Marseille 0-1 Arsenal
There are times when the best course of action is simply to hide all the dog-eared and moth-eaten parts of Arsenal’s game behind the sofa and enjoy the catharsis of a late win. This is definitely one of those times.
As the game drifted on in the second half and Walcott spurned what looked like the best chance we would get, it looked like it would be another one of those games. Marseille offered nothing, Arsenal looked neat and tidy without being remotely ruthless. I can’t remember the last performance that would have got Arsenal fans, let alone neutrals, standing around the water cooler the next morning evoking Arsenal’s delicious football, but grinding out results is where we find ourselves at the moment.
And then, deep into injury time, came our one moment of ruthlessness. You see lads, it’s a winning formula! Djourou curved in a nice cross, Gervinho touched it on to Ram Zamzi* who coolly swapped feet and slotted the winner home.
I tell you what, that felt good. We weren’t great, but we were far and away the more aggressive side going forward and to nick it in the end is always fun. For too long the perception is that we’re the ones likely to concede late on – no smoke without fire – so for us to dish it out right before the klaxon sounded will have done the lads a lot of good.
Some noteworthy performances too. Laurent Koscielny was absolutely excellent all night, so much so that you can now reasonably ask: Who will be our first choice centre-back pairing when Vermaelen is fit? You might think it would be Mertesacker and Vermaelen, but on last night’s form, Koscielny dropping to the bench would be a cruel move. Perhaps it’s just a case of rotating – though we’ve been doing that a bit too much in that position this year. And look where it’s got us.
A nod to Carl Jenkinson too. His journey from non-league to Arsenal is well known. He’s 19 and a total rookie. But what he lacks in experience, he possesses in heart and last night he bombed forward, always looking to cross, busting a gut. He spent most of the night grimacing with pain or gasping for air but he’s got real spirit. Shame for him he went off injured. The curse of the centre half has drifted east and is now the curse of the right back…
It was a mixed performance in midfield (decent in the middle, average on the edges) but overall, it’s a result that cannot fail to emit a warm glow.
A bit of luck, commitment to the very end, a touch of ruthlessness. That’s five wins from six in all competitions, and the first time in 17 Champions League games we haven’t conceded a goal (see Orbinho’s tweet from last night).
We’re ploughing on.
* My 3-year-old calls Aaron Ramsey ‘Ram Zamzi’. It has an air of international panache about it, I think.