Southampton 0 – 2 Arsenal
The rev counter increases as the eyes stare intently toward the horizon. Daunting but not impossible; the razor wire presents a formidable barrier to freedom. The fingers release their hold and the engine roars into life.
We all know Steve McQueen ended up tangled in the wire. Arsène believes he will make the successful leap to freedom, to the top four and the Champions League. Three points at a ground where we have a wretched record reinforces that belief.
Pull off a repeat victory at Stoke this weekend and Wenger may have a point. Particularly if Liverpool continue to go all ‘Spursy’ or Manchester City join them in that quirky behaviour.
It’s happened before so there is no reason to think it won’t happen again. However, it’s not much of a ‘plan’; there are a few self-evident flaws.
After the game, Arsène praised the team:
“I felt that you should look at the performances. You couldn’t be disappointed from the goalkeeper to Danny Welbeck, everybody played well.”
The biggest question seems to be ‘why?’ on so many levels. To some extent there’s no point in asking; we rarely find the answers, or at least the full answer.
Alexis, to the disgust of his detractors, proved the decisive factor; after Mustafi and Cech stepped in to fill defensive breaches.
The Chilean’s footballing stats were good. That’s all you need to know about any player. Football – or Arsenal, in particular – is suffering from a welter of over-analysis at present. Not for the right reasons either; Alexis suffers from not being Arsène Wenger’s favourite player.
Which may well be true, but if he isn’t Wenger’s favourite, he ought to be because he is very much digging the Frenchman out of a hole.
Go And Make A Change
The finish was exquisite, throwing more dummies than at a four-year-old’s birthday party. Arsène enthused about the goal which saves his bacon, or at least one of them:
“I think the goal that he has scored tonight showed what he is about.
“Very good technique in a short space, he scores important goals. And with very short technique he has invention in his head.
“He’s creative because he’s not fazed by anything and he’s surprised everybody in the stadium tonight by what he did.
“They expected him to take a shot and he is very quick, so overall he has done extremely well.”
This is the same Chilean who doesn’t work hard enough. Are being the club’s best finisher and working hard mutually exclusive? Of course not, and Alexis is an infuriating player with the way he cedes possession too readily at times.
But he is also worth £300k per week to Arsenal – and Arsène by extension. Just get the deal done, financially. Whoever is manager next season – and there’s a suggestion or thirty that isn’t quite as clear cut as it was previously – needs to find plausible and convincing reasons for the player to stay.
Of the two goals, I found the second more pleasing. Alexis’ was a moment of individual brilliance, the second more of a team effort with the maligned striking a chord for their survival at the club. Certainly Olivier Giroud in that sense.
Personally, I think he is slipping down the ranks with a new striker needed which pushes Danny Welbeck to Plan B or C, with Giroud down to D in those circumstances. His header, as ever, was well-taken but made by Aaron Ramsey’s equally well-executed header across the goal.
Waiting For The Day
The Welshman floated the ball over the defenders and into Giroud’s path, which is impressive technique. It won’t rescue him from savaging any time soon but underlines his value to the side when he has the freedom to attack. Find the right formation and midfield partner and the player we thought we were signing – the player he had before Shawcross – emerges.
Did I mention Alexis’ involvement in the goal…
It was a night of positives, with a black cloud. Every silver lining has one and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hamstring twang was a thunderstorm sized one. Hector Bellerin will no doubt step into the breach and has the weapons in his armoury to be an effective replacement. Stoke will test him, that’s for sure.
More will become later this week about the extent of Ox’s injury but for the minute, savouring a rare win on the south coast is enough.
Anyway, that’s your lot for today.