Not the worst time to break one’s blogging-abstinence, is it? My schedule has displayed all the tightness of Jamie Redknapp’s pants this past month and, try as I might, I couldn’t muster up the willpower to pen depressing missives about two-goal leads being blown, shirts being swapped when said shirts shouldn’t have been swapped, and possession being hoarded with the end-product of an impotent shrew. As such a disgustingly fair-weather fan, it behooves me to violate the rickety old keyboard after yesterday’s match, which was as fair-weather as any we’ve seen in a long time.
On the face of it, matches against Spurs rarely merit any detailed analysis because they’re such isolated events, such fenced-in islands in the archipelago of the league season. Intangibles like desire, drive, passion, and determination come to the fore; and a quicker rushing of the feet, or alternatively, a quicker rush of blood to the head, can make all the difference. In the space of fifteen minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor displayed both.
I know his early good work will rightly be forgotten in the wake of subsequent stupidity, but the overgrown Togolese six-year old had an impressive start to the game. Being first to the rebound after Szczesny parried Defoe’s shot, holding the ball up and moving it along as the situation demanded, dovetailing with his attacking partners…before planting a nasty raised boot on Cazorla, getting sent off, and providing not so much a grain as a truckload of sand to tilt the match in Arsenal’s favour.
When stripped down to bare bones, Adebayor is now a pale caricature of the fearsome and undoubtedly talented striker he once could have been. Moving from club to club, each spell riddled with stroppy fits and brain-farts, collecting ever-increasing pay checks and ever-decreasing praise; he’s seems a poor Mario Balotelli impersonator more than anything now. There’ll certainly be no ounce of sympathy from me, because apart from being a twat who doesn’t deserve sympathy touching him with a felt-tipped barge pole, Adebayor’s daftness helped us by allowing space and time for…
It felt great seeing the diminutive Spanish string-puller finally come into his own after a quiet month or so by his standards. He’s been stifled far too many times since early October for our liking, huffing and puffing and looking for space between the lines to no avail. But after Adebayor’s brain-cells-on-Barcaloungers moment, the entire pitch unravelled for Santi to spray, swivel, and shimmy. All smart interplay at close-quarters, majestic cross-field balls to shift the play, rasping and dipping shots from distance, everything came flooding back for a glorious ninety minutes.
I think all of Cazorla’s magic was encapsulated in a small rainbow-coloured tablet close to half time. Spurs cleared the ball from a free-kick, it came out to Cazorla and it was his show after that. He hopped and twisted and weaved through challenges (inadvertent Arsenal ones and knowing Tottenham ones), scurried down the left, his control on the ball alternately mimicking super-glue and sweet honey, before fizzing it in for Giroud to sweep home.
His own goal was much more sledgehammer-to-the-cranium than syringe-to-the-neck, but it bears many repeat viewings for contributions made by all four Arsenal attackers. Giroud leapt like a lion to win his hundredth aerial duel of the day, Walcott got to the second ball and prodded it forward to Podolski, who laid it on an efficient Colognian plate for Cazorla to wallop past Lloris.
Apart from Cazorla’s general perceptiveness, another thing we owed the victory to was…
Arsenal attempted 27 crosses yesterday, arguably the most since last season’s home game against Newcastle (stat via @Gingers4Limpar) and it was a very refreshing departure from our recent penchant to take the ball to the by-line and pass it back to the keeper in a tedious cycle of somnolence. Walcott and Sagna expertly exploited Naughton’s inexperience and Bale’s reluctance to track back, firing in cross after presentable cross for Giroud and occasionally Podolski, who drifted inside to good effect.
Indeed, our most important goal came from Theo blunderbussing his way down the right wing and hanging up a cross he perhaps wouldn’t have played in other matches. It was excellent delivery- not too close to Lloris, tantalizingly flung into a pool of red and white, screaming to be put away – and Per Mertesacker duly obliged by putting twenty-seven years of German height, fury, and neck-power behind it.
Giroud went close twice from headers- the first palmed away superbly by Lloris after more impressive set-piece delivery from Walcott, the second a point-blank save after Sagna crossed it in – and the majority of Arsenal’s crossing bordered on dangerous yesterday. Plan B? Seemed closer to plan A and a half. It’s good that we have that variety in our game now, because we’re still struggling with regards to…
Arsenal were definitely given a fillip with Adebayor’s sending off and controlled the game for large parts, but there was still an overriding veil of nervous caution in some of our passing. After Bale made it 4-2, there followed a period of Spurs dominance (I use the word fairly loosely here, but still) and had Tottenham’s prized simian squared to Defoe rather than going for glory, the last few minutes could have been very hairy indeed.
We’ve all seen Arsene’s quote about a football team being akin to a beautiful woman and needing reminders of her beauty, but this Arsenal team looks itself in the mirror every ten minutes and asks you if it has gained weight or sprouted badly-positioned acne. A few more positive results will hopefully see an abating of this confidence rut, because we certainly can’t afford another lean spell like October any time soon.
Montpellier at home now, a game where Champions League qualification can be sewn up or the knitting can start to unravel. No Arsenal, you look fine, that dress shows off your curves nicely…sheesh.