Holding out, Takehiro

West Ham 1-2 Arsenal 

Any excuse to wheel out and remodel the Bonnie Tyler headline and I’m there, frankly.

I was watching us arrive at the latest stop on the Rollercoaster Express, all stations to Who The Bloody Hell Knows Where But It’s Quite Fun, with my 16-year-old son. What is it about teenage sons? He just kept wheeling out stats about equivalent fixtures, who scored in them and when, and there I was looking blankly at him.

“Remember last season, when Lacazette scored right at the end, dad?”

“Nope.”

“We were three nil down, remember?”

“I do not.”

And on it went, him pinging stats at me, and me wondering how I can remember scores and attendances from the 1980s (54,703 at Highbury on the opening day of the 1987 season) but recent matches all meld into one.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this game wasn’t one for the ages. My boy will have forgotten it entirely in about 2028 and I won’t remember what happened in it by about August, possibly sooner. Mid June? 

It was a big performance in the moment though, as all of them are now, and another big test of character that we passed. That Sky’s man of the match was Rob Holding tells you that it’s all hands to the pumps right now – or should that be all rewilded noggins to the pumps? 

I think I have anxiety dreams about him leaving. Finding back-ups of sufficient quality who seem happy to be backups is a tough ask, let alone finding ones who can put in man-of-the-match performances and be so consistent despite not playing regularly. Massive props to Rob Holding, but I do slightly worry about what happens to him next season if Saliba comes back. Fourth-choice centre-back? Then again, playing like this, maybe he’d get more games than we think.

Shout out to Eddie Better too, who just gets Nketiah Nketiah. I won’t go all revisionist on you by claiming to have had his back all season, because that would be a giant fib. At times he’s come on as a sub and failed to persuade. But with more game time, and perhaps a focus sharpened by knowing this is a pivotal time in his career, young Eddie is winning me over. 

He has a real nose for a goal, which really matters, even when it doesn’t lead to a goal as it didn’t yesterday. And he seems to have added a physical element to his game that means he can – or at least isn’t scared to – mix it with the wizened old pros he comes up against. He ran himself into the ground and was a real menace, and I suspect he ran Holding close to man of the match.

So it was a gritty rather than eye-opening win, and at times our range of misplaced short passes seemed almost choreographed. Special kudos to Agent of Madness Tavares on this front, but he wasn’t the only one (props to Ramsdale for thundering out of goal too).

And then just when you think “For the love of god, will one of our excellent passers do an excellent pass” then up steps Mo Elneny to ping through a glorious defence-splitter. Things are not normal right now, I’m telling you.

So where does this leave us? Three points closer to wherever the hell we’re going, that’s where. Sixth is guaranteed, so *I think* we’re back in the Europa League, though each time I read about the permutations of that my head explodes. If so, that’s real progress already, though on a purely selfish level I’d still like to side-swerve the Thursday-Sunday routine if possible. Bu hey, it’s not all about me (it is about me).

Great win, gritty performance: now onto the next moment of high stress. We love it really.

Jim

Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.