Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth
As we tip-toe over the last few yards of November I keep expecting some chaos to unfold, as is longstanding tradition in our neck of the woods.
But with just one game to go, whilst not entirely unscathed, we have not been weighed down by scathing. It’s been two wins, three draws and one uncategorised Rumbelows.
I won’t pretend this month has been that pretty, because it hasn’t. But we’ve still managed to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League and are just three points off the teams everyone is drooling about.
What we were all looking for today of course was a chink of light at the end of the tunnel of plod. And I think at times we got that, with the industry of Alexis, the energy of Theo, the perseverance of the Ox and the tidiness of Xhaka.
‘Even when he looks dead, he’s still alive’ said Wenger of Alexis after the game, and you have to admire the Chilean’s extraordinary work ethic that has rewarded him with ten goals now. Watch and admire.
The Ox, perhaps, was Arsenal in microcosm today. There were a lot of positives, not least in his attitude, but with the feeling that there’s still more to come. It’s there somewhere, we’re pretty sure of that – but just not quite entirely there right now.
After an opening goal on a silver salver for Alexis, poor old Debuchy hobbled off with what could be a ‘severe’ injury after just fifteen minutes. Can you imagine the mental gymnastics Wenger must have to go through when forced to make a substitution before the 67th minute? It must be torture for him.
For Debuchy, what ought to have been a dream move to the biggest club of his career has been one injury after another, sandwiched between the emergence of one of Europe’s great young right-back prospects. I fear, Matthieu, that it was simply never meant to be.
With a soft equalising penalty followed by a header flashed over the bar by Bournemouth, things felt momentarily as if they could head south. The Cherries – dangerous all afternoon – ran the channels well and were intelligent in possession.
But the second half opened up for Arsenal, and we are so much more comfortable when we have space and pace to run, rather than congealing round the edge of the box as we can do.
It brought the rarest of Arsenal moments – a headed goal from Walcott. Stick that in your literal pipe and smoke it, because yes it did actually happen. Cue a rocking baby for the new dad – congratulations all round.
Alexis duly finished it off and while we deserved to win, 3-1 felt a bit flattering. November’s been a bit flattering all over, now that I think about it.
A final thought about our central midfield. By my reckoning we’ve had six combinations there now, so I think it’s safe to say that Wenger has yet to suss out which one he prefers best – though obviously, part of that is down to Cazorla’s absence. Xhaka and Elneny were decent today, but will it be those two next weekend? Don’t bet your house on it, that’s all I’m saying.
As we move out of November and into the jingle-jangles of the festive season, it has only just dawned on me that, for one reason or another, and a potential home FA Cup tie notwithstanding, I might not be able to make a game until the 22nd January. Not so much of a winter break as a full-blown sabbatical. Even Diaby had shorter lay-offs than that.
What is it with these prawn-sandwich, half-and-half scarf fans like me?
*shakes fist at self*