Mayday, mayday – Arsenal catch fire

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United

Well, that was fun.

Fresh out of the title race and with the handbrake well and truly off, Arsenal put in the kind of shift and performance that – had they happened more frequently this season – would have been the benchmark.

That our benchmark has in fact been drawing or losing from winning positions, or not taking our chance to edge ahead even when the opportunity is presented to us on a silver salver, makes yesterday all the more frustrating. You could spend months turning yourself inside-out mulling over the What Ifs if you wanted to, but it wouldn’t get you anywhere, so what’s the point?

Best I think to take it as a fine one-off performance, and it really was.

Maybe it was the glorious sunshine, refreshing breeze and the glow of Bremen’s finest export, but I was in a state of almost horizontal calm before the match. This is what happens when you don’t expect too much.

From the off though, you could tell that Arsenal were up for it, with both Walcott and Wilshere squandering presentable chances early on. Ramsey, Song and Wilshere were having a ball in midfield, with Djourou and Koscielny untroubled at the back. The latter made one particularly thunderous interception on Fabio. Tackling at its finest.

The referee was doing his best to get in the way of Arsenal passes wherever possible – one of them even looked like a nifty backheel – and was clearly too busy honing his positional interceptions to spot Nemanja Maradona’s handball. Rooney was bubbling with frustration; always a good sign.

The goal, when it came, was not dissimilar to Arshavin’s against Barcelona. Van Persie waited and waited, before passing to the unmarked Ramsey to slot it home.

Hats off to the Welshman. For my money it was his finest Arsenal performance to date, against tough opposition, and if there’s anyone who better deserved the catharsis of a goal then I’d like to know who it is.

His partnership with Wilshere, sitting in front of the equally excellent Song, really blossomed. That we did not miss Fabregas yesterday says it all, and bodes extremely well. For me, the Wilshere/Ramsey partnership was the stand-out highlight of an all-round impressive performance.

Ramsey also seems more vocal than I remember him being – when Sagna made a clearance in the first half, he was first to him to slap him on the back. It’s easy to see why Wales took a punt on making him their captain.

OK, so the last 30 mins was a bit hairier, but we held on well and can be grateful that the referee was at least as poor for Man Utd as he was for us. Clichy’s clumsy tackle on Owen would have been given as a penalty more times than it wouldn’t. But the old saying that things even themselves out was very apt here – one penalty apiece not given – and we were well worth our win.

Clichy – prone to this – did otherwise have an excellent game, particularly from an attacking perspective. Szczesny showed once again that while he needs to work on distribution – he wasted several goal kicks at the end by kicking them all the way to van der Sar – he is an imposing keeper and a fine shot-stopper. We do not need a new number one in the summer.

Anything left to achieve this season? Of course. As well as cementing an automatic Champions League place, which is well within our grasp if we play like that, I’d like to see us win all of our final three games of the season. Should we do that, it would be the first time this campaign that we will have won four league games in a row.

Apparently, it was the most youthful team fielded by any side this season in the Premier League – averaging 23 years and 296 days. No doubt the boss will see that as vindication of his approach. It’s hard to disagree based on yesterday’s performance, but that doesn’t mean some hard work needs to be done on the training pitch and with the cheque book over the summer to ensure that performances like that are the norm and not the exception.

Enjoy your bank holiday – I know I will.

7 thoughts on “Mayday, mayday – Arsenal catch fire

  1. Ramsey was also seen organising and co-ordinating his midfield. He was telling them to mark players – back off a bit – when United had a throw in. Neither Ramsey or Wilshere afraid of letting their seniors know what is expected from them…

  2. Which is great – and why players like Ramsey and Wilshere have leapt ahead of Denilson and Diaby, both far more experienced. That and the fact they are better players…

  3. I was having fever and a bad sore throat while the match was going on. I screamed in joy when ramsey scored that goal. Everyone played well today specially the 3 man midfield. If i can be a bit harsh, i think that we need to defend more as a unit specially the back four. This will come in time as the team grows. Cheers all !

  4. I’ve really liked Ramsey and Wilshere since they broke into the Carling Cup team, right after Ramsey joined Arsenal. I love their style of play, their touch on the ball and the way they look like they’re playing for fun.

  5. “Best I think to take it as a fine one-off performance, and it really was.”

    Totally agree. Even still, beating United has its own special kind of feeling, doesn’t it? Very satisfying.

    I’d also like to point out that, for all our possession, our goal came on a counterattack. Why Wenger persists on our fullbacks hoofing crosses in I’ll never know (though Clichy had some surprisingly good ones yesterday). It must have a horrifically low success rate, and it’s nearly guaranteed we lose possession when we do it. I’d love to see more dribbling. Good things tend to happen lately when Theo gets the ball on the end line.

    Song played Rooney very well.

    Was also great to see Arsenal players brushing off Eboue’s usual attempts at an embrace at the end of a tense first half. I only see what the cameras show week in and week out, but he really should stop with that, no?

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