If it’s broken, fix it

There we all were, shaking our heads at the sheer misfortune of losing two players before the game had even got going at Hillsborough in the League Cup, and agreeing that in terms of injuries, things had hit Peak Arsenal.

How naive! We still had the fun of the Hawthorns, where Coquelin fizzled out, and his replacement, not to be outdone, also conked out in short order.

But two crocks a game – well that can be improved upon, surely? Of course it can, with Koscielny, Alexis and Cazorla joining the ranks of the bandaged masses at Carrow Road. Peak Arsenal yet? I don’t want to tempt fate. I’d say there’s more fun and games to come on that front.

It’s not really a laughing matter, I know, but there’s no point in letting it tie you up in ligaments. It is what it is, but it’s desperate stuff alright and injuries are clearly affecting our game. We miss those who are out, and we rely too much on those who – somewhat miraculously – are not yet on The (Tony) Colbert Show.

Until the Norwich injuries, I had been imbued with optimism about Olympiakos. Mentally, Arsenal know exactly what they need to do. But Olympiakos? Do they stick or twist? I fancied our chances, but much of my positivity has, perhaps not surprisingly, dissipated. Without the energy and uncertainty of Alexis, and without the metronomic Cazorla, I wonder if we will have enough to get the job done. It was hard before and the mountain is even higher now.

Before then we have Sunderland of course, and I think we’ll have too much for them. We’ve had a week off to recuperate and we’ve probably been licking our metaphorical wounds (if only that helped literally, there’d be an army of Arsenal fans lining up at Colney with tongues dangling).

Of course, what injuries taketh, Forsythe giveth too. Ramsey and Ox are back ( a lot is expected of both), Koscielny might be OK (I’d play Gabriel anyway tomorrow) and Walcott is close. Keeping them fit – well that’s another matter altogether.

What can be done? As mentioned on the Arsecast today, hindsight is a wonderful thing but perhaps we should have thanked Rosicky and Arteta, and bade them farewell in the summer. As it is, they’re still here but I think a little retrograde ruthlessness is required in January. A couple of reinforcements need to be sourced – one at DM, ideally with something to prove and an exemplary injury record – and if that affects one of our injury-prone player’s chances of playing then so be it. There is no room for sentimentality.

We simply cannot afford not to strengthen, and I think we need more than a Kallstrom-esque punt. We need a numbers boost, a physical boost and a psychological boost. If there’s a £10m or £15m premium on a good prospect in January, so what? We have the money and we can’t keep waiting for people to come good. It’s all about this season.

Jam tomorrow can get stuffed.

I like jam now.

Left-back wings it to save the day

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

You wouldn’t have put much money on the cavalry arriving wearing a number three shirt and some underused boots, but Gibbs’ contribution was one of the nicer stories to emerge from a match that was at times pretty tough viewing for Arsenal fans. A gentle reminder from our left-back that it wasn’t that long ago we were all impressed at how he’d kept Monreal frustrated on the bench.

He was also the only British player on the pitch for Arsenal, with our cavalcade of homemade players all out injured or glued to the bench. It’s quite staggering that five of our injured core are British. Coincidence? Probably, but still.

It wasn’t that Joel Campbell played that badly; he fought manfully for the most part, and the fact he could not make a lot happen was not his problem alone. Is he good enough? His position as about seventh choice suggests not, but you can’t fault his workrate and he has proved his value as a squad member over the last four games.

The whole team struggled badly in the first half against an impressively committed and tenacious Spurs side, and that Cech was so impressive (and busy) says it all.

So a point is an excellent result given the circumstances, and focus now must go on getting some of that long line of injured players back within two weeks. There’s no doubt that the Cazorlas and Alexis’ of this world are running on empty – it’s a massive worry. In a perfect world (*sigh*) there’d be scope to rotate a bit when legs get this weary. But we have nothing else in the wardrobe other than Wilshere-shaped mothballs.

The thing is, as has been proven time and again, when we’re talking about Arsenal and injuries there’s no such thing as a perfect world – or if there is, it’s something like ‘only five men are out’.

That’s why we need to strengthen the overall squad in January. We have to accept that we are horribly injury-prone and adjust our thinking accordingly. What happens if, as if by some act of god, we were to buy two players and then everyone miraculously got fit? Surely it’s better to manage players’ frustrations at not playing than to grind the same core of fit ones into the ground.

Over to you Tony Colbert. May the Shad Forsythe be with you.

Arsenal crank things up a gear

Hull City 1-3 Arsenal

There I was with my worry beads, thinking this could have been been a mouldy old banana skin, and here I am now looking a little bit stupid.

Turns out the concentration was fine after all, and if anything, somewhat heightened. So much so that it was one of the more complete performances of the season. I won’t try to compare it with any other matches, mostly because I can’t really remember very far back in any great detail, but have you seen a better display of passing than that? No Sir, I have jolly well not.

Orchestrating it all were three fleet-footed amigos in the shape of Ozil, Ramsey and Cazorla, the latter two in particular competing for the most outrageous defence splitter. Dead heat on that front if you ask me.

Both Ramsey and Cazorla were phenomenal, once again sinking my pre-match fears about a lack of width below the waterline. Pah, what do I know. It’s not like you come here for informed tactical and motivational insight. (It’s not like they come here at all – Ed).

Cazorla was magic again, and I’d hoik his future right up the agenda. There has been hearsay for a while about him leaving this summer (though I’m not sure where the rumours have come from) but right now he’s a stick of fizzing dynamite and we should pull out all the stops to keep him. Who else would have him in Europe? Who wouldn’t.

Jack Wilshere deserves a mention too for an excellent cameo. His direct running literally threw a real cat amongst the actual pigeons. Up for the challenge? We see you Jack, we see you.

Sanchez was brilliant, point-blank refusing to play at anything less than 100%, far better on the night than a strangely lacklustre Giroud. I thought at one point a month or so ago that Giroud would overtake Sanchez in the goalscoring charts, but I can’t see it now. In the league – perhaps. But not overall and 24 goals is an excellent return.

So, great defending and dynamic attacking – with the added bonus being the chiming of the bells of St Totteringham. What’s not to like.

You won’t fool me this year, window

I’ve been off the radar recently, in the land of dirt-cheap petrol. I haven’t needed to think about Arsenal, because we signed Gary Pallister, he got a work permit and Wenger muttered “Job’s a good’un” to himself in French (“Le boulot est bon”?).

Had you told me on the evening of New Year’s Day that I’d be in the mental equivalent of a La-Z-Boy on the night that the transfer window slammed shut, I’d have rung up and had you sectioned on the spot. Even back then, if you ignored the Southampton game and Stoke game that preceded it, our form was very good (I appreciate the nonsensical nature of that comment, but maybe you know what I mean). Those results just groundhogged the whole thing a bit.

It felt like we’d never learn, and yet here we are with four consecutive clean sheets, scoring goals from all angles and through to the next round of the cup. Walcott and Ozil are finding their form, Bellerin’s blossoming, Cazorla is imperious and letting Alexis rest has left no-one in a flap. How nice is that?

I didn’t think Ospina would retain his place, but he’s done just that, and on merit. Is he our number one stopper? (I ask that hypothetically. I just like the word ‘stopper’).

Meanwhile, Wenger’s at home with a glass of Beaujolais, you mark my words. And possibly a cheeky hobnob.

Cazorla ices the Arsenal cake and I want another slice

Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal

A magnificent, disciplined, resilient and pragmatic 90 minutes from Arsenal that ended in three well-deserved points. The best result this season? No doubt. But it could well be the most important result for more than three years as we finally threw the monkey off our back by beating the current champions in their back yard.

And how we merited it. Only 30% possession? So what. We sat back, let City come at us and snuffed them out with energy. On the break, we caused them no end of trouble, with most of our best work emanating from the staggeringly good Santi Cazorla. If he wasn’t cleaning up at the back he was racing forward, all deft movement and Weeble-like balance. A goal, an assist: he was man of the match with bells on and to whoever covets his berth in the middle of the park I simply say, “good luck with that”. The superlatives will flow from all angles, but the Guardian pretty much nails it with “masterclass”.

There were plenty of others who should be mentioned in dispatches. Coquelin has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of mediocrity and produced a performance of energy and steadfastness. Is he good enough in the long-term? Don’t know, but he was good enough today and in a season of ups and downs, his story is increasingly eye-opening.

Bellerin’s story is just as heartening, a young player at the starting gun of his career who has taken his chances and seized them with both legs. Learning as fast as he runs, he’s giving Wenger an option at right-back just at the right time, with Debuchy out for his second Diaby of the season.

I could call out Ramsey too for an all-action comeback (though he was dead on his feet as the game dragged on), but maybe I should just stop right there, thankyou very much, and just doff my cap to the whole damned lot of them.

I heard it described as a benchmark, and that’s a fair call. If we can play like that, rather than trying to surge forward chaotically at all times, then we have a blueprint for tough away games right there. When we play like that we marry sturdy defence with pace and shimmering danger going forward. A springboard? Let’s hope so, though you never quite know with Arsenal (I can’t throw my innate cynicism away entirely, you know, not on the strength of one game…)

Ironically, two of our most impressive recent performers – Alexis and Oxlade-Chamberlain – were below their electric best but while their touch deserted them a bit neither of them lacked for energy. Fortunately, our strengthening bench can come to the rescue more now than it has been able to for a while. Gibbs, Flamini and Rosicky are experienced heads to call upon, and we had Ozil and Walcott in reserve. Options.

Was it a penalty? Yes, of course. Was City’s defending for Giroud’s goal good? No, thankfully. Do I care? Not a jot. Giroud’s header was firm and his celebration, sliding and pointing, was epically Giroud-like.

Where we still lack bodies is central defence, and if the sight of Koscielny trotting about gingerly at times didn’t sound Wenger’s cheque book klaxon, then nothing will.

“We are still looking”, was Wenger’s response when asked.

Well, don’t stop!

Giroud gives Arsenal a dose of the smelling salts

Everton 2-2 Arsenal

Textbook Twitter overreaction from me yesterday – right out of the manual.

The sarcasm

We’re two goals down at half-time. Being bitter and twisted, I can’t quite bring myself to give an online pep talk. But nor can I hashtag Wengerout or hashtag hopelessshower.

Retweet 1

Evidently still bitter and now commencing a war of snarkiness. This is the stat to use.

Retweet 2

Because this made me laugh when everything else was making me cross.

The overreaction

We’re one and a half games into the season and I’ve written us off.

The hasty backpedal

Just to prove that at no point did I not think we could get something from this. *Coughs*

There you go – what do I know? What do any of us know for that matter. It wasn’t a good performance, with several returning players patently not match fit, others battling injury, and others just not clicking. But we kept plugging on and instead of the narrative being about how we’ve not learned a jot over the summer, it’s all about the comeback.

It did look lost to me. But Wenger changed stuff around, with Giroud making a big difference, and things started to change. The breakthrough came from a couple of moments of class, as is so often the case – lovely cross from Cazorla, lovely little run from Ramsey – and the game changes. Games have a habit of doing that, which somehow still seems to surprise me despite having watched Arsenal for about 35 years.

Another from the left – this time Nach (natch) retrieves a long pass from Debuchy, curves one back in and Giroud plants a header in.

We rescued that one, and it feels a bit a bit like a win as a result.

Not really clicked this season, but we’ve still taken four points from six. If you were being cruel you’d say we just look unready, and a little blunt. But there are mitigating factors. World Cup, long trip to Turkey, a fractured pre-season. Injuries. I also think – rightly or wrongly – that minds are on Wednesday. It’s such a big game for the club, money-wise and to attract new players between now and September.

Either way, the moral of this story is not to pay too much attention to what I say on Twitter during a match.

The sweet foot of Aaron Ramsey sends Arsenal into dreamland

Arsenal v Hull

Arsenal v Hull

Arsenal 3-2 Hull City

It started, as all good things do, with some peri-peri chicken.

Our little gang of five merry cup warriors met at lunch, seven tortuously long hours after I woke up. Fed, we then sidled off to a house of refreshment to soak up the atmosphere, and proceeded to hoover up a few looseners. There was a fantastic atmosphere where we were – West Hampstead – with flags draped over pubs, fans of both sides mingling, an open-top busload of vocal gooners rattling past.

It’s hard to explain cup final day to someone who hasn’t been to one, but it feels so different to your average game. A mixture of nerves, excitement, anticipation. Good spirits, and in this case, very warm spring air. The kind of atmosphere that makes memories.

Up Wembley Way and into the ground we went, lapping it up. Then we mostly went our separate ways – victims of the vagaries of cup final ticket lotteries.

Wembley Way

Band of the Welsh Guards – tick. Abide with Me – tick (though unlike previous years the lyrics weren’t on the big screens, which was a shame and meant that the massed ranks of fans mumbled along like John Redwood, only breaking into song when the hymn reached its eponymous end). National anthem – tick. Nerves utterly shredded – tick-a-rama with a hey nonny nonny.

Viewers of a nervous disposition might now wish to avert their eyes for the next paragraph.

Kick-off and, hello! We appear to be a goal down, a bit unlucky perhaps, so that’s alright, keep calm now (even though we’ve not really started yet), we’ll get a grip on thin…Whoa! That’ll be two goals, some wobbly defending, and oh no, that was Curtis Davies. That’s not remotely good. There’s a frothing conurbation of gold and black bobbing up and down, rubbing their eyes and not quite believing what they’re seeing. The same shock was being felt at our end of the ground too, only with a touch less bobbing and a distinct absence of froth.

It’s nearly three! Hold me tight, but there’s Kieran Gibbs to nod it off the line. It transpires we’re not good at starting early on Saturday, and nor do we steam off like a train late on Saturdays either. Finely tuned to Three O’Clock, that’s what it is.

Fair play to Hull, they were hurting us from set pieces and in the air, and we’d not really been in the game. We were massively on the back foot and we needed a moment of magic.

It came, by Jupiter, it came. Cazorla’s free kick wafted handsomely into the top-right of the goal. It was a hell of a goal – a goal fit for the occasion and what a time it was for Cazorla to pull a rabbit out of his hat. We needed that, desperately.

The rest of the half at last seemed more evenly matched, it felt like we’d steadied the ship at last, and there was still a long time to go. The goals were all so early, there was no room for too much sniping, though I did complain a bit about Giroud’s ever-flailing arms of despair.

The pendulum was swinging, and the introduction of Sanogo, all legs and no goals, made a real difference. He’s still like a giant puppy but he’s definitely got something about him, and we needed that energy badly. There were several good penalty shouts – Cazorla’s was clear from where I was – but I can’t remember the rest, to be honest. Nervous memory blurs abound.

Then up popped Koscielny, scorer of important goals, to swivel in the equaliser. Pandemonium. Muchos hugging and slapping other chaps on the back, while baring teeth, fists pumping like a failing two-cylinder engine, swearing like a fishwife. I was sitting next to my 15-year-old godson and I’m sure on several occasions he peered over at me and wondered if his mum and dad hadn’t made a desperately bad decision all those years ago.

Gibbs then Rosenthaled one over, it went to extra time, and we finally played our trump card by bringing both Wilshere and Rosicky on. We were in control now, both having a big effect on our movement and energy.

The next paragraph is about Welsh Jesus.

Giroud – and it’s getting late in the day now – saves his best till the end with a glorious backheel. It’s happening in a flash but Ramsey just thwonks it with the outside of his right boot and wheels off in glorious delight, tailed by someone who used to be Gibbs but who now appears to be a madman, no doubt thinking “you’ve saved my bacon”. Again, absolute pandemonium everywhere.

If Alan Sunderland and his megaperm is synonymous with 1979, then Aaron Ramsey is the man of 2014. Sorry, Santi, but he just is. He scored a goal of wonderful quality, at the most crucial time, and it won the cup for Arsenal.

Naturally, we’re talking about Arsenal here and we almost conspired to Arsenal it up, Mertesacker tripping, Fabianski coming out and not quite getting there and Hull flashing a shot wide. Gibbs was back in a flash, still no doubt thinking about his miss, but still.

And that was that – the cup was ours, and you can see what it meant to the players, to Wenger, to us. Of course I feel sorry for Hull – they played their part in a memorable final (I can say that now – wasn’t thinking it for large tracts of the match yesterday) and losing is never fun. They rattled us and they took us all the way. Their fans were great.

But we made it, we won. As I write this I’ve got the game replaying on the telly, my kids are waving two of the flags that were on the seats at the ground. This is what it’s all about.

We did it the hard way, but we’re back on the silver trail and how everyone needed that.

Remember this feeling. This is what football is all about.

We’ve won the FA Cup.

Czech mate

Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham

There was me worrying – silly old worrying me! In the end it was far from the toughest of derby days for Arsenal, but in terms of enjoyment it was right up there with the best of them. Hoarse? I’ve practically got hooves this morning.

We bossed it, fair and square, and even with ten men, when we understandably found ourselves on the back foot, we looked comfortable defending what we had. If I’d been able to script the derby, I’d have done it something like this (well OK, I wouldn’t – I’d have made it 7-0 with a sprinkling of reds, but this will do thanks).

At various points in the game I kept on piping up that “Wilshere’s having a great game” or “Rosicky’s got the bit between his teeth” or “Hands up, I was wrong about Gnabry” to which my brother responded my reminding me that the whole team was having a good day at the office, and he was right. We defended well, Fabianski was untroubled, we bossed the midfield and Theo caused all manner of danger as the lone front man. It was our best and most fluid performance in some time, and what a time to pull it out the hat. Impeccable.

The 5.15pm kick-off wasn’t as foolish as I’d feared and made for a great atmosphere – it was as loud as it has been in ages. In general terms the atmosphere has been better all season than it’s been over the last few years – we’re playing well, simple as that – but when you add the local derby ingredients (and a few extra hours in the pub) then the timid old place goes a bit haywire. It was great fun being in and among it all. And bundling, hugging, shouting, clapping. There’s life in the old dog yet *rubs aching back*.

Yes, I’ve watched all the Vines and seen the Instagrams and Flipboarded and Snapchatted* and Whatsapped my way through the entire aftermath, and I’ve read all the reports and I’m going to head off to hoover up the blogs next. It was that kind of game.

*I haven’t snapchatted. I’m too old to snapchat, I think. Or scared.

What else did I learn? Well, Wilshere is back on form and plays far better in the centre of the midfield than he does on the wing. Accommodating him in that role with Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini was always going to be a balancing act, but in truth it’s not that hard – Wenger now has the luxury of being able to rotate in that key area with seemingly few side effects.

Gnabry – well it’s hard not to agree with Arseblog on this issue. I thought he’d struggle in a game of this importance and intensity but he did the opposite of struggle (elggurts?). I know it’s only one game but on that kind of form we have yet another option on the wing – a proper option – and that’s without the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The ebbs and flows of football are amazing in that regard – a few months out has given one player a few chances and left another a little further down the pecking order. Football really is all about form and fitness and confidence.

And Walcott – what a menace. It seems a long time ago now that he was umming and aaahing about a new deal and plenty of people were writing him off as not good enough. He’s integral now – a pocket dynamo – and his return to the team just at the time Ramsey and Giroud hit dips was a piece of luck. Fingers crossed his knee is not overly mauled. He was in the wars a bit yesterday (hard to know how seriously) so we shall see.

So, onto the 4th round of the FA Cup. I love this cup and hate how every year its importance seems to diminish, purely because of money. The day we start saying the cup is not worth the bother is the day we should take a long hard look at ourselves and ask: what’s the point of football, if not to win stuff?

A three point turn as the handbrake eases off

Arsenal 2-0 WBA

Back to winning ways and – ahem – it’s all on again!

Given that we couldn’t realistically expect to go from 0mph – Swansea – to 100mph in one week, this was a decent upgrade from standing still, probably around the national speed limit in fact (terrible analogy – Ed).

Some of the fluency came back, there was a lot of energy and commitment, and a stand-out performance from Jack Wilshere who had his best game yet since coming back from his über-injuries. The Opta stats gave us 19 attempts, of which three were on target, which kind of tells you what you saw with your own eyes – namely that we got into a fair amount of encouraging positions in open play, created some good chances, but singularly failed to take any of them. The Gerv created a good one for Wilshere in the first half that Jack really should have scored, and there were a few decent opportunities in the second half too, culminating in Podolski chipping it over the bar from six yards out. Not very deadly but I think there was a bobble. Let’s say there was anyway – it is nearly Christmas, after all.

Gervinho was his usual enigmatic self, zipping up and down the wing relatively well, but he needs smelling salts when he gets anywhere near the goal. There was one total air shot, and a header that boomeranged wide, all of which suggest to me that he needs some kind of elastic belt attached to a zip wire that runs the length of the line, which keeps him within 10 yards of the side of the pitch. Perhaps the lino could use one of those leads that are attached to enthusiastic puppies. It’s just a thought. (To be fair, he has of course scored five goals, including a ripper against Chelsea – you never quite know where you are with him).

I was sitting next to an Ajax fan who has been a fair bit to Arsenal before, but who has never had the pleasure of seeing Gervinho weave his magic. He offered up the reason for Wenger buying him as being simply “because he sounds Brazilian”, which may be a good shout. Although we settled in the end on a different pronunciation of his name, which sums him up rather better – “Gervinh…oh”.

So of course, the game was won by two penalties, both of which could have not come to pass. The first definitely shouldn’t have been – it was a blatant dive by Cazorla – and desperate though we were for a win, I’d rather our players – all players – didn’t do that. I know it’s swings and roundabouts but still. The second was as clear cut a penalty as you will ever see, but on another day The Ox might have been penalised before he won it. Nonetheless, I think we were good value for the win and Arteta was steely enough to place both right down the middle of the goal. Maybe his saved penalty against Fulham prompted that. Or he could just be a cheeky poker-playing devil.

Happy enough with that though, the players were given solid applause and Wilshere came all the way down to clap the fans. Why they don’t all do this more often I don’t know, but it’s always worth it and was well received.

A couple more important things:

1) I came up with a genius marketing plan at half-time yesterday. “A pound a pint a point”. It’s catchy, for starters, as you will doubtless agree. And the essence behind it is that if Arsenal win, we pay £3 a pint. A draw and it’s a quid. Lose and we get a much needed loosener on the house. The small print needs some work maybe, but this seems like an excellent idea in principle to me. Are you listening to the fans, Arsenal?

2) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will never be the player we want him to be – and he wants to be – until he reaches parity of font size on the scoreboards. The poor lad is a couple of sizes down in order to squeeze his double barrels onto the giant screen. I get the sense that this is a sore point in the dressing room and must be hindering his play. As you may have noticed, he is but ‘Chamberlain’ on his shirt, which is a step in the right direction, but he will not truly be unleashed until he’s an Arial 48 point* on the screens, like Squillaci and the rest.

*Typeface keenos – yes, this was a guess. A wrong guess probably.

Scripted to perfection for the second year running

Arsenal 5-2 Totteringhams

Not bad for a team that hadn’t been in control of the game from the first minute to the last, eh, is it, Andre? I especially liked the bit at the end of the first half when we were so not in control that we scored twice and could have scored another. Reminds me a bit of the Churchill quote:

History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it

Granted, they were the better team in the first act of this rousing play. But when Adebayor took centre stage in the second act, it was the kind of script that Arsenal fans could only have dreamed of. Imbecilic wind-up merchant gets himself sent off having scored a goal, at which point his team concedes four times before finding its feet again? Don’t mind if I do. When he exited stage right, the game changed forever and Arsenal took great advantage. It’s precisely what we needed.

I think we can safely ignore the defending that left us behind yet again in a game (two men simultaneously break the offside trap – it’s not good for the heart, let me tell you). Our diminutive midfield did struggle at first with the physical nature of things, but once they found space Wilshere, and Cazorla in particular, were outstanding. The latter can go to Panama more often, as Wenger said.

On the flank, Walcott showed what a bit of pace can achieve. Frankly, I never want to see either him or Oxlade-Chamberlain overlooked in favour of Ramsey in that position again. Not that I think Ramsey isn’t a good player, but he’s no winger, just as Djourou is no right-back and Santos no left-back (the truth has at last outed on that front – he’s an auxiliary left-midfielder, who comes on for tax purposes). I have filled my boots on this blog ranting about the insanity of letting the Theo contract scenario get to this stage. He showed so many good things yesterday that it is plain to see he is an asset to this team. He does seem pretty happy and clearly has mates at the club, but I do fear all that will count for nought now that he is so close to doing one on a Bosman. It’s a madness if you ask me, and just at a time when the very last thing we need is the departure of a form player mid-season. Anyway, let’s hope for the best, eh.

What else did I like? Podolski scored and created, and it’s hard to ask more than that. But Giroud again caught the eye up front. He’s so eager, like a giant puppy thundering about, but his body strength and aerial prowess are slowly giving us the kind of Plan B we need. As a team, we’ve now scored three headed goals in two games. It now pays to cross into the box at head height, and he’s partly why. He’s got seven goals in eleven starts and seven substitute appearances. Given that he is new and the team has struggled, that’s very decent.

Above all though, some good goals and imposing play brought the fun-factor back. Just listen to this clip, recorded in the half-time beer queue.

Exciting football is the drug we all crave. Give us that and the fans will get behind the side, even forgive weaknesses elsewhere. One of the (many) criticisms of this side is that it no longer plays some of the best football in the league (which was maybe always a burdensome tag). That, when it’s bad, watching Arsenal can be just plain boring. Well yesterday, much of the good stuff flooded back and it’s no wonder we lapped it up.

Enjoy away, gooners. Enjoy away.