Sunday, 20 December 2009

This time last Sunday, 7 points from 9 would have been a good return.

While I haven't blogged, we've beaten Liverpool 2-1, drawn 1-1 with Burnley and then beat Hull 3-0 yesterday afternoon.

Lets be honest: Liverpool away is always a difficult game. Pre-match, the papers were full of how Liverpool had only lost 1 out of 37 home games in the League; post-match, having beaten them, the media were full of how Liverpool were on a downward slope.

And while it fulfilled the stereo-type of the media being biased against Arsenal, there probably was some truth in it.

After all, it says a lot about Liverpool that, in our matches against both United and City, despite out-playing the opposition for vast swathes of the match and being by far the better team, we still conspired to lose twice in Manchester. Contrastingly, while we beat Liverpool on Sunday, we were abysmal in the first half and not that great in the second.

But that was what made victory all the sweeter. How many times have we watched Arsenal play well and not get a result?

In essence, that's why we can't complain about this week. Against Burnley we scored a well-worked goal - but they would have been disappointed to concede it - then conspired to play well for fifteen minutes with Shava hitting a post. But once Burnley equalised through a very fair penalty, they were the better side.

A friend of mine couldn't watch the match and asked me to keep him updated. With fifteen minutes to go, I said Burnley were more likely to go on and win the game. Sure, we had a chance a couple of minutes from the end, but Eduardo is hopelessly out of nick.

The theory that his career as a top-level footballer ended in February 2008 is absolute codswallop: he was very good towards the end of last season, his goal against Burnley in the cup a particular highlight. But since he was pilloried by the English media for the incident against Celtic, he hasn't seemed the same player. Frankly, it says a lot about the state of the media that Eduardo took all that flak and Rooney and Gerrard got off scot-free last week.

So, to yesterday's match against Hull.

Problematically, because we seem to be unable to win three games in a row at the moment, we seem to be facing a lot of must-win games: lets be honest, seven points from nine is a good return from two tough away games and a relatively easy home game. But five points from nine would have been a massive let-down.

Luckily, a lot of results seem to be going our way this month and considering where we were after Chelsea beat us, we are lucky to be right in the title race.

Nevertheless, having seen United lose at Fulham (Vito Mannone's goalkeeping heroics there look even better now) it was up to us to close the gap to the top two.

Hull are a very mediocre side who were set up yesterday to play very defensively. As such, the first 43 minutes were very dull although I don't think the cold weather helped to lighten the mood.

But maybe they gave Arsenal some backbone. Too often, we have heard the criticism that 'Johnny Foreigner don't like it up 'em'; yesterday, we showed that we will give as good as we get.

The point is, that Nasri probably shouldn't have stamped on Garcia's foot but it's a moot point: it was an outrage how Garcia over-reacted, but the fracas which ensued showed that we're not that soft a touch.

I've always liked Nasri. For one, he looks like me. More pertinently, he's a great player - he was our only inspiration for the first forty minutes - and if it takes a little bit of violence to fire up Arsenal then so be it.

The stats said it all: Bookings - Hull 5 Arsenal 1. No, stamping on an opponent's foot is not exactly praise-worthy; but Arsenal were not the more violent team out there yesterday.

Regardless, the incident seemed to fire us up. Diaby won a free-kick on the edge of the box a couple of minutes later and Denilson - someone who I never tire of praising - justified htat praise with a sumptuous free-kick.

This made the second half a very different game. Suddenly, Hull couldn't stick eleven players in their own half and the game opened up a bit.

For ten minutes, we looked far the more likely to get the second goal until Bennett gave an even more ridiculous penalty decision than Eduardo's at the same end of the ground earlier this season. Almunia - another player who has come in for a lot of stick - made a good save and hilariously, Stephen Hunt missed the re-bound from two yards.

On a day for the unsung players (Eduardo's name is perhaps over-sung but lets gloss over that) Eduardo and Diaby added goals two and three.

Lets be honest: this was not a brilliant performance; in fact, it was rather mediocre. But a 3-0 win when you're not playing well is not to be sniffed at. The same goes for seven points from nine.

2009 has been a very disappointing calendar year: if we can win our last two games of the year, we have a chance to make 2010 momentous.

Keep the faith,
Adam