Arsenal 2 – 0 Hull City
There is a madness engulfing football. Referees apologising for handballs that never were, Rafa Benitez touted as Wenger’s successor and Garth Crooks. I’ll leave that last one there, it doesn’t need any further explanation; he is as mad as a box of frogs.
And away from it all, Arsenal won 2 – 0. It wasn’t good, if anything it was a distinctly average performance at best but the three points and ‘W’ in the form guides, were most welcome additions to the weekend. We know from bitter experience that Arsenal rarely bounce back from a poor run of form with a scintillating performance. There’s almost a sense of ‘baby steps’, making sure of winning first, then worrying about how we played.
But let’s be honest, when Arsenal win, the world is a better place, even if just briefly before you remember that football isn’t unique in being engulfed by madness.
Arsène made a brave choice. The axe fell on Nacho Monreal with Kieran Gibbs recalled but that was the only change from last Saturday. It was a show of faith that I would argue wasn’t necessarily deserved. But that is Wenger’s M.O. and gave the XI the chance to prove everyone wrong. The problem is that the leaders, the best players on the pitch, have sunk into being distinctly average at the moment.
Alexis scored twice – huzzah! – but the same ‘beat the opposition on my own’ mentality surfaced. Mesut Özil wasn’t anywhere near purring which is no surprise; he is, I think, one of those players who plays well when the team is doing the same but doesn’t drag everyone out of their fug. You might argue that’s a luxury we can ill-afford but one man is not a team.
Handball, no controversy. Elbow to head…
Allegations emerged soon after the final whistle that Mark Clattenburg apologised to the Hull players for missing Alexis’ hand putting the ball into the net. Handball is judged on intent and having the hand or arm in an unnatural position. The former wasn’t apparent as Alexis stabbed the ball toward the goal while the latter wasn’t in question and could take this post off on a different tangent, which is entirely inappropriate for a Sunday morning. Clattenburg had nothing to apologise for, and does saying, “Sorry, I didn’t see it” really count in that sense?
There was little argument about the award of the penalty at the end of the match or the red card which followed. That was a blatant handball and the laws of the game are such that Clucas had to go and turn the taps on in the bath to make sure it was ready for everyone else. Should football consider a ‘penalty goal’ similar to the penalty try in rugby union? Keep the red card for professional fouls but for blatant handball on the line, give the goal and a yellow card. It’s got as many arguments for the move as it has against.
The rest of the game was fairly nondescript as far as I’m concerned. Nobody was outstanding, and as I mentioned earlier, we weren’t likely to set the world alight with this performance. Had we lost yesterday, I’d have been concerned for the Champions League match but less so with a win. It would be typically Arsenal to win the game 1 – 0 in the Allianz Arena but lost the home leg 3 – 1.
So Arsène, how was it for you?
Relief all round was the message from the manager. His last match consigned to the stands, from now on he is free to return to his all-action touchline style of management.
He put down the calculator long enough to answer the assembled hacks questions after the game,
As you said it was more about the mathematics than about the brilliance today because we had absolutely to win today. Unfortunately against a good team who I cannot see even from the stand any weakness in there. Physically they are strong, they are organised, they have a good spirit and technically they are good as well. So overall I felt that we started well until we led 1-0, we created some very good chances.
That’s Hull City, third bottom of the Premier League at kick-off. In fairness, they were the better of the relegation fodder we’ve faced in recent weeks; if they keep playing like that, Hull could pull off the same escape as Sunderland last year. So much for making a mistake in appointing a manager who doesn’t know the Premier League.
Wenger went on to define and defend the Arsenal performance,
After we became a bit more protective to protect the result. After that we were playing a bit more to not concede a goal and that’s what the game was about because we knew that was absolutely vital to win today.
It’s a matter of perception, of course. We were still as reckless as ever, heightened by our cautious approach to the game in the second half. The manager must defend the performance, come what may, looking for the positives, or at least an ‘out’. If there was little to enthuse him, our most optimistic of supporters…
It’s a win and that genuinely is all which matters. Three points, up to third – not joint second, bozos – until later today, but that’s it. We’ve still got a third of the season left to either royally screw it up or stick in the top four!
And finally, there’s a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox: That Was The Week That Was, a selection to cover off the last seven days or so.