Today has been bloody awful. Without getting into detail I wish to avoid, I’ve spent most of the day in the hospital regarding some surgery and post-surgery stuff (I’m on the mend now, no worries CG fans!) The only 2 hours I was out of hospital in about an 18 hour stretch involved me watching the incredibly vital away fixture vs Fenerbahce for CL qualification. Fortunately Arsenal provided relief in an otherwise very trying day.
As I’m hopped up on T3’s and it’s near 3am local, I may ramble a bit without flow. Bare with me on this one!
Fenerbahce did not fully “come to play” but that should not take away from a good Arsenal performance. The Gunners controlled the ball smartly and moved it intricately around the opposition 18, utilizing the fact Fener’ had bodies behind the ball disinterested in pressing – good tactical nous from AFC. Ramsey in particular demonstrated this when he dribbled around seemingly forever before putting through a nice ball to Walcott who, to his credit, actually passed (well) to Gibbsy for the tap-in. From there Arsenal closed out the game while adding a couple more, looking relatively comfortable… though not without Szczesny making a couple of pretty good saves.
Regarding Ramsey, what a huge statement game: I’m almost proud to tears of the kid. He led the team tonight with crisp passing, tight dribbling, and well-smacked shooting that got one to slip by the keeper (soft on the GK’s part, but it was still hit well and it’s refreshing to see an Arsenal player willing to have a crack at distance). Aaron has never had the sort of “free pass” that Jack Wilshere gets – despite returning from a horrendous leg break and having played a ton of games while Jacky was recovering with his own injuries – but he’s fought through loud months (/years?) of criticism by continuing to work hard on his skills. He’s never let his work rate drop on or off the field, he’s clearly believed in himself, and now he’s really coming into his own. It’s a great sports story about the power of resilience – I’m not saying he’s world class now, however he’s on the right track again and turning people’s opinions (back) around quickly. Top stuff Rambo, you go get ’em buddy.
His partners in crime tonight were Jack, Rosicky and Cazorla, depending on who played centrally and who stayed out on the wide left – there seemed to be lots of swapping amongst the four of them regarding midfield and left-side duties. Jack worked hard and was passionate as usual and Cazorla looked much better than his (understandably) knackered performance against Villa; though you can tell he’s still fine-tuning the first touch and getting his energy stocks restored following a busy past week. Big credit has to also go to Rosicky.
Rosicky has continued to be a source of leadership and reliability in the midfield. He knows his role as an impact player and he seems to rise to the occasion in both big games or during games where someone needs to galvanize the team (look at his mazy runs during the Villa game). He may not be a world class starting XI player for a team looking to win elite-level trophies; instead he’s the kind of team-oriented player that you absolutely want on the bench as either a club fan or a manager. He reminds me of an Arsenal version of Dirk Kuyt, who I always thought was an incredibly unsung Liverpool hero in his time with their club. I may be tough on TR7 sometimes but he is a consummate professional who gives a lot to AFC; I hope Gooners take a second to appreciate him even if he isn’t the super signing midfielder we all want.
Giroud continued to look confident in front of net, Walcott did alright in patches but drifted in-and-out of the game for me, and Sagna deputized brilliantly at CB. Central defense is an area we are hugely short on right now, and that falls to Wenger to both accept responsibility for and to shore up before the narrow transfer window shuts. We have tougher games against better offenses coming and a busy fixture schedule does not combine well with the fact we have Kos suspended (if not injured first) plus Miquel loaned and TV5 on the table.
Anyway, the game against Fenerbahce tonight was a must-win for players and Wenger both: they delivered in spades. It will help put many fans at ease though it cannot be taken as a sign “all is well again”. We still have a second leg job to do (made easier with a clean sheet and 3 away goals) and the players also have to utilize the momentum positively instead of becoming complacent. It’s an away trip to Craven Cottage on Saturday, which is followed in short order by the 2nd leg CL fixture before the first Sp*rs derby of the season. Definitely want to be heading into that game – taking place the day after the transfer window closes – all Gunners blazing. COYG!