Monsieur, with these goals you’re really spoiling us

Arsenal 7-1 Blackburn Rovers

It may sound a tad melodramatic, but I’ve not enjoyed watching Arsenal as much this season as I should have done. All the peripheral stuff has been as fun as ever – the Saturday morning anticipation, hopping on the tube, having a pint before the game and chinwagging with the usual motley crew. It’s the bit on the pitch that has at times edged more towards being a chore than a pleasure. Yes, I know, you take the rough with the smooth in this line of work. But that doesn’t mean I have to whistle contentedly through the rough.

We have had some excellent results, but by and large – and particularly at home – we have struggled to recreate the Flowing Football Of Old™ in sufficient doses.

And then Saturday came. I’m pretty sure I said “I’ll settle for a scrappy 1-0” before the kick-off, and I’ll wager I wasn’t the only one. So to tonk seven past someone – the most we have scored in the league in 5½ years at the Emirates – was pure joy.

This Arsenal side has been accused on many an occasion of not being able or willing to turn the screw and administer a proper humbling. What was so heartening about yesterday was that, at 1-1 and in potential heads-down territory, we simply kept going. Then once we nosed in front, we got the bit between our teeth and kept going some more. Ambassador van Persie stayed on the pitch for the whole 90 minutes, Walcott too, and though there were barren patches (how dare they not score for 30 minutes?) we always threatened more.

It didn’t look like that would be the case though, at least not at first. Early goal followed by no second one followed by the away team equalising bears all the hallmarks of Arsenal. This time though, at 1-1 we rattled two more past in quick succession, and coupled with the red card, we were able to enjoy the second half.

The majestic van Persie was of course peerless again, but what a way it was for Oxlade-Chamberlain to mark only his third league start. I thought he was outrageously good for someone so raw and already there’s no doubt that he has the capacity to terrorise defences.

Then there was the icing on the cake of Henry scoring at the end – in what could well be his final ever appearance in front of the home crowd. There is talk of Arsenal trying to extend his loan so he can play a part in the north London derby, but if that’s not to be then this is not a bad way to have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

I don’t want to rattle on about it forever, but suffice to say I lapped the whole thing up. It’s amazing how restorative a big win can be – for the fans as much as the players – and blimey did we need it.

I wouldn’t say I’ve gone as far as to pack up my troubles, but I have at least got my old kit bag down from the loft in case.

And I’m definitely smile, smile, smiling (for now).

Arsenal wobble but they don’t fall down

Arsenal 2-1 Olympiacos

Whaddya mean, why can’t Arsenal do things the easy way? When did we ever do things the easy way? No no no, we can’t possibly put the game to bed at the earliest opportunity. Much better to give us all real value for our sky-high ticket prices by keeping the outcome of the game up in the air until the very last minute. It’s the Arsenal way! You know you love it really.

Certainly, we conspired to turn a commanding position into a breathless rearguard action, but we got the three points (leading the way in England on that front) and made it three whole wins in a row. Are we finding our form again? Do you mind if I think about that one and get back to you later?

Joking aside, the result was what mattered and we got it. Special mentions go to Alex Song, Per Mertesacker & Co for keeping the Greeks at bay once we had presented their goal to them on a silver salver with a congratulatory letter from the Queen.

I have no idea whether this Olympiacos side are the best Greek side I’ve seen or whether this Arsenal side have the current altruistic knack of making anyone look good, but the two goal cushion certainly was much needed given what came later.

Who’d have thought, after Santos rifled the second goal in, that by the end of the evening Olympiacos would have had 16 shots on goal to our 13? Our gifted goal gave them the momentum that had threatened to come and it rendered the match wide open and (in hindsight, and certainly for the neutral) hugely enjoyable.

I know everyone else will have mentioned these exact words, only in a different order, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a superb debut. Not only did he take his goal well, but his speed and strength really stood out. Walcott has many strengths but strength is not one of them, and it’s that pace allied with real power makes The Ox in the Box an enticing prospect indeed. It’s safe to say that his contribution this season this season will be anything but a bit-part. Wenger has eased him into the fray thus far but you can’t keep a big talent down and we’re bound to see a lot more of him. Well played that (young) man. He’ll certainly keep Theo on his toes.

Otherwise, the game at my end (so the second half) went in a blur of missed passes and lost possession, with a few missed chances for Arsenal to seal it thrown into the bag. That was the thing that struck me most last night – our inability to hold onto the ball for more than a few passes at a time. It really is a good job we held firm at the back.

Astonishingly, Szczesny has now had eight different back-fours in front of him this season, which might go some way to explaining our general defensive ailments. We have six central defenders – Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny and Miquel, but only one was fit. Song stood in admirably but yet again, we are being skittled by a long injury list. You get the feeling we could have ten centre backs and still have a few games in the season when we’re forced to patch things up by calling upon the services of a midfielder. It’s mind boggling.

Props to Arteta for his extraordinary goal-line clearance too – I had to rub my eyes to check that ball hadn’t gone in.

So a win, a decent position in the group, a bit of a rest for Ramsey & van Persie and onwards we go to Sunday.

Tin hats on…