I have watched some dire Arsenal games in recent years. Norwich and Wigan away, and Blackburn (FA Cup) at home were all pretty poor live-games last season for example, but yesterday I finally saw Arsenal play fantastic football again. The atmosphere in the stadium was good, and in the North Bank it was even better. The banter between North Bank and the East Bank supporters was great – singing to each other for prolonged periods which became louder and louder every time.
On such a mild day as it was, and with the sun coming through just as the game started, the fans singing and with a collective sense of this season possibly being different than previous ones, it felt extra good to be a Gooner yesterday.
As predicted, Arsene started with FlamTeta in the double-DM pivot and no typical wingers. I had Ramsey and Cazorla starting, but it made sense to rest Ramsey and give Jack an opportunity to show everyone once again what a great prospect he is. And boy did he deliver.
Effectively, we played 4-5-1 again. A similar line-up attracted a lot of unfair criticism against WBA, but this time round there appears to be no complaints. And with our wide midfielders contributing with goals, assists and penultimate assists, Wenger will feel justified for sticking with his midfielders for another game.
Norwich were well organised and defended diligently at the start of the game. Arsenal took their time to find the openings as the so familiar ‘Sturm und Drang’ football seems to be a thing of the past. This Arsenal are calculated in their efforts: we try to preserve energy and like to sit back – we even do not mind to relinquish possession of the ball if it will mean the opponent comes forward and out of their defensive positions.
To some extent we play like Red Nose’s MU during periods of the game. We love space and we relish winning back the ball in our own half, as to start our counter-attacks with speed, precision-passing, and cool finishing. Today we scored a couple of goals from getting the ball in our own half and I expect this to become a regular occurrence this season.
This sitting back and absorbing pressure does come at a price, though. At times during games – and yesterday this was the case on each side of the break – we sit too deep and hand over control too much to the opponent. Norwich had their best spell between the 35th minute and when they scored their goal; and we were a tat lucky with scoring our second one before they scored theirs.
Partly, this was due to the early departure of the Flame: the team initially struggled with regaining its shape and dealing effectively with Norwich’s very effective and physical central midfielders. I thought Wenger and Bould would coach our midfielders during the break on how to regain control, but they continued to struggle during the first twenty minutes or so of the second half.
Norwich lacked the creative and finishing skills to properly hurt us, and with Arsenal brimming with both confidence and super quality talent, it was pretty clear we would come out as winners eventually.
Our first goal, watched from the North Bank so from afar, was pinball football. When an improvised goal through the middle comes off like that, the team deserves all the plaudits it’s getting. We just could not believe what we saw: what a cheeky, brilliant goal. And we all sang: ‘same old Arsenal, taking the piss’. It was wonderful to listen to the collective OOHS and AAHS when the replay was shown on the stadium screens just after the goal was scored. Wengerball is well and truly back!
The delirium from THAT goal did subside though, and even turned into some howls of derision towards the end of the first half, despite OG almost scoring a second after another blitz-attack: the North Bank are a critical lot! But Arsenal sat back too much and allowed Norwich too much space and time on the ball during this period. Szczesny saved us during this phase with a first class stop: not just keeping the ball out of the net, but also pushing it away safely under pressure.
The start of the second half was also for Norwich, but another brilliant break from the back led to the second goal: the one that won us the game as Norwich just did not have more than one goal in them at best. Cazorla found, the brilliant throughout the game, OG in the right-wing position: he looks up and sees Ozil making a run into the box and produces a beautifully weighted cross into the box which finds the head of the German. Ozil cannot believe he scored with his head from a cross from our CF – something Ronaldo would never have done for him – but it is two nil to the Good Guys and we all sing ‘we are walking in an Ozil wonderland’, soon followed by the Beatles inspired Giroud tunes – and rightly so. The Frenchman’s ability to ‘serve’ the team is second to none, and just for that I love the guy.
A collective relieve across the stadium can then be sensed: the party can now truly begin, it seems. But Norwich get a reward for their fine team play and get a goal back. The BFG could have done better clearing the ball but Howson’s first touch is very good, and he hits the ball with venom and precision past Gibbs’ leg, leaving Szczesny, who sees the ball going past the Englishman’s legs late, with absolutely no chance this time.
The introduction of Rosicky for Santi gave the team a much needed renewed purpose and drive, and with Arteta improving significantly the longer the game went on as well, the Ramsey-show could truly begin. Our third goal was another superb one. Ramsey’s touch, control and spatial awareness in the tightest of area were unbelievable; and to see all of this right in front of me was pure ecstasy. We all went mad in the stands and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. The boy whose leg was snapped in two, who was booed by his own fans and wished all sorts of diseases on the blogs, had scored a Bergkampesque goal of the highest order. Chapeau, chapeau!
It was not over yet, as the team remained hungry for more goals, and the likes of Ozil, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ramsey kept driving forward and combining at will and with great invention and penetration. Ruddy, the Norwich goal keeper, kept doing really well during this period, but he could do absolutely nothing when Ramsey found Ozil with the daftest of touches, as the king of assists was for the second time in one game royally presented with a fine goal scoring opportunity himself. Rosicky had spread the ball from left to right, finding Ramsey at the left post with precision, and catching out the Norwich defence in the process. Beautiful football by beautiful people.
After that there were individual songs for Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud, but the most poignant song was kept till the end: ‘WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, We are top of the league!’
And so we are and long may it continue! 😛
Written by: TotalArsenal.