Saturday, December 3, 2011

This is the new Arsenal: we're back on track

The curse of Wigan away has been broken. The series of 4 games without victory has stopped. On a very wet day, when the going was tough, our team came up with the goods and emerged with a brilliant result. We have now taken 19 points from the last 21 available, the two being dropped against Fulham at home. We started the game with our strongest line-up and as expected Roberto Martinez packed Wigan's midfield. The first 15 minutes saw the Latics' pressing hard for the ball. Their 'smash and grab' game produced a great chance which was wasted by Jordi Gomez. But as their initial enthusiasm diminished, Arsenal found it's footing and started to dominate the proceedings. Arteta was the key figure in the midfield as Ramsey was given the licence to make forward runs. He stretched the play with his accurate passing and bossed the midfield. It appears that Mikel has finally found his rhythm and has developed a good understanding with the team. His confidence must have received a further boost when Al Habsi was not able to spot his long range strike which gave Arsenal the first goal of the game. Due to Theo and Gervinho's pace, Wigan was forced to defend deep which provided ample space for Arteta to run into and tee up for the long range shot. The first goal also calmed Arsenal's nerves if any. The team only grew in confidence and immediately struck again with the second goal via Vermaelen from a corner. It was a perfect delivery from Robin for Vermaelen who did well to beat his markers for the header. One could argue that his goal was a result of bad defending from Wigan but then every goal from a set piece is like that. When the talk of Arsenal being a one man team was rife, the first two goals was the perfect way to silence the critics, something which this Arsenal team is becoming very good at.

Arsenal continued their dominance when the game resumed. Gervinho who was average in the first half finally found some luck when he scored on a rebound. He was disappointing in the first half with his positioning and passing and looked set to continue his recent dismal form. But he was once again saved the criticism when he found the ball in his path after Robin's shot was parried by Al Habsi. He scoffed at the ball but then it was impossible to not score from couple of yards out. Gervinho's game has been visibly on the down after a spirited start to the Premier League campaign. He doesn't have to look far for inspiration as his teammate Theo has gradually set himself on the path of becoming a legendary wide player. Theo's work ethic, his positional sense, his passing and crosses have improved remarkably. He now has a matured air about him and oozes confidence. He has become Robin to Robin's Batman. They have formed a deadly strike partnership and were once again at it for Arsenal's fourth goal. Theo could have scored the goal himself but he rather set it up for Robin who actually did quite well to score from the wobbly pass. Robin's racing towards Alan Shearer's record of maximum league goals in a calendar year and we just need to see by how many is the record improved.

At the back, Mertesacker and Vermaelen looked comfortable and confident in their approach. Our BFG has settled well to the life in Premier League and barring his goof up at Carrow Road, his defensive performance in the last few games has been top class. Similarly Verminator has found back his form after making a return from a long injury layoff. He likes to go forward and as the season progresses, we will see many more goals from him. The left back department still remains a concern. Santos could be amazing going forward but his foremost duty is as a defender. He seems to be working on getting his position right but he's too slow to turn. He frequently gets caught flat-footed and even an average winger could give him a run for his money. Song has adjusted his game well to cover for Santos whenever he goes forward. But Song's move to the back four creates a hole in the midfield which is not filled fast enough by the backtracking Santos. Until now, we haven't been in trouble because of this specific handicap but a quality opposition will surely take advantage of the situation.

Overall it was a great performance from our boys on a very wet afternoon. We're not able to impose ourselves from the beginning but gradually we tightened our stranglehold over the Wigan side. Let's hope we can continue our juggernaut and keep climbing up the league table. 

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