Arsenal 1-0 Swansea
Back in the good old days, going one up at Highbury meant you could exhale and start enjoying the afternoon. You might not get much more entertainment but you could be pretty confident that youâ€™d get the win.
No use comparing eras though: times have changed. Arsenal have changed, the game has changed, and 1-0 to Arsenal is never a safe scoreline. Itâ€™s a particularly unsafe scoreline when youâ€™re caught in the kind of league rut we find ourselves in.
Nevertheless, despite wobbling in the second half we surfed the late Swansea pressure and eked out the win that we desperately needed. And we really did need this, only our third league win in 15 attempts since beating Stoke on 23rd February.
So given it was the first game after the international week, given we had two new signings in the starting XI and given the inevitable mental baggage following the 8-2 pounding, this was a very good result indeed.
It wasnâ€™t pretty, for the most part. We didnâ€™t put enough pressure on Swansea, or stretch their play enough (not enough crosses like the one Gibbs put in for Chamakh in the 84th minute). We didnâ€™t use our pace enough.
In the second half in particular, the fabled handbrake was back in effect, but there were loads of positives in the game too. Arteta and Mertesacker were calm, steady influences and can be very pleased with their debuts. Benayoun was lively as a sub. You could tell straight away what their experience brings to the side. Elsewhere, Szczesny again made a wonderful save and commanded his box well. Ramsey was neat. Arshavin had an excellent first half and took the goal very coolly (he has Gervinho breathing down his neck. Nothing like a bit of competition, eh).
As Wenger said at the end, â€œWe know that confidence goes quickly and comes back slowly.â€
Well this was a first step in the right direction. To that end, an excellent afternoonâ€™s work.
It was my first game of the season too, and itâ€™s always nice to be back. How pleasant it is too to find that some things never change. Coming into the concourse at half time, I was greeted by queues about 20 people deep for beer. Is it any wonder people vacate their seats so early? This stadium has been open for five years now and they still havenâ€™t worked out how to serve people beer, fast. I know itâ€™s a tired old moan but how hard is it? And what difference would it make to the half time exodus? Iâ€™ve said it before, but the system they have at the Millennium Stadium shows the way forward. Huge beer-pouring machines dispense a dozen pints at a time, in no time at all. There are queues but I donâ€™t remember them being substantial. Instead, the club have installed new mini shops in the concourse over the summer to sell shirts and other merchandising. I donâ€™t see many people leaving early to get to the front of those queues.
Anyway, moan over. It was a very welcome three points.