Date: 13th December 2014 at 11:42pm
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So our 5th win in the last 6 outings but like the other 4 wins it will only gain a fraction of the attention and comment that the defeat in that sequence attracted. Many Arsenal supporters expect only to win and when we do it can be ignored as simply doing the job we are supposed to do. It’s surprisingly difficult to praise an Arsenal performance now.

Maybe as one poster observed on another match thread that’s just the way it works, you complain about the negatives, a bad meal in a restaurant, poor service, shoddy goods but you rarely comment on positives. Then again why not praise a good meal or express your appreciation of good service? If the positive aspects are only taken for granted and the negatives oblige condemnation then that would be a poor philosophy to apply elsewhere – to parenting for example. If you only ever tell a child what he or she has done wrong and never praise the things they have done well chances are you’ll end up with a pretty insecure loner with low self esteem. Personally I’d go overboard on the positivity and tell them they’re the greatest being ever and there’s nothing they can’t do if they really want to. They’ll work out for themselves later what they can or can’t do or will and won’t do but at least there’s a fair chance they’ll have the confidence to go figure it out. Maybe that’s all too Jerry Springerish for a football forum. So how’d the game go?

We were brilliant!!! We gave Chelsea’s conquerors a proper schooling in how to play football!!! OK maybe I’m still in overboard mode but we were pretty good. The starting line up was much as predicted with Cazorla, Flamini and Ox in midfield, Welbeck and Sanchez wide with Giroud up front. What I’m told is our 9th different defensive permutation this season had Debuchy at centre back alongside BFG and Bellerin and Gibbs on the flanks. They did pretty well. Praise is due! Debuchy won all of his tackles (he only made 2) and 67% of his aerial duels of which he made 9. That’s not bad for a slightly under 5′ 10″ centre back is it? Maybe our perceptions of centre backs as 6 foot plus muscle bound hulks are no longer consistent with football in its modern form? Whether it is or not he did good. Less successful aerially was Bellerin which may not be too surprising against Ameobi but when the ball was on the deck young Hector didn’t miss a tackle. So the defence did well then but they did well because the team did well. We won more tackles than Newcastle, were more successful in what the stats sites call aerial duels, beat the opposition most of the time we took them on, intercepted with consummate ease all over the park and almost as importantly scored with every attempt on target that wasn’t blocked. You know what we’re a good side – sometimes! Or maybe it was just down to Wenger’s tactical superiority?

Ox and Cazorla had good games in central midfield with Sanchez providing more of a creative midfield spark than as the deadly forward he seems to be. I’m beginning to appreciate the difficulty Barcelona had playing Alexis. He could be Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa almost anything across the forward/ attacking midfield lines. Anymore injuries to our defence and I’m not sure I’d be all that concerned about playing him at full back! Ok overboard again there then but his cross for Giroud’s opener was that of a masterly winger and the ball he rolled into Cazorla for the second had the touch of Zidane or even better – Ozil!.

If I could borrow Russell Brand’s cutting dismissal of a politician this week then Giroud might have been seen as a ‘pound shop’ Henry (or should that be Alan Smith) but it was perhaps easier to understand what he brings to our game in this match. He does have a physical presence that Sanogo or Welbeck can’t quite match yet and he does control and protect the ball very well with a good eye for a deft one two in and around the box, along with a good touch for a big man to borrow a footballing cliché as well. His first goal was a product of physical domination and his second a deft flick with the outside of his foot reprising a trick he pulled off last season – against Spurs I think? Praise is due! With Welbeck playing off him and Alexis more midfield it was a 4-4-2 variant that was effective.

Cazorla has been excellent in many of our recent games. Playing in central midfield and allowed a fair amount of freedom he has probed and pressed and passed and in this game he won all of his aerial duels. It was only the one but it was against Coloccini who has an 8″ height advantage so maybe if we praise him for it, it will encourage him to compete with equal success in his next game?

By the end of the game there was a chorus of “there’s only Arsene Wenger” which for some is probably just as well as if there were two the second would probably be appointed by the board as his replacement and I’m not sure that would please everyone. But whatever comes next today was an opportunity to feel good about Arsenal Football Club so let’s find something to praise about this performance in the sure and certain knowledge that there’ll be something to fume about before too long.