View From The North Bank: Arsenal 3 West Brom 0
Trying to salvage something from the ruins of the early season has felt like a long drawn out affair so this weekend’s victory over West Brom marked something of a shift. It no longer feels like we are watching a fragile group but one who are now playing with genuine belief. I’d forgotten what it felt like to sit in the North Bank without fearing we’d throw it all away at any moment.
A 5-3 away win at Stamford Bridge will do wonders for the confidence but controlling that boost and using it positively, in a game you are expected to win, is easier said than done. The Marseille game showed that prolonging the momentum can be tricky so a comfortable victory here was all the more reassuring.
We started the game with authority. West Brom’s five man midfield looked to frustrate whilst their lone front man Cox chased down the back four. In earlier games we might have become anxious but on this occasion we carried on probing. This is in no small part down to the growing influence of Mikel Arteta, recognised by Wenger after the match. His calmness and range of passing kept the game within our control and provide a platform from which to start attacks. His relationship with Ramsey is growing by the game; the pair of them are a joy to watch.
The opener came from a defence splitting pass from Ramsey. Rambo’s inch perfect through-ball set Walcott clear in the inside-right channel and the England winger saw his shot parried as far as the feet of Van Persie. It was the Dutchman’s 11th league goal in as many games and probably the easiest he’ll ever score.
It’s difficult to put a label on Ramsey. The modern world of Football often seems to attempt to define a player by Football Manager parameters. To my mind Ramsey is neither a defensive midfielder nor an attacking one. He is in many ways an old fashioned midfield general who covers every blade of grass, looking to make interceptions, keep possession and provide decisive moments in the attacking third – be it a pinpoint through ball or getting on the end of things. Three man midfields are necessary more often than not but I think it’s fair to suggest that Rambo could hold his own in an old fashioned duo, if ever it were required.
Our control of the game didn’t waver once we took the lead. We have been guilty of relaxing at a goal up in the recent past but not so here. The metronomic passing continued and wore West Brom down. It was 2-0 before half time as Van Persie found inadvertently in the box. The Belgian despatched his shot emphatically.
Vermaelen’s performance, alongside the ever improving Laurent Koscielny, was another bonus. I remarked last summer that we should be careful of expecting too much on his return. It seemed misguided to expect one man to cure our ills. Whilst Koscielny should be praised for his good form it’s fair to say that Vermaelen adds another dimension. He is pro active, looking to get in first rather than react to what’s going on around him; he sniffs out danger. At times he can commit himself too early, but that will improve in tme – it’s hard to forget that Vermaelen is only 25.
We now have three centre halves who could all partner each other. Mertesacker was rested here but it will be interesting to see if he regains his place next time out.
Another plus point for me was the performance of Carl Jenkinson. The youngster had his developing reputation all too readily trashed in some quarters after the United game so it’s good to see him knuckle down and put in a few decent performances.
His solid outings now outnumber his bad days. He’s still young and coming to terms with an incredible rise to Premier League Football but the signs are encouraging. His defensive positioning needs work but you can’t fault his application. On the front foot he needs to develop a bit more depth rather than relying so much on his crossing although, to be fair to him, his delivery is better than most full backs we’ve had for a while.
It’s also reassuring to know that he recently asked for more information on an opposition prior to a recent match. This impressed Wenger and his staff.
On 74 minutes Arteta slotted home from another Van Persie assist and guaranteed the points in our last game before the frustrating international break. All in all, we’ve come a long way since the last one. Five league wins on the bounce, and progress in the Carling Cup and Champions League. The fixtures on the other side of this untimely disruption all look winnable on paper until we face City just before Christmas. If we can replicate our recent from for a while longer we’d hope to travel to Manchester in a decent position, looking to assess our progress against the current leaders.
We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves as nothing’s been achieved apart from the restoration of confidence however, there is nothing wrong with recognising genuine improvement in performance.
It would be great to think that this is a sign of things to come as I could quite easily get used to more comfortable afternoons at the Emirates to redress the balance of all those needlessly stressful ones over the last few seasons.
Keep The Faith.