Since I last wrote Arsenal have played and won four, only conceding once. While in meaningless games, I guess you can’t really grumble too much. Its hard to really describe the run of form, being too late in the season to call it ‘encouraging’, but also pleasing enough not to not entirely ignore, especially considering three of the fixtures are our typical ‘bogey’ games.
Manchester United at home was the first of the four, and probably the most satisfying of the results. A comfortable 2-0 win, albeit against a Man U ‘B’ team, who are focusing on Europa League success. Welbeck scoring was notable, a header reminiscent of Henry’s back in the 2006/07 against the same opposition. Arsenal played well enough on the day, had the result been in earlier in the season much more would’ve been made of it, although Man U would’ve put a better shift in had it been November or February.
Away at St. Mary’s is also usually one of those typically sticky fixtures, even though we did comfortably beat the Saints in the Cup. Another 2-0 win, quite a uninspiring match, Southampton being a side with little to play for the result means next to nothing.
Perhaps most surprising of the four matches was Stoke. We eased to a 4-1 thrashing, at a ground we seem to have an allergy to. Again it was satisfying enough, and I suppose those that travelled would’ve been content overall. Rob Holding stuck out as a top performer in that clash, and is showing consistent signs that he is a good centre half. Alexis and Ozil combined efficiently to score a well crafted goal, a reminder of how vital signing them up next season is.
Sunderland last night was the dullest of the bunch. The match didn’t sell out as far as I’m aware, despite going to general sale. Many claimed this was an unprecedented low, although last season I remember West Brom at home had similar claims of 20,000 empty seats, a game that also didn’t sell out, and also Shrewsbury at home back in 2011(? or was it 2012?) that only sold about 40,000 seats. I think that version of events supports the ‘Wenger Out’ campaign – it shows how the issues are more long standing. The match itself was a borefest, the highlight of the game for me was hearing Rob Holding’s new chant in the Clock End (“He’s better than Cannavaro, Rob Holding, You Knooowwww”) which brought a smile to my face. Sanchez grabbed a brace in a dry affair.
As a quartet the games were uninspiring, muted and meaningless (a word that keeps cropping up). The biggest positive was Rob Holding, who as mentioned earlier posses the unpolished and raw talent to become a great player and already has the best chant in the squad. The three at the back formation is perfect for his development, playing alongside international quality centre backs in Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi will only boost his performance, and he is gaining valuable game time that previously players like Callum Chambers didn’t receive. I don’t want to overdo it or put pressure on him, but if he progresses well and matures there’s no reason why he can’t become a keystone of an Arsenal defence for a decade, and for just £2,000,000 – a good piece of business from Wenger admittedly.
I refuse to dwell on Wenger, full analysis will come after the Chelsea game, but it does seem more likely that he will stay by the day. If we was to leave he would’ve announced it before his last game at the Emirates – the stadium many say he ‘built’ himself.