Well stone the crows, blow me down, slap my knee and call me Betty, yesterday we witnessed an event rarer than witnessing a Siberian Snow Leopard live in it’s natural habitat: Niklas Bendtner scoring a goal.
I thought they were collectors items that had been consigned to history, like a limited edition Star Wars 6′ figure, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The confident Dane stepped up, nodded in, and proved he could still yet be of some use to The Arsenal this season.
As my comrades for the evening began our journey from Southwark to The Emirates – including The Management and he impeccable home record of watching games and seeing Arsenal win – we pondered on what level of rotation Arsene would look to deliver to the first eleven come kick off. Many assumed that there would be at least three, but few thought we would see as many as five rotated from the weekend, perhaps this is a sign of the confidence that Le Boss has in the squad as a whole?
So in came Jenkinson, Monreal, Flamini, Rosicky and Bendtner to add a bit of freshness to the team and it’s fair to say it was the perfect start for us. Within two minutes we were ahead and it was the fresh faces that combined in Rosicky, Jenkinson and then Bendtner to nod the ball beyond Alan McGregor in the Hull goal. It was the perfect start and proved the catalyst for what was ultimately a comfortable night in front of the floodlights.
Some of our passing after the first goal went in was sublime. I noted to The Wife that you could tell this side was bursting at the seams with confidence. Neat interchanges of play, quick movement and rotation of the creative players, direct running at our opponents and plenty of efforts in the final third.
When the halftime stats came up on the big screens it said that Arsenal had had 14 attempts in the first half alone. We were totally dominant and Steve Bruce’s team never really looked like scoring. So when Mesut Özil exchanged passes in a sublime triangle with Aaron Ramsey after two minutes of the restart to slot home number two of the evening, the game was effectively over, all that was left to do was wait for the final whistle. It felt like we were a bigger kid in the playground just messing around with the little kids; playing keep-ball and holding them at arms length so they couldn’t do any damage. There was even enough comfort from the home fans to go into full humour mode with some comedic chanting of “Your not City any more”, “Tigers, Tigers give us a roar” and my personal favourite of “your just a big bowl of frosties”.
I like it that the team got the job done early enough to slip it in to third gear and hit cruise control for 40 odd minutes. It meant we could maintain our lead at the top of the league, whilst ensure that certain players weren’t too over-exerted in preparation for Everton on Sunday. We were so composed in defence it felt like Arsenal of the early nineties. Guess what folks? We now have the joint best defence in the league having conceded just 10 goals all season. When you think that three of those was on the first day of the season and three were penalties, it just goes to show you how miserly we’ve been at the back to date. I’m not saying it will be that way for the rest of the season, but it bodes well for our title aspirations.
Yesterday was the perfect game for rotation and we have to give credit to Arsene for getting it spot on. What was also great to see was how many of the squad players performed really well. I thought Nacho had an excellent game and on the other side of the defence Jenkinson had the kind of confidence boosting performance that will do him the world of good. His performance against Chelski left a lot to be desired and the fact that he’s had to wait until now to exorcise the demons of that performance will no doubt have grated on him. But he played well, picked up an assist and will have given us all a boost that he can come in and do a job.
In midfield we saw just how effervescent and important Tomas Rosicky is to this team. His pressing, his passing and his ability to move the ball quickly from front to back is a vital asset that we’ve been robbed of far too much over the last four years. He had another fine performance and his testimony that he feels about three years younger, because he hasn’t played as much due to injury, certainly seems to be ringing true.
Up top we saw Bendtner surprise us all with a decent goal, an assured performance and a faint glimmer of hope that he’s not entirely redundant in this Arsenal team. We still all want Giroud to stay injury-free for, like, forever, but it was good to see him on the scoresheet.
So we go into the weekend’s fixtures with our four-point lead in tact and some of our key players rested and ready for what will be a challenging game against Everton, who put United to the sword at Old Trafford, so will now be brimming with confidence. But so are we and with the ability to bring in some of our rested players to start against the Toffees, we have to fancy our chances. More on that game as the week progresses.
For now, enjoy your Thursday and enjoy being top of the tree: it’s a wonderful view.