View From The North Bank: Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5
Monday’s always feel better when your side has three points in the bank. They feel even better when the points were secured by a 5-3 battering. Better still when the sight of John Terry sprawling in the wake of Robin Van Persie is still fresh in your mind.
Even two days on, having seen the game three times, it still feels like a bit of a blur. So much happened in the game, the majority of which you will have already scrutinised, I will avoid an exhaustive resume in favour of a few headlines that stick in my mind.
A lot has been made of our poor defending and I’m not going to look to absolve the team of that. Santos shouldn’t have lunged in to give Mata the space to cross for Chelsea’s first and his distribution should have been more certain in the lead up to their third, even though he was fouled just after. Mertesacker wasn’t proactive when marking Terry – or Lampard for that matter – and his step backwards as the ball was delivered gave his opponent the vital yard to put them ahead for a second time. This is to say nothing of how disorganised we looked in the opening exchanges.
There is clearly still work to do but it was heartening to see that as the game went on we stuck to the task. In games gone by, had we let goals in as a result of clear mistakes, we probably would have crumbled. At 3-3 I couldn’t help but think that a point was now the best we could hope for. Thankfully, this Arsenal side didn’t think the same. The tireless work of the midfield, with Song at his unsung best (although his distribution could be improved), set the tone ahead of the much maligned Koscielny who led the back four with a series of interceptions, tackles and blocks.
The defending wasn’t perfect but we were committed and it is far easier to improve a defensive unit who want to fight for the cause than one who will capitulate when the tide looks to be turning.
The fact that the defensive side of the team still stood up to be counted meant that a side with Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho and RVP in it could still fancy themselves to get the winner. The game was so open that we might have suspected a resurgent Chelsea to get more chances but equally, we knew we’d get some too. The bonus is that we have Robin Van Persie, the best striker in the Premier League by a mile.
Most of us will agree that we need to pull out all the stops to give our captain what he wants. It’s almost impossible to disagree. In fact, forget a weekly wage, he should just be issued with his own club credit card and be told to run up whatever bill he likes on it. The man is irreplaceable, particularly by a club with our financial policies.
In the summer I wanted Nasri to stay but also I didn’t want us to bow to his unreasonable demands and therefore set a precedent for any other player who does well for a few months. Nasri wanted to be the clubs top earner when, to be blunt, he didn’t deserve what he demanded. In Van Persie we have a player who has done his time, paid his dues and earned the right to make big demands of the club.
Giving Robin Van Persie a big contract would rightfully reward the player but also send a message to others that if you concentrate on Football, serve the club and put in consistent match-winning performances than we will pay you big money. The incentive would be there to achieve, not to ask for more money after a short run of good form.
That sentiment ties in well with what we are beginning to see at the club. Even though RVP is our consistent star performer he leads the club with a maturity and selflessness. He’s the focal point but he scores the goals for his team. It was a nice touch that he gave his Man of The Match champagne to Ramsey and directed him to share it with the rest of the team.
This game will hopefully be remembered for the fight that we showed when our backs were against the wall and the togetherness exemplified in the celebrations at the end of the game. We don’t get too long to dwell on it as the games come thick and fast. Tuesday night represents an opportunity to book our place in the latter stages of the Champions League, yet again. It is essential that we use this as a catalyst for the rest of the season. I don’t want to sound too sensible in the midst of giddy celebration but this victory will be hollow if it’s not backed up with many more.
That said, we hammered Chelsea on Saturday so we might as well enjoy it for a little bit longer.
Keep The Faith.