What a three points that was. Seventy minutes of very impressive and controlled football gave way to twenty minutes of sheer torture on what could prove to be a big afternoon in our season. It is only right that we should focus firstly on that opening phase.
From the off it was the visitors who looked to get on the front foot, so it was somewhat unexpected when West Brom were the first to threaten an opening goal. Tomas Rosicky, so positive going forward, found himself heading off our line from Yacob. It was not his last significant contribution on the afternoon. Indeed it was he who put us ahead when Mikel Arteta and Gervinho superbly combined to set him up for a near post header.
Lukasz Fabianski, nervous on occasion, produced a fine save to deny Brunt although he was to get much busier after the break. Shortly before half-time the opportunity to double our advantage was lost when Aaron Ramsey prodded wide under pressure after a clever back-heeled set-up by Olivier Giroud. One nil to the Arsenal, the ‘holic pound was alive, but only survived four second half minutes.
Bacary Sagna went close but was foiled by a brave Foster save. The reprieve was only temporary. Rosicky tried his luck from just inside the edge of the area and made ten yards to to knock in the rebound after Foster parried his first effort. The sides traded chances but Arsenal appeared to be still in control until the match turned on its head in the seventieth minute. Per Mertesacker had little option but to challenge Long, judged onside, and the resultant foul brought about a penalty and a red card. I know I am sometimes overly critical of officials but if the onside call was correct then Howard Webb had no option.
Fabianski looked to have got to Morrison’s spot-kick but the ball ended up in the net and so began possibly the longest twenty (plus six!) minutes of the season so far. Thomas Vermaelen replaced Gervinho and Arsenal resorted to the long ball out of defence, and rarely in the direction of the now lonely target man, Giroud. Any attempt at maintaining the passing game that had got us ahead was abandoned. I praised Lukaku and Long beforehand but both were thankfully guilty of glaring misses as the pressure mounted.
The arrival of Gibbs and Coquelin for Rosicky and Cazorla was a clear signal we were fighting a desperate rearguard action, but somehow we managed to hold on to those precious three points that have lifted us, albeit maybe temporarily, above Chelsea and into the top four.
I am hoping on the journey home the rest of the side were quick to fork out for some liquid refreshment for the outstanding Rosicky AND Fabianski. A couple of heart-stopping moments in the first-half aside the Pole found himself under immense pressure in the closing stages, and came up with a couple of huge saves. That is his job, I’m sure some will say, but there have been occasions in the past when his temperament has not survived a lesser test than he faced this afternoon. Credit where it is due.
Now this evening’s vindaloo will taste so much better for securing a huge win. It may not have been pretty for a while, but at the end of this particular day the three points is what mattered most. Arsene put that into context afterwards.
“We do not have to look at Tottenham or at Chelsea. If we lose our games, you have always to look at the results of the others… You have to focus on you, and you win the games… Our attitude is simple. We have to win the games.”
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