Arsenal 3-0 West Ham
Ping, ping, dummy, flick, goal – it was one of those days when Arsenalâ€™s build-up passing slotted together like one of those massive 500-piece jigsaws. When it works itâ€™s bewitching, and when it doesnâ€™t itâ€™s infuriating, but yesterday – when it counted – we ghosted through West Ham and it was a delight.
They were all at it in the one-touch club, but the main protagonists were Giroud, Ozil and Ramsey, with a hat-tip to the latecomer Cazorla (player of the season, anybody?)
Not that it was a 3-0 kind of game, really. The first half was all probing, stretching defences and was fairly even. The Hammers seemed to be targeting Chambers at right-back and got round the back two or three times, while we had a few good chances ourselves. Walcott was getting into good positions but looked a bit ring-rusty, perhaps understandably.
Confession: I missed the first goal because Iâ€™d gone to get an early sip of the half-time beer. There we were in the concourse (with hundreds of others, not that Iâ€™m making excuses for myself), singing throatily but with a hollow, sheepish edge as we realised Giroud had put us one up. Thatâ€™s right, Iâ€™ve become the person I hate, complaining about ticket prices and tutting about the exorbitant cost of food and drink at the ground, only to slip out early to ensure Arsenal make even more profit. I am a hypocrite so feel free to reprimand, or just shake your head in sorrow.
So the first goal, ahem. Seemed good from where I was.
In the second period – I was in my seat by now, youâ€™ll be glad to hear, watching the game with my actual eyes – it was tight for a while. Ozil, who was otherwise excellent again, over-elaborated to the tune of a trillion by lofting an impossible pass across the box when he should have just wellied it, and at that moment 57,000 people probably simultaneously muttered something like â€œthis has got one-all written all over itâ€ under their breath.
There was no need to panic. Welbeck came on and gave us a burst of energy, Cazorla entered the fray so we could have our dose of pocket dynamite, and we collectively stepped up a gear. Ramseyâ€™s goal was a blur of passing interspersed with the kind of shimmy that probably once sent Mrs Giroudâ€™s knees trembly in a French nightclub when Olivier hit the floor for some Bee Gees.
Then Cazorla one-twoed with Welbeck and Giroud, passed it across the goal and Nigel made it three.
Giroud, as an important aside, was excellent.
I wouldnâ€™t call it a head of steam, more a faint whistle, but weâ€™re building something up at the moment at a critical time. Five straight league wins puts us a mere point behind Man City, and with nine games to go I think itâ€™s fair to say that three of the top four slots are – to coin a phrase from the late eighties – up for grabs now.
Good to see Walcott back too. I get the sense thereâ€™s a bit of revisionism going on at the moment about his value to the club. The landscape may have changed and the sands may have shifted, but I canâ€™t think of any circumstances where not having him in the squad would be beneficial. Think back to how he was playing when he did his knee in – he was magnificent. Even operating at 70% of that, which is where he probably is now, heâ€™s still getting into good positions. The more games he plays, the better he will get. Heâ€™ll always be slightly enigmatic, and heâ€™s not the tackliest, runningbackest of players, but he does other things well.
Itâ€™s all set up for Mission: Improbable on Tuesday night. I’ve got a realistic angel over my left shoulder, wagging his finger and reminding me how we got lacerated on the counter in the first leg, and I’ve got an annoying, upbeat ‘What if’ angel over my right.
Right angel has come from nowhere – literally nowhere – and is desperately trying to sow the seed of excitement.
For my own sanity I wish he’d go away.