I am a completely irrational football fan. Specifically, I am a complete irrational Arsenal football fan and if I’m completely honest, after the first weekend of football I was dreading anything but a positive outcome from yesterday’s game against Crystal Palace.
That in itself doesn’t sound too irrational to you, I’m sure, but when I tell you that fears that we might not score again, let alone win football matches, you’ll perhaps understand how irrational my thought process can be. It’s stupid because I know that I support a team with a very long history of winning more football matches than losing them each season. Yet because it’s the start of a new season, because there is still that element of the unknown as to how Arsenal will perform, until that first win is chalked up I was always going to be this way. Regardless of what I told myself about my own stupidity.
So you can imagine my relief that we’ve got points on the board. You can imagine my pleasure at the way in which we’ve racked up those points too. A gritty and hard fought victory against a Palace side with plenty of threats. And done so whilst dominating large swathes of the game. The cobwebs of last weekend truly blown away and the application we expect from an Arsenal side returning. This team had their noses bloodied on the opening weekend and they did not like it one iota.
Straight from the off we were dominant. The passing was crisper, the pace and cutting edge was there and the only thing that stopped us going ahead in the first ten minutes was a flailing leg off the line as Alexis drove the ball goalwards. The chance had come from a lightning counter and despite the worry of a little less pace with the absence of Theo and the Ox, the team still had enough to catch Palace on the counter when we weren’t dominating possession.
But for most of the game we did dominate possession. That we went in to the half time break level was almost a travesty in itself, because Ramsey had a great flicked goal effort, Alexis missed a few chances (which we can legitimately put down to him still not being 100% match sharp) and there were a number of blocked shots from the Palace players on the edge of the box. Giroud’s fantastically executed semi-bicycle kick was the least we deserved from that first half effort, ably assisted by the majestic Mesut Özil, who was brilliant enough to get a special mention from the boss after the game. That’s the kind of performance that you point people towards when they start to question his importance on the team.
Ward’s equaliser was well struck and against the balance of play, but I can’t really look at Cech as being at fault. He would have seen it late and with a crowd of bodies in between the scorer and the goal, there aren’t too many ‘keepers that would have got to it, I don’t think anyway.
The second half saw a little bit more of Palace and our goal may have had a touch of fortune against the defender, but Alexis’ climb and drive to win it in the first place, means he deserved his reward of contributing towards putting us back in front.
From then on, the game had a very similar feel to it as the one played two years ago, with The Arsenal trying to keep Palace at bay defensively, whilst trying to catch on the counter. Ramsey, Cazorla and The Ox all had decent chances, but there was to be no late goal like that game.
I didn’t manage to watch the game in full, because I was at the Red Bull Air Race and my SkyGo signal was dreadful, but from what I’ve heard and red and partially seen myself, the games only other controversial point seems to surround Coquelin. ‘Pards’ used his post match presser to suggest the ref had bottled the decision not to send the Frenchman off, but I’ve got to be honest and say I think he was perhaps deflecting somewhat. Perhaps a culmination of the three fouls he made should have led to a ‘totting up’ yellow, but no more than that. Of course the Match of the Day ‘pundits’ saw it differently as you’d expect, but I think they’re just pandering to the masses, rather than objectively looking at each foul in isolation. We love an underdog in this country and if there’s an opportunity to find an excuse for one as to why they haven’t won it, then it’ll be taken.
It does highlight the need for us to find a potential reinforcement though. I’ve been beating the ‘we don’t need signings’ drum all summer, but we’re an injury or suspension away from realistically just having Arteta as our holding midfielder. He actually had a very good cameo when he came on as a sub, but his injury record is such that were Le Coq to break down due to injury, I wouldn’t have 100% confidence we could rely on the Spaniards creaking limbs for an extended period of time. At the moment we’re just praying Shad’s magic sponge can work all season.
But these are concerns for another day. After the deflating feeling of the opening weekend, we have the uplifting feeling of three away points. We need to embracing that feeling and enjoy it whilst it lasts.