It seemed fitting that, on a day where Arsenal were celebrating the amazing history and heritage of the club, the final score against Everton was a score line that has become synonymous with the Arsenal. I doubt that there have been many 1-0 wins down the 125 years of Arsenal Football Club that were won by such a sweet volley.
With three true legends of the club deservedly honoured and immortalised outside the stadium, the modern day icon and legend of the current team continued to do his best to lead this new and developing team to make history of their own. As a squad, the current team aren’t nearly as good some of the ones represented by the legends at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, however they’re nowhere near as bad as we all feared they would be at the start of the season.
A classic 1-0 win now looks even more valuable after the footballing weekend, with Tottenham and Manchester City’s defeats opening up the top four again. Chelsea’s win against City knocked us back out of the top four after we temporarily held the position, however it did signal the end of the last team’s unbeaten start to the season, so we can all breathe easy about still being the only Invincibles.
It seemed that the match itself on Saturday was a slight anti-climax following the 125 anniversary celebrations, however the moment that won the game did match the occasion. Robin van Persie’s volley was superb. You could add any superlative in about the goal. The pass from Song was excellent, but he could never have expected van Persie to dispatch the ball the way he did. The finish from van Persie typified how confident he is about his game at the moment. Even after an indifferent first half, van Persie instinctively knew what he was going to do with the chipped pass from Song. Some of the greatest volleys can be slight shinners, but van Persie’s was a perfect strike off the sweet spot of his boot. If you could make the perfect left foot volley, I think it would look a bit like Robin van Persie’s against Everton.
The goal did raise the same question that Arsenal fans have been facing all season. What happens when Robin van Persie gets injured? Honestly, I thought we’d have seen both Marouane Chamakh and Ju-Young Park make that question less of a concern by now. However both have looked so far short of what we need as a back-up to van Persie. You could argue that we’re being overly harsh on Chamakh and Park because of the high level set by Robin van Persie, and any comparison with our captain is a long way off the mark. Although both Chamakh and Park haven’t looked like good strikers for teams lower down in the Premier League, let alone a team chasing the Champions League. With Chamakh also going off to the African Cup of Nations in January, it is the one area of the team we have to strengthen in.
The other position that might see an addition is full-back. The news of Andre Santos being out for three months is a big blow as he was just settling into the pace of the Premier League, and was improving with every game. He was also giving our attack an extra dimension with charging runs forward from full back. With Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson not near a return at right back, and Kieran Gibbs suffering from yet another injury on his lengthy list of problems, we currently have all four full backs out with significant injuries. It isn’t just a case of making do for a couple of games, this problem could go on for a few months. We’re arguably more defensively solid with four centre backs in defence, however we noticeably suffer going forward. It’s a shame that our best centre back has to play at left back, however he’s by far our best option there. Ignasi Miquel is another good option, and might get some game time during the busy festive period if we choose to push Vermaelen back into the centre, and have Koscielny fill in at right back.
Apart from the striker problem and the injuries at the back, everything is still improving. Everton may have made their usual slow start to the season, but they’re always a difficult team to beat, so staying strong at the back and claiming the three points was massive, and it put pressure on those around us.
It’s worth saying that the Arsenal 125 celebrations were very well done by the club, and emphasised the class that we all associate with Arsenal Football Club.
We now get a week off ahead of entering the hectic festive period with a trip to Manchester. In my last blog, I said we’d be motivated as a team to end Manchester City’s hopes of going through the season unbeaten, however that’s no longer necessary after Chelsea’s win meant that Monday was Invincibles Day. That result gives hope to the rest of the league that City are catchable, and beatable.
One of the big advantages for us on Sunday will be the absence of Gael Clichy through suspension. The Frenchman is probably one of the few full backs in the league that could match Theo Walcott for pace. With Kolarov also injured, City are also short at full back, so we should definitely look to exploit that with the pace of Walcott and Gervinho.
I imagine Manchester City will also focus on our full backs as weaknesses, and will look to run at Per Mertesacker. Alex Song will have to be at his best to stop players like Aguero floating around the main striker and being able to target Mertesacker.
It’ll be a massive challenge to go to Manchester City and win, but the belief in this team is getting better every week, and I genuinely think we have a chance of getting a result. Carving out clear cut opportunities could be hard, but as we’ve seen, Robin van Persie only needs to sniff the goal and he can find it. We might not have much in reserve behind the Dutchman, however it’s hard to complain when you’ve got the best striker in the league up front. Here’s to him leading the team to glory as we start another 125 years of our great club.