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 itâ€™s only the second win by that scoreline this season, the other being QPR at home.
Since that era weâ€™ve gone to the other extreme, scoring willy-nilly but defending like a sieve, and now weâ€™ve changed again I suppose: trying to relearn the art of winning ugly. Well it wasnâ€™t easy on the eye yesterday, definitely not a case of â€˜everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at homeâ€™, 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, thereâ€™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 â€“ but we are all getting used to the taste of sausages again. (As a mild aside, let it be said that sausages are fantastic â€“ Lincolnshire ones are great and I recently had a Polish lunchbox â€“ you at the back stop sniggering â€“ 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 â€“ 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. Itâ€™s the medicine of choice for managers, players and fans alike.
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 itâ€™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 â€˜excusesâ€™ are now rather watery so imagine my surprise when yesterday I read in the Times (Â£ 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 â€“ views mirrored by many, after all â€“ but itâ€™s the first weâ€™ve heard of it. I think heâ€™ll stay till the summer, and I think we need him to â€“ but heâ€™s a high-profile player and the questions will be asked every single time he does his interviews, and itâ€™s all a bit dull, but there you go â€“ 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. Itâ€™s the price heâ€™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 Artetaâ€™s hair, but it will not be bowed.
Overall then a great result to set up the Christmas period â€“ in which we have a mini-break â€“ and the gloom has lifted, for now. How we are third is hard to fathom, but Iâ€™ll take it with jingly bells on.
Which is a reasonable way to lead onto my final point: Happy Christmas to you all â€“ or happy holiday if you prefer â€“ or happy days at work if neither of the previous applies. Enjoy the time off, relax, have a rip-roarer.