The weekend brought about once again a perfect set of results. I could get used to this I really could. We played a whole host of different players in different positions as we all know our squad is massively depleted through injury, and we struggled. We really looked as though it was the first game of the season all over again and also like we seemed to be trialling out a new formula. We began in a nervy way, similar to the West Ham game and really should have been 1-0 down with only 4 minutes on the clock. What ensued was a trying and laboured performance resulting in what turned out to be an invaluable 3 points. There were chances for Sunderland even at 2-1 with minutes to play, thankfully when Matthew Le Tissier screamed “Goal!” it was for us rather than them in the 93rd minute. It was that man Aaron Ramsey. A lot has been said about his wanting to be in the middle of the park and that it’s a little more risky than the Coqzorla combination due to the nature of his game, however he’s now had 2 fine performance in there. The real test will come against City but he’s started well. Interestingly he quoted a tweet in the form of a video clip from BT Sport after the Olympiakos game where Steven Gerrard was talking about him being the best in the Premier League through the middle. The clip also mentioned him not wanting to play wide. Ramsey alluded to this by saying that it was great to hear such words of encouragement from a legend. Lacking a little subtlety but the message was clear; hint hint Arsene.
Overall the weekends results were favourable. City lost, United drew at home to West Ham, Sp*rs drew, Chelsea lost (I know they don’t look to be in the mix for the title but it’s brilliant nonetheless!). Leicester however just keep on rolling. They however had their first hiccup of sorts in that Vardy’s run has ended. It could work in 2 ways. He could be relieved and crack on or he could let it affect his form and the team could suffer. It will be interesting to see especially as their next 4 games are Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Man City. A tough run. But it truly is refreshing to see them where they are.
We also drew Sunderland at home in the cup. Hopefully a safe passage to mount our defence of the great trophy.
Onto the Champions League…
The day was set and we knew what was required. So often have we fallen short in these circumstances and so often we’ve had to lament past results as the catalysts for failure. The mood was one of nerves and the air was filled with tension. All day these vibes were coursing through my veins and all day it was on my mind. Being in the know that my work Christmas party, at the Shard no less, coincided with this fixture had me more nervous. My thoughts immediately went to “will I get reception to keep an eye on the score there?”, “could I find a stream to watch?”, “will someone have BT sport on their phone?”. Thankfully the answer to the last of the three questions was yes. And he was a Gooner. The plan was set, we would try and watch what we could given it was a Christmas party and that way we would know exactly what’s happening to then be able to enjoy the latter part of the evening or equally, commiserate together. The finger food had begun and the small talk was in full flow when the game kicked off.
I couldn’t quite believe there were 4/5 of us crowded over a table watching the game in full flow in the middle of Aqua at the Shard. It seemed a surreal event however one that no one seemed to be bothered by so we continued. After anguishing over a quite patchy start we began to venture forward a little more. Flamini hitting the bar seemed to evoke a new found energy into our play and soon after hitting the bar we took the lead through a quite brilliant combination of an Ozil pass, a Ramsey cross and a good header from Giroud followed by a bit of a clanger by their keeper. 1-0 and the nerves were settling. The forays into their half continued and we had a couple of half chances however the back end of the first half saw us deal with about 5 minutes of consistent pressure. We managed to hold on and went in 1-0 at half time. Almost there. The second half began while I was grabbing an orange juice at the bar and my Gooner friend ran over embraced me whilst screaming the quite distinct word “yeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh!”. Olivier Giroud again. After some quite brilliant footwork from Joel Campbell it has to be said. Campbell really did have one of his best games for us, he worked hard and produced an end product. I’m truly pleased for him and hope that the form can continue. If anything it will make The Ox work a lot harder to regain his place back and that’s no bad thing. 2-0 and the nerves were back again. We had it all to lose. There were a couple more nervy moments followed by a pretty terrible decision that for once went in our favour. We got a penalty for a hand ball that the defending player really didn’t have a clue about so I felt it was harsh on them. I hasten to add that I didn’t care a jot purely because you need luck to progress in this competition and in turn win it. Chelsea had it in 2012 as did United in 2008 and Real Madrid in 2014. Lord knows I’ll take a bit of luck coming our way as its a pretty rare thing. Giroud stepped up and buried the penalty with east. 3-0. Hat-trick hero. A great performance and game to stand up and be counted in for the big man. Interestingly he’s now scored more
Champions League goals than Dennis Bergkamp, my all time Arsenal hero. I know he didn’t fly so much but still an impressive feat. I saw a Tweet from Gunnerblog stating that Giroud scores a lot of goals for someone who isn’t good enough for us. It’s defending the constant barrage abuse he gets in the best way. Hero. Now I could truly relax. I ran around the venue letting anyone who cared to listen that Arsenal had taken a 3-0 lead. I was delirious with joy. The party could now (well almost) be properly enjoyed. The rest of the game petered out and we kept them at arms length and could have had a couple of more goals if we had pushed for them. But we didn’t need to to. I always felt we would need 3 goals and once the third went in, it completely deflated any hope that Olympiakos may have had. An unbelievable performance under huge pressure with a depleted squad. Excellent. Not even my Chelsea fan friend (I know I know) could dampen my spirits with his mockery of a great escape on our part. The keyboard warriors do come into full force when their team wins a game, so you have to let them enjoy what they can when they can. It’s becoming a rare thing for them these days after all.
On we go to the next game followed by the next round draw. Villa away on Sunday and the Champions League draw on Monday. We have the possibility of facing:
All pretty tough games. Although so long as we can avoid Barcelona I feel we can beat the others. Wolfsburg and Zenit would be preferable but either of the Madrid’s wouldn’t be too bad either.
Our next game is of huge importance as well however. We play Villa away and have an opportunity to go top as Leicester face Chelsea. A chance for them to drop a point or two. It’s all looking a little better on the horizon for now at least, so let’s bask in its glow.
Enjoy the rest of your week folks.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.