Le boss in fine fettle and the club in form; what we all want, right?

Arsene took on the press yesterday and, as expected I suppose given our form and the announcement of a signing to talk about in the shape of Gabriel, he was in quite a jovial mood. I must say, it is much more preferable to me when everyone is a little bit more happier. I think there are some Arsenal fans out there in the world who seem to thrive on misery in some sort of footballing masochistic mindset, because some people only seem to get a thrill when we’re failing. But me, I like it when things are rosy in our garden. I like it when Arsene can have a joke with the press about giving them his address so they can send another signing his way if he is an ‘exceptional talent’.

Le Boss told the assembled hacks that Gabriel was ready, fit and will go straight into the squad, which is lovely to hear and something that will be a great boost to the squad as a whole. He may not speak enough English yet, but his fellow Spaniard’s in the team will give him enough support and I suspect that if we can get ourselves a comfortable lead on Sunday (which I don’t think will happen by the way; I suspect Villa will be hard to break down and it will be a tighter game than the pundits are suggesting, but more on that tomorrow), we might see Gabriel as a sub appearance to ease him in to the team.

The only downer that you could possibly have on the presser yesterday was the confirmation from Arsene that Alexis is unlikely to be risked. He’s picked up a knock and as a result I think Wenger will play the cautious game. It’s a sensible option and one that is made all the easier for the boss by the form of other players, as well as the fact that we have somebody like Rosicky who, in my opinion, deserves another run in the team after the Brighton game. Of course, the options are such now, that Rosicky may not even start, and with Ozil back you wonder if it will be a combination of Santi/Ozil or Santi/Rosicky for that left wing position. My preference would be Rosicky out wide left because I think the best players who are in the best form need to play and Santi is in the best form so he has to play centrally. Ozil out wide left hasn’t worked as much, but Rosicky has more experience in that position, so I’d give him the nod. But second guessing Arsene is like trying to break the Enigma machine, so I’ll not bother trying with that just yet.

Welbeck, Jack and the Ox are still out, but with the sheer volume of quality players we have at the moment – something Arsene confirmed when he spoke yesterday when replying to whether there would be any more signings – means that we have plenty of options to cater for our massive injury list. You just watch: now that we seem to have found solutions to the troubled positions that have been rocked by injury, we’ll end up having the whole squad fit and players getting unhappy because they’re not playing as much. I guess we’d all rather have that than the other end of the spectrum though, i.e. no players fit so we go back to putting square pegs in round holes!

I do wonder with the Welbeck situation, whether Arsene is being ‘ultra cautious’ because he has other players that he wants to play who are in form over recent weeks, hence why he won’t be featured this weekend. Arsene has said that in the past he’s told the press that a player is injured, or has a ‘little bit knock’ of varying degrees, but with the form post Moneychester City and Brighton, Welbeck doesn’t just walk straight in to this team. It saves his, as well as Arsene, a job of fitting players in if one is a bit ‘short’. I know I’m going all conspiracy theory-esque on you now, but it just seems convenient that Welbeck is back on Monday and, after Rosicky will have played the last few games back-to-back, Arsene might then have a get out by saying ‘look, he is 34 and he cannot play every week, so I have to be able to rest him’. I know, I know, I’m getting way to hypothetical here – especially if Rosicky doesn’t play tomorrow – but given that I saw somebody on Twitter speak about how they had met Welbeck and he’d said he is fit, it feels like Arsene is keeping players back to save their own face as he tries to fit in so many talented footballers into his matchday squad.

But hey, I’ve wanted this for so long (squad rotation) so please don’t mistake my comments as a literary bashing at the manager- they’re really not supposed to be. If you’re going to have a big squad of talented footballers, you’re also going to have a lot of bruised egos when they’re not playing, so the best thing to do is to protect them in the public eye and I’m sure they will appreciate that too. So I say ‘bravo’ to Arsene. It feels like his mindset is shifting and he’s starting to manage the fitness of the players better; rotating them on a regular basis, keeping the competition for places realistic and at the same time ensuring that the infamous ‘red zone’ is this evil thing that is way off into the distance somewhere.

We’re in good spirits right now. A win tomorrow will give us yet more momentum and with a trip to Spudsville on the horizon, it will be good to see that we are in the kind of ‘positive spiral’ that could help us to put on a show and potential collect three points at our nearest and certainly not dearest rivals.

Until tomorrow.

Squad form leading to rotation for Arsène?

Do you think that Arsenal deliberately hold on to transfer announcements, just to troll the entire Arsenal supporting social media world? Feels like it, doesn’t it? So perhaps it should come as no surprise that we’re all still waiting on the Gabriel Paulista announcement (as I type), because Arsenal are masters of the ‘shall we? Shall we? Naaaah, let’s give those transfer-salivating keyboard warriors another day, just for kicks’ school of thought.

What I find works in this situation is to see the funny side of life and, let’s be honest, it is funny how the club leave it until the last second. After all, we already know Joel Campbell has signed for Villareal on loan until the end of the season, because he’s already been pictured in training wearing the colours! Not to mention the social media images of him signing a deal with the yellow submarines. One does have to now question whether we’ll ever see him back at the club. He’s 21, he’s got Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud, Alexis, The Ox and probably Cazorla ahead of him for the front three positions, as well as no real history of making it in the Premier League. The very fact that Sanogo was seen as more important to stay in the league, shows how far down the pecking order Campbell is, so I find it hard to believe that Arsène will bring him back into the team come the summer.

He’s shown glimpses of the quality we all know he possesses, but his Arsenal career does feel a little bit Velarian to me, so I wonder if Villareal have a clause to buy at the end of the season. We shall see.

As for us, the competition for places once Gabriel is announced, suddenly looks rather intense. The Ox has been quoted on the official site as being pleased to see the depth of Ramsey, Walcott and Özil back, but with all of these players now approaching full fitness, Arsène has one heck of a job picking his first eleven. It’s a dilemma that he has to wrestle with, but the most important thing from my perspective as a fan, is that those players that do get in take their chance. That’s what we all want to see. I want to be able to make an “ooooh, harsh that Rosicky hasn’t make the first eleven this week after last weekend’s performance” comment, or ponder how he fits Özil and Cazorla into the team. I want to see the freshness of legs and rotation of players; not because we have nobody else, but because the players that haven’t been playing are getting their chances and taking them.

The season before last we saw how competition caused Szczesny to up his game to stay in the team. Now, for the first time in a while, you can say that the same effect appears to be happening in pockets all over the park. Ospina has wrestled control of the gloves (for now), Monreal has done enough to keep his place (again, for now), Cazorla is proving that a price tag means little if you are in form, The Ox is taking hold of the wide right position and hasn’t let Walcott put together a run of games and when Welbeck comes back, Giroud will have some competition to keep him on his toes. I’m sure you’re the same as me in relation to ‘bedding-in’ periods for overseas players, but at least Gabriel Paulista will give some initial ‘food for thought’ in relation to Mertesacker and Koscienly.

Let’s not even forget that we have Debuchy and Wilshere missing from the team, as well as Podolski and Sanogo who have gone out on loan because they were never getting near the first eleven!

I know that all is not 100% rosy in the garden. I know we’ve struggled at times this season, but with four wins on the bounce, as well as confidence visibly returning to the team and an air of swagger, I feel like there are many more reasons to be cheerful about our chances this season than ever before.

Weirdly enough, I hope Arsène doesn’t find a settled XI,because when we’ve had that in recent seasons we’ve come-a-cropper because players have been run into the ground. I am a firm believer that players need regular game time of sorts to keep them able to perform at the highest level. Just look at how Carl Jenkinson has performed for West Ham. When squad players aren’t given regular chances, they become a bit match-rusty. So when they are needed through injury or suspension, they have three or four games of looking a little ropey. By keeping players ‘topped up’, like we’ve been seeing at the moment with the rotation, players like Rosicky and Walcott can perform to the highest standard. To get to the latter stages of multiple competitions, you need to have a squad of form players, so it’s good to be able to see a different man-of-the-match display each weekend at the moment.

Will Arsène settle on a first XI? Probably. But until that happens, I will continue to hope that he’s struck a balance, that we’ll see more rotation between now and the end of the season and that a blueprint for modern day Arsenal can be found.

Rosicky masters (sort of) safe passage to round five

After a weekend of some surprising Premier League bloody noses, when I sat down to watch The Arsenal take on Brighton, the one thing that really settles the nerves is a nice and tasty early goal.

So when Calum Chambers found Walcott in a bit of space inside the box after a minute and a half, it was like the perfect start that we could all hope for, drilling the ball beyond Stockdale and starting us along the right path to victory.

You could tell – early goal aside – that we were up for it in Brighton yesterday. Arsène had shuffled his deck a little bit and was using the cup as an opportunity for some of the players that hadn’t played recently to force their way into his thinking for a starting place next weekend against Villa. Recalls of Szczesny, Gibbs, Chambers, Flamini, Özil, Walcott and Rosicky meant that there was a freshness and desire in the team to show that they deserved to be playing more regularly. And it showed.

We dominated the first half and when Özil was found by the reverse pass of Rosicky, he slid the ball home to double our advantage, which was the least we deserved. Brighton didn’t know how to deal with the movement. Our midfield snuffed out any venture forward that Albion tried to muster and our defence looked completely in control. Well, for the first half, anyway. It seemed like a) we had taken note of the surprises from yesterday, and b) we were building on the success of last weekend’s confidence-boosting win against Moneychester City.

Despite the fact that we’ve had blips like Liverpool and Southampton, the last six weeks have seen Arsenal win plenty of football matches, so much so that it actually feels like we’re starting to compile a bit of momentum. Probably just as well, because our stuttering season could have gone on forever if we didn’t start showing signs of winning back-to-back games. I’ve criticised the manager a few times on this blog this season, but he has spoken of injuries before, saying that when players are back fit we’d see a different Arsenal team. Well, you can’t argue that with all of the players coming back from injury, we’re not seeing a different Arsenal. Not only are we looking more impressive, but the fact Le Boss was able to rotate most of his team yesterday and we still performed well enough to win, are good signs for The Arsenal.

But – with Arsenal there’s always a ‘but’ – we rarely make life easy for ourselves and despite cruising the first half and looking dangerous going forward, at the back the second half performance was a ropey as I feel after going for a run after knocking back a bottle of Sailor Jerry the night before.

We know we haven’t got the best defence in the world, but you can tell how fragile we look sometimes when the back four are changed around. Able to minimise any threat in the first half, and by and large in the second, you’d have to question concentration levels of a side that concedes two goals from a lower league team that only has two shots on target all afternoon. The first goal was a combination of individual errors, from the Rosicky lump in the air inside the box, to the Chambers appealing for a non-existent free kick and then Koscienly not closing down the oncoming shot from O’Grady. Similarly too, the way in which we were cut open for the second goal was slightly concerning. Monreal may be much maligned by some Arsenal fans as a centre half, but it was Koscienly stepping forward and not tracking Baldock’s run that was the biggest mistake of the move.

All this served to add more unnecessary nerves to the early evening’s proceedings, but we saw the game out and in knockout competition that’s all you really need, because nobody cares about how you played when you’re still able to have your name in the hat for the next round.

And with that in mind, how about I accentuate the positives from yesterday, rather than the negatives? Like the Little Mozart himself Tomas Rosicky who, without a shadow of a doubt was the man of the match, topping off his display with a wonder volley from the edge of the box. He was at the centre of everything good we did yesterday and Arsène was right to praise him in such a way. He may be 34 years old but the way he scampers across the pitch makes him look like a twenty something to me. His ball for Özil’s goal was a touch of reverse-pass class and after a display like that, the midfield starting line up feels almost impossible to to choose today. At half time I mused to myself that if Rosicky and Özil were told to play piggy-in-the-middle with you, it would probably be the worst game for you ever, because you’d never touch the ball for hours. His reverse touches and ‘look-away’s when passing on a couple of occasions were class personified and the most hilarious thing of all was Phil Neville’s ludicrous comments that somebody should have ‘two-footed’ the Czech midfielder. People talk about footballers being role models and an example for kids to look up to, but that is exactly the sort of comments that kids will have watched and he should probably be reprimanded. He won’t though. He’s in the media and we know that they look after their own.

But hey, he’s a moron, we’re into the next round and that’s all that matters. See you tomorrow.

Shocks, Gabriel and a tactical overview of Brighton

Well what a weekend of FA Cup football we have witnessed, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this, with a host of ‘big’ teams crashing out to supposed inferior opposition. And at home too.

Chelski, Spuds and City were all sent packing and the form team and surprise package this season – Southampton – also suffered at the hands of the new South London based Messiah Alan Pardew. With a little help from some Arsenal connections past and present in Sanogo and Chamakh. I’m pleased for Sanogo and if he uses this as a platform to kick on and score plenty of goals for Palace, then it can only be a good thing for us. Maybe, just maybe, that thing that Wenger sees in Yaya that none of us feel like we’ve witnessed to date, will emerge…

All of these upsets and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Gabriel Paulista deal is essentially done and dusted. He was pictured waving goodbye to the crowd at Villareal’s home game against Levante and it looks like he was presented with a Yellow Submarine trophy. He’s obviously held in good regards by the fans and one hopes that we’ve got ourselves quite some player who can challenge Kos and Per.

So we find ourselves in spirited moods this morning, but that can only be perpetuated by a victory away to Brighton this afternoon. With so many of the clubs that we would fear falling to the wayside yesterday afternoon, it is important that we don’ fall victim to this extraordinary weekend of cup upsets. Arsene has already fired warning shots in the direction of his team to keep them on their toes and prepared for a battle, to which I think we are almost certainly going to face on the South Coast today, so our players have to be ready and we have to be set up to expose Brighton’s weaknesses.

I suspect that there will be rotation, but it won’t be the kind of rotation that see’s the whole squad being replaced I think, just some of the players who might not have played recently. I think that we might see the return of Szczesny and Chambers to the defensive set up. Nacho Monreal has deserved his starting place and keeping Gibbs out of the side, but I wonder if Arsene will give Gibbs a run out at left back. I’d assume that given Bellerin and The Ox are doubts, that Arsene will possible not risk either, but I think the official site had a picture of Bellerin in training, so he might just start.

Midfield will see the return of Mesut to the team – most likely in place of Santi – and I hope Arsene gives Rosicky a run out too. Although Ramsey has only just come back from injury and needs to play himself back into fitness, so that might force Wenger’s thinking a little bit. He may opt to rotate Coquelin for Flamini, but with the form the youjnger Frenchman’s in, plus the fact that he’s not played a lot of football this season so will hardly be suffering from fatigue, I think he will probably get the nod over the Flamster. Up top we’ll see Giroud and Walcott I’m sure and the question just needs to be asked whether or not Alexis is started. I think Arsene will probably go for our Chilean. He’s not showed any signs of being fatigued and after a week since our last game, will most likely still be fresh.

But if I’m completely honest, I’ve got absolutely no idea how Arsene will set the team up, or who he will use in what position. Which is probably a good thing for our squad rotation purposes. We have options. I’d imagine we’ll have a very strong bench and hopefully that will give the manager – as well as us – some comfort that we have the required firepower to see us into the fifth round. And what an opportunity we’d have of retaining the cup if we do. Sure, there are Manchester United, Liverpool and Stoke still in the competition, plus a West Ham team who look like they’ve really notched up a gear, but I would not fear those teams as much as I’d fear going to Chelski or Moneychester City – despite the win last weekend.

All of this is rather redundant presuming on my part, because we’ll face a Chris Hughton side who will fancy getting some revenge from two years ago. On that day it was an inspired Giroud finish and a Walcott goal that was the difference between the two teams and although we progressed, we were really penned back at times. Brighton’s current league position belies their form. They’ve won four of their last five games and although they established themselves as a passing team under Gus Poyet, they have become a little more direct under Hughton I believe. I haven’t watched much of them, l but it does look as if they set up with a 4-2-3-1 similar to how we play, but whether or not they try to out-pass us is something that I’m pretty confident we won’t see. If Brighton are going to get anything against us they’ll need to move the ball quickly from front to back and probably look to expose any perceived weakness we have – particularly on the right hand side of our defence with either Chambers of Bellerin playing. If I was Hughton I’d be looking at getting my team breaking forward as quickly as possible and putting balls in to our box from the right hand side.

As for us, we need to use our pace on the flanks to expose Brighton’s defensive frailties. When Theo and Mesut were able to link up for that first game against Sunderland in September last year, Theo had chance after chance by playing high and running in between full back and Wes Brown. We need to see that link up again and I think if Ozil is given time on the ball, he’ll find either Walcott or Alexis in space. One just hopes that Brighton don’t sit too deep, because without a lot of grass to run in to, Walcott has often been negated.

Today we simply must take advantage of the shocks from this weekend and get our spot in the hat of balls for the fifth round. It is by far a forgone conclusion, but there is a huge opportunity of winning the most realistic trophy for us this season, so it is imperative that the players take the chance that they will be given by winning this afternoon.

Come on you reds!

Arsène does Mel, Jenks stories are false and agreeing with Walcott (to a point)

Morning you lot, I hope you’re enjoying your Wednesday and are just happy that we’re slowly but surely making our way through this working week. All’s still quiet on the Western front, which means no signings announced, not even a 17-year-old who the club has confirmed has had a medical.

I mean what’s going on here with Bielik? Is he still in school and hasn’t secured a note from his parents yet? Has somebody kidnapped him and are waiting on Arsenal to pay up to a kings ransom for his release? Arsène Wenger is not Mel Gibson people. He may have that kind of money, but he just doesn’t look good in a kilt with blue and white facepaint. Plus I’m pretty sure he’s not a raving anti-Semite either.

Anyway, whoever has taken Bielik and is playing ‘keep-away’ with him from Dick Law, can you give Dick his Bielik back now please? Remember how much he cried when you did the same thing with Campbell? Nobody wants a weeping Dick.

If you read the transfer talk the gutter press hash together worse than a Mondeo/Volvo estate ‘cut-and-shut’, you’ll possibly have read that Arsène has ‘slapped’ a price tag of £12million on Carl Jenkinson to ward off his East London suitors. Quite why Arsène needs to denigrate Carl by physically sticking a label on him is beyond me, but putting aside some quite funny visual imagery of Le Boss as a used car dealer based in a London Colney showroom, I suspect that this story is nothing more than hypothesising mischief making from the red-tops. Jenkinson has had a good season, Arsenal are down a first team right back, plus I’ve seen David Sullivan respond to a few West Ham fans on Twitter in the last few months about how the Jenkinson loan deal should probably be made permanent.

We know Arsène is a pragmatist and I would be very surprised if he decided to cut the loan short and throw in the towel so early in Jenkinson’s career. As long as you show willing and effort, Arsène always gives longer than most managers for his young players. Just look at how long Senderos was given before Wenger decided he was a busted flush. So I suspect they’ll be no decision made until the summer, whereby Arsène will take a call. One wonders if, now that Bellerin appears to be being used as the right back of choice, we won’t see him improve to a point at which he’s had 20 games under his belt by the end of the season and has improved in a similar way in which Coquelin has improved with game time over the last few weeks. If that is the case, then I expect Arsène to have his plans influenced on the future of Jenkinson, but if Bellerin isn’t able to step up in the coming months Arsène still has the option of sending him out on loan and bringing Jenkinson back into the fold to fight with Debuchy for a place in the team.

The only other stories that appear to have come out over the last 24 hours appear to be from both Walcott and Giroud, the latter of which has said that he models himself on Schevchenko, Jean Pierre Papin (what a player he was) and of course Thierry Henry. Ollie: if you could take a few pinches of each of those players’ footballing essence and sprinkle it over your maple and pecan crunch in the morning, that would be a-ok with me. Just try to avoid the Headbutty, will ya?

He’s shown an efficiency in front of goal this season that I think has been lacking in previous seasons. Last year he did well, but he was always slightly lacking in that ruthlessness to be one of the best in the league, I felt. I don’t know whether or not it’s got anything to do with the competition he’s now got, but he seems to have suddenly become a lot more effective in front of goal. When he’s been fit and not suspended that is.

Perhaps the same that pushed Szczesny to up his game last season, has also pushed Giroud to up his game too? The arrival of Welbeck would suggest his position is not 100% guaranteed and with the manager faced with other options like Theo and Alexis who could also (in theory) play through the middle, Giroud is probably looking at his situation as more precarious than it’s ever been.

It’s why I can kind of understand what Walcott is talking about when he mentions that our squad is probably better attacking-wise than he’s ever seen it. When Walcott arrived we had some amazing players, but they were the cream of the crop and once you got beyond the first two or three forwards, I always felt that we weren’t as strong in squad depth as we are today. There’s more competition for places today and as a result we might just be seeing the value of competition as it pushes players to be at their best, or fear losing their place.

Just a thought and a theory. What’s yours?

Anything’s a bonus today

It’s Sunday, the time of prayer in the Christian world, to which I too am offering up some prayers to the football gods for this afternoons game. I am praying for a win or even a draw, because let’s face it, our chances seem slim giving our history, the form of the champions, our patchy form, plus more news that we’ve lost more players to injury this week. Yet more blows to the team.

Yet despite the injury problems, despite the opportunity to address that by signing somebody in January and despite the bookies and most pundits expecting this to be a routine home win today, the good thing about pre-match run ups to the game are that there is still hope.

I still hope that we will turn up and surprise City. I still hope that we can put in a performance more like the one at home to Stoke rather than the one away to Stoke. And I still have hope that Alexis Sanchez will win the battle of the big stars against Sergio Aguero.

In the reversal of this fixture it was Alexis who put us ahead with a stunning volley that was worthy of winning any match, but as usual our defensive fragility came back to haunt us, conceding from a corner allowing an unmarked Demichelis to nod home. City could have had other goals that day and we rode our luck, but a draw was probably a fair result, so given that the oil whores are on home soil today, I would expect to be punished more than we were at home if we defend like we have done at times this season.

The manager has a decision to make on who plays in goal and, whilst Ospina has done nothing wrong, I just wonder if Arsène will bring Szczesny back into the team today. Wojciech has gone on record before to say that sometimes he needs that bit of competition to push him and improve him. Well Woj, now you’ve had it because you’ve lost your place, so what are you going to do? Arsène might just have that in his mind and he might have used a relatively safe game like Stoke at home to scare Wojciech into thinking he could lose his place into the side. So if he starts today, I fancy him to be quite motivated indeed, so I do.

Defence picks itself I think. Back two because we don’t really have any options, with Monreal still playing instead of the returning Gibbs, plus Chambers on the right hand side rather than Bellerin. Hector has done nothing wrong, but he’s a young and inexperienced player who has struggled at times away from home, so I’d be surprised if he was in the team from the start against City.

Midfield and attack is where it gets interesting, because Arsène does have a choice, so I think he’ll find it tough deciding who starts today. I think Coquelin has done enough to retain his place, but the role of the other two midfielders is a tough one. I suspect he’ll start Cazorla from the beginning in the middle, because he’s been so effective of late, but does he go with Ramsey or Rosicky as his box-to-boxer? Or does The Ox get the nod, with Theo wide right and Alexis wide left? That pace would certainly give City something to think about and if they play a high line against us then you have to hope that we can capitalise if both those two are flanking Giroud up top.

One things for sure, if those two do play, we need to get Santi or Özil on the ball as often as possible. They are the two best passers at the club and if we’re going to go direct with pace, then those two need to be given the ball any time we break down a City attack. Ramsey and The Ox’s passing range is not great at all, but Santi and Mesut could drop the ball on a pin head, so you want to see them giving Alexis or Theo the ball from deep.

We also have the option of hitting Giroud with the ball and, with his ability to be such an effective link up man up top, one suspects that the two wide men need to be as close to him as possible for the big Frenchman to have an effective afternoon.

Whatever side we put out, the odds are stacked against us and with all of the teams around us winning yesterday, I don’t hold out much hope. Defeat today isn’t the end of the world, because all of the other teams that visit the Etihad around us will drop points there, if they haven’t done so already, so it’s a strange situation where I’m looking at this game and thinking a single point would be a bonus.

Keep those fingers crossed and let’s hope for some positive news come 6pm.

Alexis inspired stoking

After over a month in which I’ve frequented The Emirates, that performance and result yesterday was just the tonic required for a first home league game of 2015.

Everything about yesterday went exactly how it should always be, in the ideal world of a Gooner, with a relatively very early goal, complete control of the match from start to finish, plus the welcome sight of returning players from injuries. The only blot on the copybook was the dislocated shoulder to Matthieu Debuchy, having taken a nudge by an Orc into the advertising hoardings in the first half which by the look of some of the pictures on Debuchy’s face, was a bloody painful one.

It always feels good when you can put a team of clobbers to the sword like Stoke, despite some more shoddy refereeing by Jon Moss – who whilst not making any critically incorrect decisions – was still able to get lots of little shockers here and there, but thankfully to little effect. A home crowd has influence, no doubt, which is why the elbowage of Peter Crouch was kept to a minimal on a sunny Sunday lunchtime.

So a three-nil win, three precious points, plus an opportunity to sing “three-nil, and you can’t go home” to the away fans. After the regular abuse we get up there, it feels somewhat justified, methinks.

Pre-game all of the talk was of the interesting selection decisions made by Le Boss, as confirmation came through of the trouble Szczesny has caused for himself by the inclusion of David Ospina to the starting line up. There’s more to the smoking story than meets the eye, obviously, but I thought Ospina did ok. There’s no doubt it was somewhat of a gamble given the opposition, but there was certainly none of the aerial bombardment that we’re used to seeing from that lot, so in hindsight it looks like a good thing. That’s so for a number of reasons; a) it shows Szczesny that his position is not automatically secure and may prove the kick up the jollies he needs, and b) it shows Ospina that if he works hard and shows good form, then he’s got a chance of starting.

I thought Ospina did well. He wasn’t tested too much, but he didn’t look like he was overawed by the situation, plus he demonstrated that he’s a different type of ‘keeper to Szczesny. He’s certainly smaller, but he’s a talker, taking time out to walk up to the defender on the halfway line during some of the corner kicks and give out instructions. He also prefers the safety on his line more than our Polish number one. There were times where you just know it would have seen Wojciech sweep up and hoof the ball forward yesterday. Ospina preferred to let his defenders deal with it. It’s interesting because both styles have their benefits, but I think it’s good that we have two ‘keepers with two different styles, because it means Arsène can rotate a little depending on the opposition. In theory that is.

Defensively we were never really troubled and with Per and Kos back in the heart of the team it was good to see us keep a clean sheet and look so comfortable. Nacho too had a good afternoon, elbow to the face from Crouch aside, so it’s pleasing that the squad appears to finally be looking like its getting back to full strength.

The midfield inclusion of Rosicky was a surprise, but with Ramsey perhaps not completely ready yet, the Czech midfielder showed that nobody has a guaranteed place in the side. He popped the ball around all afternoon with confidence and with Cazorla pulling the strings and Coquelin tidying up behind them, it felt like the balance of the team was right.

As for the front three, well, they all performed too. The hero of the afternoon – as seems to be commonplace these days – was an always energetic Alexis and his first goal was a perfect example of everything he is. Winning the ball back after giving it away, jinking past two defenders and picking out the smallest angle to the goalkeepers near post. How, or why, Barcelona offloaded him beggars belief. But boy, are we profiting from it. The second half saw his second of the game and whilst you could probably question the ‘keeper for his part in spilling the ball into the net, it was a clever ‘under-the-wall’ job that had Begovic blind-sighted, so perhaps we should just marvel at this Chilean that Arsène convinced to join.

All this hyperbole and I’ve not even mentioned the excellent goal by Koscienly to nod us in to a 1-0 lead early on in the game. Assist provided by Alexis. Natch.

Yesterday was like it should always be against mid to lower table teams. It was controlled and comfortable at home. I’d blogged pre-game about how we had to become flat-track bullies by beating the teams that were – in theory – not as good as we are, and yesterday the team did exactly what we all expect of Arsenal in these types of games. Given that next week we go to City for our usual humbling, yesterday’s three points was probably even more important, but we need to look at an increase in those types of performances. We saw it against Newcastle in December and we’ve seen it again this weekend just gone. What we need to see now is an increase in our ability to collectively say “we played well yesterday” after a performance like that against the Aston Villa’s, Everton’s, Leicester’s and Swansea’s of this world.

A good day had by all and an important confidence-boosting victory. Roll on next weekend. Maybe.