That feeling when you see a plant on the verge of death and almost all dried up. You water it every day, to find on one fine day that the leaves are getting that green colour back. That was the feeling on Saturday against West Bromwich Albion (WBA). It was a sort of defiance, against the wave of criticism and undermining from people within and outside of the Arsenal family. It doesn’t prove that everything is fine and dandy but it’s a start.
The win over WBA came after yet another loss for the Gunners, though this time, it was a non-consequential one. The defeat away to Olympiacos meant that Arsenal finished second in the Champions League group. It depends on the importance in which the match is placed. For, if you take a look at the final list of qualifiers to the next stage of the competition, I do not see a major difference between the teams that we could face.
What was important out of this match, had more to do with the players who didn’t travel to Greece. The players left behind to work on the weaknesses shown in the recent run of poor results. In fact, there were extra training sessions requested by the players themselves. It gives the impression that the players themselves realise that the current situation does not befit that of an Arsenal team and wants to put us on the right track again. From a supporter’s point of view, that’s dedication to the cause and we can always admire that.
That said, the loss in the final group game of Europe’s elite cup competition was not without its positives. Tomas Rosicky completed 45 minutes in his first competitive match for the first team since the back end of last season. The Czech was his usual busy self and even managed to score the goal before Olympiacos turned the game around. Having him back would ensure that we have additional option from the bench and have the option to give Santi Cazorla a rest here and there, when required.
Speaking of Cazorla, he became the main talking point of the match against WBA. Steven Reid took a swipe at the legs of the Spaniard but made no contact. That though, didn’t stop Cazorla from going down inside the penalty box. Referee saw Cazorla’s interpretation and gave the penalty. It was a blatant dive and I’m not going to sit here defending it. We hate to see it when the opposition does it to us and there shouldn’t be any leeway to by hypocritical about it. Arsene Wenger apologised immediately after and plans to have a word with Cazorla. That response is very welcomed.
The man who took and scored the ensuing penalty was the same player who missed the last minutes spot kick against Fulham. Mikel Arteta displayed a steely determination to make up for the miss a few weeks back but you could see the slight fear in him, in the manner which he directed the kick at. It would have been easy for him to allow a different player to take the kick but the fact that he wants the responsibility, means that there is no lack of leadership qualities within him. Later on in the match, another penalty was given (this time, it was the right call) and Arteta repeated his earlier effort.
While Arteta hogged all the statistical limelight, Jack Wilshere will have earned the praise of many who watched the game. By far his best performance, since returning from 14 months being out injured. Together with the rest of the team, they pressed collectively and it worked. Wilshere was at the hub of it all, with his clever positioning and calculated burst forward. For someone who has been out for so long and still remain fearless when going in for challenges, his mental side is unquestionable.
It’s not time to plan for the open-top buses yet but it’s a step in the right direction. The progress cannot stop and the same desire-determination must be shown in the next game and so on. Next on the list, Capital One Cup.