What a sumptuous game we were treated to yesterday, an almost 94½ minutes of constant action, unceasing drama in which to lose concentration for a moment was weakness.
Unlike the great majority of Arsenal games I have the honour of reviewing for once it was not the eye catching quality of our technique that caught my eye. It was not a game for the technical enthusiast, nor the fan who enjoys the sight of our lads so are often exercising their silky craft and weaving a route through the opposition half. No it was primarily a physical contest, a ‘battle’ at times.
I would go probably so far as to say that for a number of our more skilled players yesterday was not one of their better games, ruffled and harried as they were by the vigour of our black clad opponents. That the Leicester goalkeeper spent a largely untroubled first half was not expected.
Having recognised that dislocation however those same players replaced their usual deft footballing cunning with a second half of relentless running, tackling and fighting. If there had been hesitation before half time there was certainty after it. The ball was now cleared decisively, passes were placed crisply, we began to push our hands around the throat of the Fox as it squirmed and snapped. The substitutions, which again I admit raised an eyebrow in Norfolk, proved pivotal in transforming control of the game into goal chances.
And slowly, inch by inch, blade by blade, we established our ascendancy on the pitch. Kante caged, Drinkwater exhausted, Vardy tripping the light fantastic as Cech played matador. Leicester crumpled back, more solid, and not much less difficult to get through but they were pinned on the ropes, clinging on, covering up, blows reining in toward a by-now desperately busy Kasper Schmeichel. Arsenal had the force of gravity on their side. 24 shots on target I see – Extraordinary – it made Frazer Forster’s recent evening at the Emirates look like a training session!
With our equalizer from Theo and more than 20 minutes to go I admit I had more or less already marked in the three points. That it took until the very last move of the game to transform the total control we enjoyed to eventually put the visitors down on their back in the most dramatic and terminal fashion was no surprise. We needed to become desperate, and by 94 minutes we were. It was the timing that proved almost agonizing. There was no luck though. The visitors ended on the mat, eyes glazed, dribbling, counted out.
As I said above I saw that not as a game in which I would shine the spotlight on individual performances or point to one player or another as decisive in the victory. The triumph was an outcome of collective will, of joint enterprise and energy. Bring those resources of character together in the coming weeks and defeat against any domestic, or indeed international, opponents, is unthinkable.
As is important when we are challenging on so many fronts it did not appear that we picked up any additional injuries yesterday. In such a physically tough game that is a benefit. That the boy from Longsight was back and sharp is obviously a boost to our attacking options. A pleasant few days break beckons to prepare for Hull and another early FA Cup start on Saturday. The Premier League title race remains wide open.
Enjoy the snap of Danny carried in this morning’s Independent and enjoy your break.
* and thank you to Amy and Arsene for today’s headline – I know, I know