What was equally good, apart from the results, was that they were no flukes and each victory was well earned and crafted through good passing football, played with pace and cutting through the oppositions’ defences. Heady days and we stand 5th in the league at present, on ten points.
The chief coach, Roberto di Matteo, started with a 4-2-3-1, with Pablo Ibanez replacing the injured Gabriel Tamas, and well worth the start, after his performance on Wednesday; and Paul Scharner reinforced the holding midfield role, with an excellent Youssouf Mulumbu. Graham Dorrans returned to the bench and James Morrison returned from suspension.
One had no hint of the drama to come at the Emirates, as Arsenal seemed to take early control, hitting the woodwork twice early on, although we then started to get into it and were holding our own and seemingly not intimidated by the Gunners.
The central pairing of Ibanez and Jonas Olsson were coping well with the Arsenal threat, with Sami Nasri providing the most danger. The left flank offered us most in attack, with Nicky Shorey looking controlled going forward, and offered us options.
That we missed a penalty was serious, and many thought it would be decisive, as one doesn’t get too many chances at the Emirates. How wrong we were.
The second half started well, and after only five minutes we took the lead. Jerome Thomas, returning to his old club, cut down the left, reached the by-line and cut the ball back for an onrushing Peter Odemwingie to prod home. 1-0 then became 2-0 as Gonzalo Jara received a superb back-heeled ball from Chris Brunt and then tried a speculative shot, which somehow crept in.
Jara was naturally delighted to have bagged his first Premier League goal, and was booked for removing his shirt – somehow it didn’t seem to matter.
Things then only got better for us and worse for the Arsenal keeper, as Almunia went chasing the ball with Brunt on the right, Brunt centred and Thomas gleefully thumped the ball high into the roof of the net. 3-0 and game over?
One cannot account for a class team like Arsenal, however, and two goals for the Gunners’ man of the match Nasri made for a nervous last few minutes. It would have been a travesty if we’d had to settle for a draw, or even lost, as we were by far the better team on the day. Arsene Wenger admitted as much.
We held out to record our first win at the Arsenal since 1983: a goal from Derek Monaghan did the job, though we then went and ruined it by losing at home to them, 3-1. Only 22,271 watched us do it, however, compared to the 60,025 this time around. In that 1983/84 season we finished 17th with 51 points; Wolves, Notts County and Blues were relegated; Liverpool won the title and Arsenal finished 6th on 63 points. We mustn’t get carried away.
The win gives us six points out of six, and more importantly something away from home – which is important. We had 51% (!) of the play, and this against a side that plays football.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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