View From The North Bank: Arsenal 7 Blackburn 1
Well doesn’t everything look better after a 7-1 win? I’m not suggesting that all our problems are behind us but this is exactly the reason I tried to stay positive last week. We’ve thrown away a lot of points recently but this weekend we won, Chelsea didn’t and we’re back in with a shout for fourth. It’s gonna be more nip and tuck than Maradona’s belly.
Saturday’s game was what so many of our games this season could’ve been. The Wolves game, QPR then Bolton in midweek; all could’ve been won convincingly but weren’t. On Saturday, for the first time in ages, we took the chances we made – 19 attempts, 8 on target, 7 goals. Clinical.
We looked hungry and ruthless, we weren’t prepared to settle for an anxious 2-1. I got the feeling the players wanted to let off some steam too. They don’t have the luxury to boo, they have to get on with trying to get results. It was a welcome relief, for them as much as us, to be able to enjoy a game of Football.
An early goal is always good for a nervy fan base but, we’d been there before too. When Blackburn finally got anywhere near our box they won a free kick and Pedersen got them back on terms, albeit against the run of play. I have to say, I feared dissent from the terraces and a nervy performance as we struggled to find a winner. Thankfully, I was wrong on both counts.
The fans responded immediately. The North Bank were on their feet supporting the team before play resumed. It’s clear how much better a team respond to being encouraged than barracked. And respond they did. Some lovely one and two touch passing from Szczesny, Mertesacker, Coquelin and Arteta set Walcott free to put the second on a plate for Van Persie.
Walcott has taken a lot of stick recently but he should be proud of Saturday’s performance. Every winger makes wrong decisions – it’s just not possible to deliver decisive passes every time – but Walcott showed here that when he’s in form he’s a real handful and someone you’d rather have in your side than against you.
My view on Theo is that he’s still developing. I realise he’s played over 150 times for us but he is still a youngster, relatively speaking. I think he’s judged more harshly than most players because of the false expectations that came from getting an England call up so young. Following the misguided logic of many Football fans, if you’re good enough to go to a World Cup at 17, you should be the best on the planet at 22. In short, just because he’s not as good as the English media hoped he’d be by now doesn’t mean he hasn’t got a lot to offer.
His assist for Oxlade Chamberlain’s second was top class – not the sort of assist you’d see from a player that has no ‘football brain’. It would’ve been easy to cross earlier or to panic and shoot at a defender’s legs but he bided his time, committed defenders and then picked his third assist of the game. We shouldn’t under estimate the fact that he would’ve been calmer due to our hefty lead but even so, the ability and presence of mind was notable.
And that brings me to Oxlade-Chamberlain. He’s a natural Footballer who you can tell just relishes being out there. His enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on some of his team mates and has given the fans something to get excited about once again. He can dribble, he can pass and he can shoot. Most importantly he looks physically ready and has that all important ‘footballers brain’. His dribble and cross for Arteta’s blazed volley was exceptional. Pace, tricks and the forethought to get his head up and pick a cross rather than drill hopefully into the goalmouth.
There are already calls for him to go to the Euros with England. He looks to have the ability and temperament to thrive on the big stage but personally, I’d rather we all kept a lid on it for a while. I don’t doubt that he has the make-up to perform at a major championships but I do have concerns about him being dragged into the mess that is the current England set-up. The more players we can extricate from that sorry mess the better.
So, with our first three points of the year on the board it feels a little bit more like we’re moving in the right direction again. We are fully engaged in a scrap for the top four but we should take heart from those around us. Liverpool are inconsistent at best and Chelsea are in transition, unable to go on a convincing run of results. Like every other season it will be down to consistency; whichever of the chasing pack can get on that run will take fourth. We’ve shown we are able to string results together with our backs against the wall and now would be a good time to prove it again.
Keep The Faith.