It can be very hard to find motivation when all you are playing for is pride. You can very easily drown your sorrows and think to yourself “what’s the point?”. Pride may not be a big shiney piece of silverware to show off, pride might not seem important, but to these players it is. It is their pride and strength of character that has brought seven sweet successive wins, which has left Sp*rs behind in their wake. The performance against Aston Villa was about as polished a performance as we’ve seen all season.
It wasn’t perfect though. We had a small yet big problem before kickoff. Our commander in chief in defence, ‘Bosscielny’ got injured in the warm up. I don’t need to tell you how much of a sensational season he’s had and I feared that we might concede a goal or two when Djourou was called up. If Koscielny’s season has been a success, Djourou’s has been the complete opposite. To the Swiss defender’s credit, he had a solid performance against Aston Villa (not that there was much to do), so that was a huge relief.
Apart from that, which ended up being a non-event anyway, there was one incident early on that really concerned me. We had a corner which was cleared quickly and it was one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type moments. Within an instant I think it was Albrighton was on the other side of the field, having a shot at Szczesny. It was a one off, but it reminded me how vulnerable we used to be on the counter attack. This incident brought back some bad memories and is not something I want to see.
Apart from those two minor incidents it was pretty much a perfect performance. It was one of those great team performances where it was difficult to pick one man of the match. Funnily enough I wouldn’t have had Van Persie as one of the candidates. This is actually a good thing. It is good to see others dictate the play and score the goals and take pressure off of our captain.
Gervinho finally found his mojo again. After a disappointing spell after returning from the African Cup of Nations he looked more the dangerous lively Gervinho we know and love down the left. A neat pass found left-back Kieran Gibbs in a bit of space who scored his first premier league goal.
The young left back had a difficult time since coming back from injury with a couple of scrappy performances, however he has come of age in the past couple of games. He’s done well to go forward and track back when needed. He played in some useful crosses and of scored his goal. I do have some concerns in the left back position overall however, it’s a position I am still not 100% convinced on. The fact that Gibbs was replaced with Santos in the second half means that Wenger himself probably isn’t sure who his number one left back is. I think the competition between them is good though and will bring the best out of both.
The next man I wanna speak about is Alex Song. We were all wondering what we’d do without Cesc. How’s this for a statistic. Song averages 0.7 through balls per game, the same as Cesc Fabregas! Keep in mind his official position is defensive midfielder. I’m not saying he’s our “new Cesc”, but it’s wonderful to have such a versatile player in our midfield. We’ve seen his defensive ability coupled with some amazing assists he’s supplied Van Persie. Winning goals against Everton and Liverpool come to mind. This time it was for Theo Walcott. Our Cameroonian destroyer/playmaker/jack-of-all-trades midfielder played the perfect ball to Theo who made it 2-0. Hot and cold Theo was red hot against Aston Villa, always looking dangerous with a deft first touch and blistering pace.
In truth it was a true team performance and everybody deserves a mention, but if I had to single out one more player it’d have to be Mikel Arteta. He is a real quiet achiever. He has the unglamorous job of holding the ball in midield, making sure we don’t lose the ball. The effect of this is not felt until you actually take him out of the team. With him we win 72.28% of games. Without him, we’ve won 0%. Against Aston Villa he did his thing again. Both him and Rosicky ensured that the ball remained with us for a majority of the time, allowing us to create meaningful attacks and not allowing them to do much. This allowed us to boss the game. If this wasn’t enough, Arteta wasn’t content with a 2-0 scoreline. A thunderous free kick in stoppage time was the icing on the cake for a polished performance.
So seven wins in a row and Arsenal playing great football. This confidence and momentum is crucial as we come up against difficult games against Chelsea and Manchester City as we look to secure third place. Next assignment is away to QPR, which is tougher than it looks, just ask any Liverpool fan.