Dila mshvidobisa Positivistas,
What a fine morning to be alive as an Arsenal supporter.
The milestone of Arsene’s 20th anniversary at the helm of our football club celebrated in glorious and emphatic fashion. An opponent club who have stood, and arguably still stand, for much of what is rotten in modern football flattened. The evening lit up by what is good in football, art, athletic excellence, intelligence, concentration, the unity of purpose of players working as one body, one mind.
Of the details of yesterday’s game against Chelsea? As I invariably say, you all saw it, but bear with me.
Three aspects of Arsenal stood out for me and each of which I think led to our overwhelming victory. First and foremost, an exceptionally disciplined defensive performance by our back five, aided by first Le Coq then Granit, in which no player lapsed. No one, literally no one, put a foot wrong until the 83rd minute when Batshuayai managed to nick the ball and break on goal, and Petr made his first save of the afternoon. 83 minutes! We tackled cleanly, we headed decisively, we cleared without hesitation, we ignored the Costasaurus and his increasingly absurd antics.
Many times have I, have WE indeed, seen a bright Arsenal performance undone by a silly defensive error, a half second of irresolution or a misdirected clearance. Against CFC, I hesitate to say, we have had a tendency more often than probably any other club over the past few years. Well not last night, not once, not one sniff of weakness. Entirely professional, not one petulant retaliation or response to provocation, we were faultless. That was an exceptional defensive base to build from.
And build we did. Second up two individual performances that stood out from Mesut and from Theo. The former has been ‘quiet’ since the start of this season, good of course but not quite the decisive game-changer week in and week out that we became used to. He roared back yesterday against a team that, in previous contests, he has found it difficult to get into the game against. He oozed class, he bamboozled, Ozil gave them the ‘eyes’, and they fell for them. My second individual award to Theo who played what was his best ever game last night. As an attacking player he tore holes in the visitors all night and was unfortunate not to have more than one goal to his name. At least as impressive when we did not have the ball TW was constantly busy, chasing, denying space, putting in tackles and working seamlessly with Hector.
The third block on which the victory was built was the strength of our bench and the timing and the quality of our replacements. Returning to point one, if we have suffered self-inflicted defensive errors our efforts in so many games have also been undone by a sudden injury and the exit from the field of a key (midfield) player. Often an exact replacement has not been available, the disruption has killed our positive momentum in the game and, in the end, it has cost us. Xhaka for Le Coq caused barely a ripple. Straight off the bench and down to work. A tough, tackling midfielder for a tough, tackling midfielder. Like a clock mechanism, old spring out, new spring in. If the change of Xhaka was enforced then the introduction of Gibbs and the stability that brought to the left hand side was freely chosen and beautifully timed. Iwobi was tiring, Nacho had had a hard afternoon against Willian. Whatever Chels might have made of opportunities down that side was snuffed out, and to his credit Kieran not only assisted with defensive duties but put in a couple of creative touches that nearly added a fourth. And young Kieran is another man who has found previous games against Chelsea ‘problematic’. Goodness me Arsene got his choice of sub and the timing right.
As you can tell the seam of superlative descriptors has been heavily mined over the past hour, or should that be descriptive superlatives – and why not?
We stride purposefully into the 21st year of the reign of Mr Wenger at the club. Let our pace be assured, and our heads held high. There are great days ahead.