Goals Speak Louder Than Programme Notes

October 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Sometimes you just have to come out and say something.

Today Robin Van Persie did just that…

TWICE!

“I want to say something about my commitment to Arsenal because there have been many stories in the media lately.

“I am committed to Arsenal, and that’s how it is, despite people [in the media] making up stories. For example, they said I was selling my house, but that’s nothing recent, I moved house last year.

“I see stories which make me laugh, but I can see how frustrating it is from the fans’ point of view. But I am committed to Arsenal. I am captain, and fans should not believe everything they read.

“As for that house story, the house has been for sale for a while, but I’m not living on the streets or anything, I have found a really nice house, and yes, it’s in London! So I want to put that straight, I am committed, and I will show that on the pitch.

Two wonderful goals later, one of them the fastest goal Arsenal have ever scored in the Premier League, and I think that it is fair to say – and I am thrilled to do so – that many of us got this situation very wrong indeed!

Greetings fellow Gooners!

In a must win game today at the Emirates Stadium which saw, with the exception of Aaron Ramsey being replaced by Tomas Rosicky due to a tight hamstring, the expected first XI take to the pitch, the fans were treated to some interesting comments in the Captain’s programme notes. After a three week period during which the media speculation regarding Robin Van Persie and his “imminent transfer to Citeh” has been cranked up to a Spinal Tap crushing 12, the Dutchman decided that the best way to respond was on the pitch, and respond he did, in the very best way a captain and striker possibly could.

In truth, the comments reputedly made by him during his recent stint with the Dutch national team may have been misquoted, quoted out of context or even just plain made-up, but there needed to be an effort made in some way to put this issue to bed, once and for all. Clearly the programme notes were a step towards that, but a goal in only 29 seconds really put some weight behind his desire to let his commitment show on the pitch!

Sunderland were always going to struggle today, shorn of their star striker through contract obligations, a worse start to the season than us, a record at the Emirates that doesn’t bear much reading and an Arsenal team nd manager with thier backs pressed very firmly against the wall but when a fabulous lobbed pass from Rosicky to Gervinho was quickly squared into the path of Van Persie who took a simple touch with the outside of his left foot before drilling it past Simon Mignolet in the Sunderland goal from 18 yards. 1-0, less than 30 seconds on the clock it appeared that it would be even plainer sailing from here on in than we could have hoped!

It almost was too with Van Persie turning Kieran Richardson and lobbing the ball over Mignolet in the 12th minute, only to see his classy effort come back off the far post. Two minutes later and the Dutchman saw an attempt from the edge of the penalty area flash wide. Another two minutes passed before Gervinho, seemingly playing with a lot more confidence and looking all the better for it, took a long ball from Koscielny, cut inside but saw his shot fly just over the bar.

Had any of those actually gone in, we may well have been home free and looking at redressing some of our goal difference issues. Obviously that would be the easy way of doing things and the easy way simply isn’t our way! Can there be any doubt that we are by far the most dramatic club in the Premier League?! At times I think that there may be grounds for a class-action case against the club for hair loss, fingernail chewing or just general blood-pressure issues due as a direct result of loving our fine club!

With the exception of a slightly wild moment from “the Pole between the poles” which saw him rushing off his line to meet Stephane Sessegnon who, having already beaten the offside trap followed that by beating the young goalkeeper only to find the really rather excellent Alex Song there to intercept his cut back averting further danger, Arsenal spent the first half and hour of this match playing hair-replenishing, fingernail growing, blood pressure-lowering possession football that had glimpses of the “real” Arsenal about it. What a welcome sight she was to all that love her!

Of course, a free-kick and, as always seems the case, an ex-Arsenal player, Sebastian Larsson, were all it took to spoil the party! The Swedish international stepped up and swept the ball over the Arsenal wall and into Szczesny’s top left corner, leaving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A wonderful strike from a player who has proved that not all who leave us end up in a downward spiral.

The immediate effect on the home players and crowd was obvious as the nervousness of recent times came crashing back in. Six minutes later Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole, after good work on the left from Larsson and then the effervescent Sessegnon, found himself with a free header from close range that he really should have scored from, only to see his effort saved brilliantly by Szczesny. A chance missed or an excellent save or both, but the alarm bells were ringing. Surely we were not going to let Sunderland take control of the match and see a repeat of so many performances where we were so obviously in the ascendency only for the opposition to take away the three points?

On the stroke of half-time the unthinkable almost happened with Elmohamady crossing for Larsson at the far post who headed down into the path of Colback only to see his volley from close range go flying over the bar. Had he managed to keep his shot down you may well have been reading at a very different match report, but the football Gods may well have decided that we have paid our penance for whatever sins we are deemed to have committed and the score remained at 1-1 as the whistle to signal the end of the first half was welcomed by all in red and white.

In a bid to provide some sort of relief to hair follicles all over the North London area, the second half did not carry on where the first half left off with the Gunners dominating possession although not creating a mass of chances.

A slice of luck came Sunderland’s way on 50 minutes when Walcott turned in the box and slid a low cross into the danger area which took a deflection towards the goal but Mignolet’s quick reactions saw him palm the ball away to safety. Andre Santos entered the fray immediately afterwards as the stomach muscle injury that threatened to keep Kieran Gibbs out of the match altogether proved too much for him to continue. A good decision in all honesty as he had not enjoyed the best of games with Elmohamady getting plenty of joy on the side.

15 minutes later Rosicky found Van Persie open on the left side of the area but his shot from a difficult angle found the boot of the Sunderland keeper and again the danger was cleared. A pass to Gervinho who was free in the centre was probably a better option, but anybody wishing to be critical of our captain’s performance today is more than welcome to take the short trip down the Seven Sisters Road and start supporting the “Title-less For Fifty Years” brigade!

On 67 minutes Steve Bruce made the first of two rather odd substitutions with Larsson, goal-scorer and the focal point of all that was good in Sunderland’s game, being replaced by Ji Dong-Won. A minute later and Arshavin was brought on to replace Gervinho to freshen things up in the final third.

The Russian made a fairly instant impact with an energy and willingness that has been far too often missing from his game for much of the past couple of seasons and on 74 minutes he almost got his reward after a jinking run in the Sunderland penalty area, passing four defenders in the process, saw his toe-poked effort run just wide of the far post with the goalkeeper stranded.

For all the possession, attacking play and chances being created, the game was starting to take on an all too familiar pattern and on 76 minutes Arsene tried to again freshen things up by replacing the tiring but excellent Rosicky with Israel international Yossi Benayoun. Two minutes later Bruce made his second odd change bringing on Connor Wickham for the constantly dangerous Sessegnon. Unless both players were carrying knocks, these two substitutions by Bruce have to be two of the strangest I have seen in years.

With Sunderland’s best two players and most obvious attacking threats on the day now off the pitch, Arsenal enjoyed more freedom to push forward, with excellent performances, and I mean EXCELLENT performances, from Mertesacker and Koscielny providing the “safety net” for Santos and Jenkinson to become more involved with those attacking moves.

On 83 minutes we finally got our just desserts, having dominated so much of the game, defended well when necessary and looking dangerous with almost every attack. Van Persie placed the ball for a free-kick about 25 yards out on the right side of the penalty area. After a slew of terrible free kicks had seen the likes of Walcott and Arteta troubling the 15th to 25th rows of the Arsenal supporters behind the goal, it was high-time the Dutchman had a crack himself.

And crack it he did! Keeping his nerve at the critical moment, he lifted the ball over the wall, under the bar and into the top right hand corner to give Arsenal the goal that was so desperately needed. In that moment Van Persie showed EXACTLY what commitment and captaincy are all about and, as his programme notes said, he let his football do the talking!

Aside from Dong-Won having a goal disallowed for being so far offside it was amazing the linesman didn’t keep his flag down, the game was won and it was a case of simply holding on. And that is what we did. Something we have been horribly guilty of in the past is our inability to stop trying to score more goals when the three points are in the bag. Today showed a difference that was entirely welcome with the likes of Arshavin, Walcott and Arteta guarding the ball for dear life and ensuring that the visitors were not going to steal a late point and spoil the party. There is a still a lot of work to do before we can say that this side is correcting all of the old problems, but today was a huge step in the right direction.

We were not perfect today by any means. Jenkinson did little defensively to convince that he is quite ready for the step up that the injury to Sagna has forced upon him, but a little patience may yet see him come good. Walcott still looks like a blind alley is so high on his list of favourite place that he literally runs into one whenever he gets the chance. Gervinho faded as the game went on and was rightly substituted. Szczesny had his “usual” moment of madness, although most of the truly great keepers appear to do that too! Arteta did not really get hismself into the game as much as he has recently.

On the positive side, Rosicky looked excellent and, perhaps more importantly, sharp. Santos and Arshavin both looked very good after coming on as substitutes. Song was an absolute rock today, destroying almost everything that had the cheek to even come close to our half of the park. Koscielny and Mertesacker were absolute rocks in the centre of defence and where the constant criticism of them, Mertesacker especially, is coming from, I simply cannot imagine. Mertesacker again showed how much quicker his brain is than his feet, stepping up to snuff out the danger before it even had a chance to develop on a handful of occasions.

As for Robin Van Persie:

29 games, 23 goals and 6 assists

Those are surely amongst the best stats for any striker in Europe, let alone one who is being played out of position and looking to leave as Robin Van Persie “clearly” is!

Oh, and as I write this an added bonus has just come our way…

The Title-less For Fifty Years have given up the lead twice today and ended up with a 2-2 draw at St. James’ Park!

Overrated Lillywhite Shite!

Come on you top half of the table at last Goooonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!