- Arsenal boss offers injury update on Cazorla & Giroud
- Ratings: Cech shines but Ozil fails to spark as Arsenal held
- Video: Arsenal 0-0 Boro: Lackluster Gunners drop valuable points
- Teams: Arsenal v Middlesbrough: Cazorla out, Elneny in
- Team news: Wenger’s update on Ramsey, Welbeck, Giroud & Cazorla
- Preview: Arsenal v Boro, team news, line-up & prediction
- [Photos] Arsenal duo step-up injury comebacks in training today
- [Photos] Arsenal boost as injury doubt trains ahead of Boro game
- Arsene Wenger sets comeback date for forgotten Arsenal man
- Arsenal boss confirms fresh injury doubt for Middlesbrough game
The Arsenal Keeps-A-Rollin’
More momentum. More belief. More confidence. These were the positive results of yesterday’s 2-nil victory over West Ham. While, on paper, it may have looked like a home match against a genuine relegation candidate, we all know that derbies with West Ham have been anything but easy in the last few years.
The match started out strangely with Arsenal scoring right out of the gates. I can think of only three goals we’ve scored in the first 10-15 minutes all season. But it was a well-worked one-two between Denilson and Bendtner to create just enough space for Denilson to perfectly place a shot low and in the corner with his laces.
The sending-off of Vermaelen was undeniably harsh from an Arsenal perspective. I wonder what role all the media noise about whether or not Campbell should’ve been sent off according to the rule of law for his challenge on Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink the other week instead of just being cautioned played in Atkinson’s decision.
In the heat of the moment, all I could think of was Vermaelen being suspended for three of our seven remaining fixtures. However, it does appear that since he was not sent-off for violent conduct that his suspension will be only one game and he will miss the Birmingham match. The obvious option is to sacrifice Song in midfield for the one match by partnering him with Sol and letting Diaby and Denilson take the midfield behind Cesc.
This is so disagreeable to many of us because yesterday was a perfect example of the growing stature of Song. His performance yesterday was efficient, energetic, and technical. What more could you ask for from a defensive midfielder. He won balls, he held the ball, he distributed it well, and he ran for most of the match. The real supporters’ test of Song’s importance to the side is to ask yourself if there is any other defensive midfielder in the Premier League that you would rather have instead of Song… Me neither.
I also wanted to comment on Diaby’s performance. I used to criticize Diaby for being all style and no substance. Yes, he had technical ability but he didn’t know how to use it in a team context. However, this season has also witnessed the emergence of Diaby into a far more mature player than I thought he could ever be. He never used to look like part of the team when he was on the pitch, but no more. He has toned down his theatrics and now uses them far more effectively because of it. His ability to control possession in midfield is outstanding and a bit reminiscent of Hleb’s ability to do the same. He has become extremely hard to dispossess in midfield and in so doing has finally become an integral part of the side.
I have to admit that I almost felt bad for Matthew Upson but even he didn’t bother to argue the penalty. Cesc stepped up, took it confidently, and added to his career-high goal tally of 15 in the league and 18 overall. There is just not enough you can say about Cesc’s form and importance this season. But his emergence as one of the most complete players in the league, if not Europe, is emblematic of the team’s overall development.
Arsene hit on it in his post-match press conference. This is simply not the same side, mentally, as last season. We are now able to grind out wins, win the matches we should win, and not just stand up to physical, bullying opponents, but match them as well. All the traits are there. Even if we don’t win the league this season, we’d have to be a fair favorite for next season’s title because this team will only get better.
It’s something I’ve been saying for two years. Some pundits thought Arsenal would drop out of the top 4 and some fans felt that we should give up on this side and even on Wenger. But even though it has been a very long wait for them to come good, I have never doubted that if we kept this team together, they would eventually bring alot of silverware to the Emirates. A team of 23 year olds can’t help but get better. And over the course of the season, and especially the last two months, we are seeing this Arsenal side burst into maturity before our very own eyes. And it is a joy to watch.