My Horse, My Ox, My Ass, My Anything

September 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Carling Cup

Greetings fellow Gooners!

So, I settled for the quote in the end. I did spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with a clever way of mixing the words “Shrew” and “Ox” after daring to use the obvious reference to “Taming of the Shrew” in my pre-match article but I finally decided it was high time I actually wrote something that you may wish to read rather than something I may wish to forget!

So, there it is, and I have to say that, in hindsight, I think that it works quite well! Other choices included “Shrewd Like An Ox” but, having decided that the average ox probably isn’t particularly famous for its shrewdness, that went by the wayside whilst “Wenger Shrewd With His Ox” didn’t seem too bad until it started to conjure up far too many terrifying images and finally “The Ox Tames The Shrews” was just too much of a literary crowbarring of words!

Ok, I know, I have now spent 2 whole paragraphs discussing the title and STILL haven’t mentioned the game itself! There may of course be a reason for that:

It may be that I, like most other Gooners in the world, didn’t get to actually see the match live and had to make do with radio commentary and Arsenal Player highlights afterwards.

It may be that I am still in shock that we actually went behind, almost 2 behind in reality, and still managed to come back and win.

It may even be because this sudden upwelling of happiness and enthusiasm that I am feeling needs a tight lid kept on it until we actually win more than one in a row and in a manner that convinces anybody that we are not going to concede a hatful in our next match.

It may just be that last year in this same fixture against Spurs we ran riot for the majority of the game, scored 4 goals (admittedly after somehow allowing Spurs to take the game into extra time) and Henri Lansbury looked world class!

Whatever the reason I am loathed to get too excited about last night’s game for fear of the sky opening and the God of injury misery swallowing up the Arsenal careers of a few promising youngsters before they even really get started. So, let me sum it up like this:

The team sheet was as expected apart from the fairly impressive and hard-working Park Ju Young being preferred in the starting line-up to Ryo up front and Gibbs, as predicted could be the case, being chosen at left back in place of Santos who presumably is not in need of any more match fitness and thus was probably in live to start against Bolton on Saturday. Note the use of the words “probably” and “was” in that statement…We will get to that!

We started well enough, if the radio commentary stream is to be believed, anyway, and controlled the ball for the first 10 minutes or so with Chamakh testing Ben Smith in the Shrewsbury goal on a couple of occasions. After a fairly nervy start, the Shrews started to settle and, having hit the post and the side netting in their previous attack, secured a deserved 1-0 lead on 15 minutes through the head of Collins.

Having seen the replay on the Arsenal website, I have to say that, whilst the cross into the box was a decent one, Collins was offered the freedom of the six yard box by the yet again dismal Johan Djourou and, whilst employing a heading technique that could not be described as textbook, the time and space that he had and the close proximity to the goal left Fabianski with no chance.

For the next 18 minutes the ball was kept well, used well and passed well and a treat of flowing attacking football was presented to the ¾ full Emirates Stadium by…the AWAY team! Ok, that may not be entirely accurate as we did put together a few attacking manoeuvres of our own in that time, but anybody hearing the 5,000 travelling Shrewsbury fans chanting “OLE!” as pass after pass reached its intended destination may have been entitled to believe that the game had become very much one way traffic!

On 33 minutes the most improbable occurrence, well, occurred! A good cross from the right by Carl Jenkinson (also in the middle of nowhere for their goal if the truth be known) found Chamakh, under pressure from two defenders but still somehow managing to get the all-important flick on to the far post where an unmarked Kieran Gibbs found a gap between the keeper and his near post and levelled the score.

Seriously, I am not joking, Kieran Gibbs scored for Arsenal!

From then on we dominated the bulk of possession, created a few good openings but mainly looked calm and assured for once and on 58 minutes the reward for our efforts finally came. A patient build-up saw the impressive Frimpong find Oxlade-Chamberlain in 5 yards of space about 25 yards from goal. He took a touch to put the ball in front of him before unleashing a rocket of a shot that flew into the bottom corner. I have heard and read criticism of the keeper and his inability to get down quickly enough to stop the ball, but I have to say, no matter how many times I watch it, it would have been an incredible save had he actually gotten to it. In truth, it was a great goal from our most dangerous and creative player on the pitch. We can expect to see more of him in and around the first team after this performance. Sorry Theo!

More possession followed as Shrewsbury understandably began to tire and for a while it did look as though they may cave in. In truth, they didn’t collapse and instead put up a stout display of backs to the wall defending that would have most Arsenal fans shouting about the passion and fight that has been missing from our defence for the past few years were it our boys doing the same.

On 79 minutes the Shrewsbury defensive lines were finally broken again. A long ball from Miquel found Gibbs on the left side of the final third. He brought the ball down and moved imperiously into the centre of the pitch. (I know, I know, Gibbs and imperiously aren’t words usually found in the same sentence but imperiously actually is the word. Whether it was him keeping his head up looking for the pass, controlling the ball well whilst doing so, just looking a touch languid or even a combination of the three, for a brief moment he actually had me thinking of PV4 at one point! Another position change?! ) Trying a through ball to Ozaykup (on the pitch for 2 minutes replacing Frimpong at this point but already impressing with his energy, technique and general willingness) Gibbs almost split the Town defence in two and would have done but for a tip of the toe touch from a retreating defender. Fortunately for Arsenal the slightness of the touch gave Gibbs the chance to pick the ball up again, pass it to the Ox who pushed it out wide to the still willing Ozaykup who, after having one attempted cross blocked, managed to get his second one into the six yard box finding Benayoun who had enough space to take a touch before cleanly striking the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Game over.

In terms of performances, the highlights have to be Oxlade-Chamberlain for his ability to look dangerous anywhere on the pitch, Gibbs, Frimpong and, in particular, Benayoun for their ability to touch every last blade of grass on it and, in a much more unsung role, Francis Coquelin who I have to admit I have been none too impressed by of late but who put in a performance of calm assured quality tonight and showed many of us why Wenger and many others see so much potential in him.

In the end a good performance which will hopefully provide a couple of selection headaches for Arsene in terms of Gibbs/Santos and Oxlade-Chamberlain/Walcott at least as well as seeing us into the hat for the next round where our youngsters will probably get the chance to test themselves against higher league opposition. Obviously, after suffering the indignity of losing in a penalty shootout after playing 2 hours of energy-sapping football against Stoke City, the Spuds, having fielded a strong team, will not be providing that test!

See, life’s not all that bad after all!

Until the next time,

Come on you Shrew Taming Goonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!