Lo, and it came to pass on a wet and nippy afternoon in Lancashire that the Arsenal did pull up their sleeves and deliver the newborn three points in humble surroundings. What? Of course it is going to be one of those posts. I have watched us, then the the little lot up the road. This was a good day.
Truthfully it was something of an unexpected triumph given the nature of the game. In the first-half we failed to establish the passing game and with the complicity of David Moyes’ favourite referee, Jon Moss, Wigan got the upper hand in most of the battles. Focal point of the half was Jack Wilshere, earmarked by the hosts and subjected to many dubious challenges. Booked for a perfect sliding tackle of his own, Jack survived this most searching of tests of his temperament, and his skeleton.
At half-time I don’t mind admitting I was relying on Wigan running out of steam. They pressed us all over the pitch in a way Reading had failed to do in Monday’s goalfest. They didn’t fade at all, but Arsenal produced that rarely seen spine of steel and battled their way to the points with a display of sheer determination. This may or may not be something of a turning point. Let’s not fall out about that now. There is still work to be done, and a few pounds to be spent in January, but should we close out the year with a home win next Saturday then we will have survived half a season with so little consistency being displayed.
Some words about the positives, other than the display of Arsene’s fabled mental strength. Theo Walcott had a game of two halves. For me he didn’t make himself available enough in the first-half and that put pressure on advancing midfielders denied an obvious target. At the break it seems this was pointed out to him and his movement, if not his final touch, improved hugely. The only goal came as a result of him working his socks off following play to the right flank before bursting into the box and being brought down.
Alongside him on the right Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took a lot of responsibility on his young shoulders. He is improving game by game from a slow start to the season, and he (surprisingly for me) got Niall Quinn’s vote as man of the match. Behind them the diddymen in midfield had to adjust to the physical nature of the contest, and did much to banish the doubts about them when the going gets tough. Jack in particular has seemingly put his retaliatory instincts on the back burner and showed controlled aggression. Turning a biblical blind eye, he just kept coming back for more. Mikel Arteta got his reward for a proper shift and showed a great deal of nerve as he despatched the winning spot-kick.
A final word for the BFG. Per Mertesacker found himself in a couple of awkward situations, particularly a first-half chase with Kone. He may not be a natural sprinter out of the blocks, but the way he gets those long legs into position to challenge is impressive. Rarely though does he find himself in such situations, so good is his positional sense and reading of the game. He is having an outstanding season and has earned a big old slice of Stollen after dinner on Tuesday.
As the game drew to a conclusion we survived two penalty shouts, one of which I thought might have been given, but on the day I have no doubt Wojciech Szczesny would have ensured by hook or by crook that he remained unbeaten. It was that sort of day. We made our luck with a second-half display of beast, rather than beauty. With no Boxing Day fixture we can enjoy the pantomime season that follows.
Now I am off to the West Midlands for a few days of doing what grandads do at Christmas. Before I go can I thank you for your input to the blog, even if you just read it and don’t partake in the drinks. I still see how many of you have called in, and that remains as humbling today as it was six years ago. Wherever you are I wish you all a very happy holiday, and a healthy and prosperous new year.
Thank you, ‘holics.
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