another 10 days and Arteta acknowledged that in his post match interview. Our exit in the FA Cup means he has time to give some of those players with knocks rest, he can plan ahead with his team for that match and they can get a fair few training sessions in so we can be ready to try to take the points at a ground in which we’ve lost the last three games at and where our last league win came back in 1999. So there’s some time to try to break that hoodoo now and hopefully Arteta is already crafting his plan for success.

Right, that’s me done for today I think. I’m off to lie on a beach and slowly cook. You have a good one.