Nothing makes a misfiring Gunner happier than the sight of a skinny chicken on a ball. Out of form, a bit under the weather, tired from too many games in a row….or just disgruntled for being moved to the fringes of the squad… All is forgotten when there is a chance to deflate the skimpy cockerel at the Lane. We needed a shot in the arm and last night we got it, courtesy of our archenemy.
Winning a game in the League Cup normally only means one thing to me: another chance for the youngsters and fringe players to show what they have got and to get a bit more experience/fitness. Arsenal are not the only PL team treating this cup competition in this way. Even Bournemouth made eight changes from their last PL game at the weekend (and just about got away with it in Preston). There is of course nothing wrong with this. The PL is the big honey pot so that is where the focus should be, and teams have big squads with impatient players who need to be kept content.
Yet, after two damp squibs in Zagreb and the Bridge – the latter due to some woeful lack of sportsmanship and home-refereeing – we really needed something to bounce back on and last night we got it.
Eight positives from Spuds v Arsenal:
- Some players took this chance to shine and some did not, or not enough. Gibbs, Ospina, BFG, Chambers, Flamini and Arteta and Rambo did; Ox and Debuchy tried hard but did not convince fully and Campbell seemed unable to deal with the velocity and lack of space in the game. But what I really liked is that we played as a team, and with passion and focus worthy of a derby, for 90+ minutes. This showed respect for the fans by the players, who needed a passionate performance above anything else. It was this approach which made us win the game;
- Flamini, who roared us on like a lion to victory, put a smile on all our faces. Let’s be honest: how many of us had forgotten about him? But there is plenty of Flame in Mathieu left and last night his eagerness to be ‘Present!’ made the difference. His first goal was fine anticipation and a venomous finish; his second, and the decisive one, was great timing and another venomous finish. The thumping of his fist on the batch, with honest sweat dripping of his chin, was a fine moment for all of us.
- Gibbs phenomenal header of the line from an impressive diagonal volley by Kane was possibly the other decisive moment of the game. I thought Gibbs had a great game and he is my ‘second MOTM’. He played with great aggression and concentration: the total professional. Only a player who is totally in the game is capable of making such a defensive header. With Nacho and Kieran we have two very fine FBs…. Shame one of them has to warm the bench most of the time.
- It was good to see the BFG back. He looked rested and fully capable to deal with the crazy tempo for ninety minutes. Per is Arsenal through and through: just the guy you need in defence in a game like this. You can tell by just looking at him that he loves beating the Spuds! He mentored Chambers and provided the calm and passion in the storm – a rare combination to bring to the table – for the whole team. Good to have him back.
- Ramsey got better and better the longer he played. For me he is a box to box player, whether playing centrally or on the ‘wing’. A man with a great engine and real hunger to be in the game, to be ‘Present!’. Once the game opened up towards the end, Rambo finally started to execute the more exquisite passes we associate with a nr.10. Do I think he will knock Ozil, or eventually Jack, of the nr.10 position… No, but he still added a lot to this game, especially from a drive and energy level point of view (which was crucial last night).
- The referee, Marriner had a great game. Both team showed Mourinho how a derby should be played: full of passion and drive but no players were in the (pre-instructed?) Costa mind-set for one moment. The referee allowed the game to flow and fully supported the teams desire to have a real go at each other. As a result, we watched a typical derby match: the way these games should be played!
- The FlamTeta wall was crucial yesterday. I loved the way we played so compact as a team, finding a very good balance between being defensively sound and attack with numbers. Arteta and Flamini made the difference in giving us that ‘stretch’ yesterday, supported by the Welsh engine and the willing runs and defensive back-up of Ox, Giroud and Campbell. Everybody put in a shift, but the excellent reading of the game and interceptions by FlamTeta was the highlight of the evening for me.
- Ospina was great. He also read the game well all day and his interceptions were decisive almost every time. It is not easy to come and defend the goal so well in a derby like this when you have been warming the bench most of the time, so hats off to him!
So fine fellow Gooners, these are my observations… but what are yours? 🙂