Five alive

Arsenal
Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham

I moan regularly and vocally about the price of my season ticket, but as fellow season ticketer Oxford Matt pointed out after the game yesterday, that glorious win was probably worth about 25% of the cost on its own. I would have parted with £250 for that without so much as a hey nonny nonny. No doubt many in the ground had spent a lot more than that anyway, but I can’t imagine there will be many of red and white persuasion grumbling about value for money this morning.

Honestly, this is what it’s all about. To come back against the old enemy – and swashbucklingly to boot – was just about the furthest thing on my mind when we sat there at 2-0 down.

But you know what – even staring into the abyss of another derby defeat there was not a lot of gruffling in the stands. I know Walcott was getting it in the neck a bit thanks to his opposite-poled magnetic boots, but you couldn’t fault the team for commitment or effort at any point yesterday. From the word go we hustled and harried and pressed and fought. Attributes, I know, that men being remunerated to the tune of £40,000 – £80,000 a week should be offering as a matter of course, but that with this side at least, ebb and flow bafflingly.

This really ought to be the template for how Arsenal play, but I have sat here before on more than one occasion and typed these exact words, only to end up regurgitating them. Chelsea at home, December 2010, was a prime example of this and yesterday we approached the game in a similarly ebullient manner. Why we have not done so more inbetween is one of those questions – like where are all the baby pigeons and why do my iPhone headphones always tangle themselves up – that quite frankly I am not intelligent enough to answer.

Incidentally, watching the goals again this morning, the commentator pointed out that Walcott’s two goals were his first league goals at the Emirates since that day – some 14 months ago. It strikes me that getting Walcott into those kinds of positions – using his pace to go one-on-one – should be high on Wenger’s to-do list, because when he does that he can terrify the opposition.

He’s an enigmatic kind of player but I would chain him to the oak panels until he signs a new deal. Not because he is the finished article – maybe he never will be. But if played to his strengths he can be a magnificent outlet, and maybe that’s what we need to be thinking about more. By and large it is the lot of the winger to drift in and out of games, and Walcott fills that brief magnificently. But we need to be strengthening, not weakening, and for all his frustrating facets, losing him would weaken our team. Anyway that’s my tupp’orth.

So yes, where were we. I think it would be cruel to pick names out when the performance was a team one, but Benayoun and Rosicky really improved as the game went on, and seeing the latter score his first league goal in two years was a picture. He opened his mouth so wide in celebration I feared he might dislocate his jaw.

And at the back, where we had been a shambles at Milan and Sunderland, things started to gel. The stat in today’s Independent is staggering: Wenger has fielded 26 different starting back four combinations in 47 matches, involving 14 different players and nine different centre back pairings, so what we need is stability and to me, a back four of Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs has a lot of potential. All four were excellent yesterday.

So back in fourth after a mesmerising five goals in 28 minutes – just about the best response you could ask for. More of the same please, Arsenal. It would be criminal not to use this as a springboard. (But then again, I think I might have said that before too…)

There’s nothing quite like winning these ones, is there?

Happy Monday all.

Happy Monday as Arsenal Step On

Bit late in the day but…

The question on the lips of my little contingent of season ticket holders after Monday’s majestic swatting-aside of Chelski was simply: Was Theo’s goal the best bundle yet at the Grove? There have been a few others – Gallas’ last-minute equaliser against Man Utd, Henry’s header against the same opponents way back in the first season at the Grove and Fabregas’ mazy, unchallenged dribble and goal from the kick-off last season against the Spuds. There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled to make the grade; it has to be against a big side, it helps if it’s a perhaps unexpected goal and it tends to come straight after another big moment when the crowd’s lungs are fine-tuned and the place is already rumbling along nicely. Theo’s goal fitted all those criteria and the bundle was explosive. My brother was somehow shunted down the aisle, terrace-style, I was hugging anyone who was prepared to be hugged (and some who, in retrospect, might not have been) and you couldn’t hear yourself think. I was hoarser than Red Rum.

As passages of play go, the ten-minute spell before and after half-time took some beating, but overall it was exactly the display many of us had been hoping, yearning to see all season. We were almost better off the ball than we were on it, and I can think of fewer better accolades than that. At times this season we have looked like we didn’t want it enough, but we couldn’t have wanted it more against Chelski and they simply had no answer.

I have no idea whether it will be marked as a coming of age, or just an exceptional one-off, but it was definitely a match that went some way to knocking a few theories about the team on the head. It wasn’t until after the game I realised how desperate I had been for the team to put in a shift like that and to bury a few doubts – many of them held by me. It was pretty cathartic.

No doubt much of the undoubted feel-good factor will dissipate if we head to Wigan tonight and trip up. Scene of the lowest point of last season, it is a game that must and I suspect will not be taken lightly.

I look at tonight’s game with increasing confidence and a renewed belief in the potential of this team – and if I’m thinking that, I suspect the players are too. Let’s go out there and dish out more of the same.

All I need now is to chase the stream…