Getting used to sausages

Wigan 0-1 Arsenal

One-nil to the Arsenal, that old war-cry of a result, forged during an era when we were often dour but brutally effective in defence. It was a long time ago, that. In fact it’s only the second win by that scoreline this season, the other being QPR at home.

Since that era we’ve gone to the other extreme, scoring willy-nilly but defending like a sieve, and now we’ve changed again I suppose: trying to relearn the art of winning ugly. Well it wasn’t easy on the eye yesterday, definitely not a case of ‘everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home’, but it was a backs-to-the-wall effort on a stodgy pitch in the lashing rain against a side that looked a lot better than its league position suggests.

And you know what, there’s a lot to appreciate in the kind of result that you get away with a bit, throwing bodies everywhere, in which some of the players end up with their hair plastered askew on their bonces and with mud caked up their Nikes. Yes, we once ate caviar – but we are all getting used to the taste of sausages again. (As a mild aside, let it be said that sausages are fantastic – Lincolnshire ones are great and I recently had a Polish lunchbox – you at the back stop sniggering – the centrepiece of which was a quite momentous sausage. Well done Poland).

And the stats show that Arsenal were not at their fluid best, having fewer shots than Wigan, less possession, fewer crosses, key passes, and passes attempted – but we won. We won!

And by winning we went third (where we still remain, until this afternoon at least), won our third league game in a row for the first time this season, and winning, as you know, is the elixir of life. It’s the medicine of choice for managers, players and fans alike.

Talking points:

Walcott is still auditioning for his preferred role as a striker, but obviously had a pivotal role yesterday in the goal. But the contract thing hangs over him everywhere he goes and it’s immensely boring now. His stalling tactics are boring me too, even if he is being polite and professional enough about the whole thing. He originally stated not being selected as a reason not to sign up, (he now is being), he then blamed not playing up front (he now is doing). Both ‘excuses’ are now rather watery so imagine my surprise when yesterday I read in the Times (£ link) that the reason now is that he is a bit miffed with Wenger, for various reasons, and wants assurances about the direction Arsenal are going in. Which could of course be true – views mirrored by many, after all – but it’s the first we’ve heard of it. I think he’ll stay till the summer, and I think we need him to – but he’s a high-profile player and the questions will be asked every single time he does his interviews, and it’s all a bit dull, but there you go – hey ho.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is edging back into form and sliced down the right in the second half to great effect. Like a new player? (*takes poison*)

Coquelin did a great job breaking stuff up and getting stuck in when he came on

Wilshere is going to have to get used to being targeted wherever he goes. Booked for a superb tackle yesterday, he was upended and clattered with regularity. It’s the price he’s paying for being the talent he is, and for being the kind of player who relishes getting stuck in.

You can throw any kind of weather you like at Arteta’s hair, but it will not be bowed.

Overall then a great result to set up the Christmas period – in which we have a mini-break – and the gloom has lifted, for now. How we are third is hard to fathom, but I’ll take it with jingly bells on.

Which is a reasonable way to lead onto my final point: Happy Christmas to you all – or happy holiday if you prefer – or happy days at work if neither of the previous applies. Enjoy the time off, relax, have a rip-roarer.

Prawn sandwich fan / Hip Hip Hooray

Admission: Tuesday came and went and passed me by entirely. For me, it’s a rarety for me not to follow a game in some way. I go to most home games, and watch or listen to most of the others. Those matches I can’t go to, see or hear I will follow via Twitter etc, as many of us do. But on Tuesday, as the match kicked off, I was out meeting football-agnostic friends (they do exist, it seems) in a pub with pleasant steak and kidney pies but no telly, and although I briefly toyed with the time-honoured gadget switch-off so I could play the match as live when I got in, I knew my resolve wouldn’t last and sure enough, it didn’t. Having found out we’d lost 1-0, I opted against pursuing the venture any further when I got home. Fickle? Guilty as charged.

I did sniff round the reaction though, and the goodwill to a) a weakened team and b) a loss was widespread. Partly because we seem to have acquitted ourselves very well, and partly, perhaps, with one eye on last February’s Wembley final, which was the catalyst for a sensational collapse.

Wenger said in his L’Equipe interview that last season, “to try to catch one [trophy], we ran after all the hares”, and that contributed to the dismal season end, but that this year, rather than change approach, “I’ll do the same thing”.

I think he approached it right given the obvious fatigue on Saturday, and while the hunt for a trophy is as important as ever, I get the feeling that things don’t seem to hinge so much on the winning of a cup this year. Maybe expectations are a little bit lower and maybe, after the start we had, this season became as much about turning an underperforming team around – which is happening – as it was about having a genuine tilt at a trophy.

Either way, I don’t see too many – any – dissenters saying we should have played the Persies and the Ramseys and the Walcotts of this world on Tuesday. Chasing four trophies puts an impossible burden on any squad, especially one still scraping off the mud of an early season quagmire. We performed well and as has been pointed out elsewhere in numerous places, it was an opportunity seized for some of our players – Coquelin, Frimpong, Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular.

125

I wasn’t aware of the exact date, but today is apparently the 125th anniversary of the club. How time flies – I vaguely remember the celebrations around the 100th anniversary and here we are again for another milestone. It feels like a long time but when I worked out I had followed Arsenal for almost 25% of its existence, and that time has disappeared into the ether like a flash, it feels a bit less so.

In those 125 years, Arsenal have won the First Division / Premier League title 13 times. Unlucky for some, but equally, 11 times more than others. That averages out as one title every 9.6 years, which puts our barren trophy run into some perspective and, as I mentioned on Twitter, raises the interesting prospect of our next title coming in 2014 (if stats can be relied on – no comment).

I can’t imagine too many of us would find that too long a wait. I’ll just drop a call to the club and check they’ve booked Islington Town Hall.

Best to be well prepared for these things.