All in all it’s been a positive week for The Arsenal. Three games, three wins. Seven goals scored, only one conceded. Third in the league (only a point behind second) and through to the FA Cup semi-finals. Unfortunately, however, the third of our three victories wasn’t enough to progress in Europe, with the widely predicated “glorious failure” coming to fruition.
But with 20 wins from our last 25 games it’s hard not to be pleased (and excited) by the progress made in recent weeks and months, despite our European exit. Yes there are still a few creases that need to be ironed out, but this squad of players has me feeling very optimistic at just the right time of the season.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 ARSENAL 2 (Monreal, Welbeck)
I said before the game I was quietly confident. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the exact reason why, but needless to say I was delighted to be proved right. We witnessed fantastic performances from one to eleven and kudos to Wenger as well; he’s often criticised for his tactics and substitutions, but on this occasion got both spot on.
The first goal was a wonderful move; from the quick interchanges on the left, to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s mazy run from the right, through to Monreal’s cool and composed finish. As for the second, another example of why Welbeck gets the nod ahead of Walcott, with anticipation and hard work allowing him to take advantage of a short Jones back-pass. He made the finish look easier than it was and it was great to see him celebrating with his team-mates too, rather than any of that respecting your former club bullshit.
ARSENAL 3 WEST HAM 0 (Giroud, Ramsey, Flamini)
There was only one challenging thing about this game – picking your favourite goal; all three were things of beauty! For the first, delicious one touch football rounded off a Giroud thunderbolt in off the far post. For the second, some quick thinking and clever movement from Giroud and Ramsey as they one-two’ed their way to a fine finish for the Welshman. And the third, substitute Flamini scoring with his first touch after an incisive move carved the Hammers open.
Allardyce likes to blow his own trumpet, including many rants about how he knows the secret to beating Arsene. But that’s 13 games for Fat Sam as an opposition manager at Highbury and The Emirates and he has now amassed a grand total of zero wins. Your Bolton thugs may have got the better of us for a few years running at the Reebok, Sam, but on our turf you’re very much Arsene’s bitch.
So, three lovely goals and three lovely points which, coupled with Man City’s defeat at Burnley, saw us retain third spot and close the gap on City to just one point. If the league had started on October 25th we’d be top of the league by three points. It’s such a shame that 7 draws and 1 defeat in our opening 10 games, which resulted in 17 dropped points, has cost us so dearly. Never say never, but I think it’s fair to say we’re running out of games to catch Chelsea.
MONACO 0 ARSENAL 2 (Giroud, Ramsey)
Everyone hoped for a #MiracleInMonaco but in the end we got what many of us anticipated; “glorious failure”. To qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League would have been amazing, especially given the circumstances, but deep down we all knew the most realistic outcome was to simply continue our fine run of form with another strong performance. And that’s exactly what we did.
Defensively we were solid, with Monaco failing to register a shot on target. Going forward we looked very lively, with two goals, various other chances for a third, and key players producing impressive performances; Mesut Özil in particular was outstanding.
But the damage had already been done in the first leg. Not for the first time in recent seasons Arsenal have paid the price for thinking a two legged tie has to be won inside the first ninety minutes. Hopefully lessons will have been learned this time because once again we’ve proved capable of getting a result on the road, so why do we always attempt to kill the tie at home? Granted it’s a mission we achieve, it’s just that we kill the tie for ourselves rather than the opponents!
It’s another exit on the away goals rule and everyone will therefore point to, and remember, the third Monaco goal. And I can totally understand that; it was utter stupid and unforgivable for players at this level. But equally this tie was lost in the final third. 33 attempts at goal across the tie, with only a third of them on target. At home Giroud could have had a hat-trick and Welbeck should have scored when he blasted over via Walcott’s arse. In the away leg Giroud had a header go narrowly wide, Koscielny hit the crossbar, Welbeck had a great chance blocked, and Alexis may have scored the third but for Giroud almost taking his head off.
Don’t get me wrong, the three goals we did score should have been enough to progress; Monaco should never have been allowed to score three goals, let alone three away goals. But even with our atrocious first leg performance and amateur defending we still could (and should) have scored 8 or 9 goals in order to progress.
But these things happen unfortunately. As I mentioned in opening, 20 wins out of our last 25 games is an impressive run of form. It’s just a shame we picked the North London derby and the first leg against Monaco to have our momentary blips!
Next up on Saturday is Newcastle United at St James’ Park. Here’s hoping we make it 21 wins from 26. Up The Arsenal.