There’s no ‘RVP’ in Team: Big Saturday show from Arsenal ends cries for goals
By David Swaden
Well that was….promising. It was victory, not through Van Persie, nor Henry, but harmony. Certain players stood out, but it was the interplay and overall system that dictated the emphatic result.
I feel extremelly fortunate that the hand of fate (aka the fixture computer) meant I missed the Sunderland bore draw, but was able to be at the Emirates for the feast of football on show.
For the last month I have been looking forward to it, and of course had an inkling of what may be in store from our first three games. A disjointed opening day performance, followed by a tricky and well earned point at an invariably robust Stoke and finally a very satisfying win at Liverpool. It all pointed towards an exciting game and a newfound defensive solidity.
And, in the main, that is what we got. I must say I was concerned by the lack of Giroud pre-game. I feared a lack of a frontman would mean a similar approach to the Sunderland game, leading to a similar result. How wrong I was. Looking back, I think I have become used to us being reliant on one (Dutch) man, and wondered how, in last season’s system, the goals would come.
But this is not last season’s system, and it is not last season’s core. The star quality is not concentrated into one striker, with everyone looking to him. Instead, it has been spread accross the team, which gives oppositions a much more serious problem. If you stop Cazorla, you need to stop Podolski, if you stop Podolski, you need to stop Gervinho, and so on. Southampton simply couldnt cope, too many Arsenal players were on song (small S, sorry Alex) and the balance was simply too effective for a team that, whilst useful in attack, looked decisively naive at the back.
The last time we beat Southampton 6-1, it was a similar story, a firing Pires, Henry and Ljungberg were just unplayable. Good omens indeed.
Obviously their goal was a blot on the record, but if Szcezsny had to make an error, I’d rather it came in that kind of game than in the less forgiving Champions League or, heaven forbid, Etihad Stadium. We looked understandably down for a period after finally conceding, and I do think it’s better to have that out the way now rather than later.
So stand out performers? It really doesnt take much insight to tell you Santi Cazorla is a special player, so take that as read. Every time I see him, I wonder what the two Manchester clubs must be thinking about his quality. If ever there was a validation of long-term transfer pursuits, it is Wenger’s pursuit of the Spaniard, which predates his move to Malaga last year.
I suspect Cazorla’s grounded nature and the strength of Wenger’s belief in his suitability for our system played a decisive role in his signature. Realistically, most fans will admit we are no longer the automatic choice in England for the world’s best players, money talks. Yet here we have made a real coup and the board and Wenger deserve to be congratulated on making it happen. We have waited a long time to replace the mercurial talent of Fabregas, but like yesterday’s game for me, he is well worth the wait.
The other player who I saw for the first time at close quarters is Lukas Podolski. My mother has always had a saying: there are two types of people, racehorses and carthorses. The former is delicate and has spectacular moments, the latter just gets on with it and is quietly extremelly effective. To me, Poldi is a very very good Carthorse, he does not seek the spotlight, he mucks in for the team. My word he likes a battle and that physicality is invaluable.
So that was Saturday. Looking ahead to Tuesday, and I think the wisdom of resting a presumably fit-again Abou Diaby may well be borne through against Montpellier. That will be a very different type of game. The French champions have not enjoyed the best start to this season, and of course surgically removing their top scorer was an impressive piece of foresight. However, as our friendly neighbours on the King’s Road demonstrated, a poor league performance does not a European campaign make. With the excitement the home crowd will bring likely to make this a tricky tie, anything like the imperious performance our number 2 turned in against Liverpool may well prove decisive, let’s hope so.
So what to make of things so far? As always, I have reserved my seat on the (flat-topped!) fence. Eight points from twelve is an encouraging start, and of those points, three of the games have been more positive than negative. However, the next two premier league games will go a long way to telling us where this team could realistically aim for this year. If we can get four points from Man City away and Chelsea at home, that will be ample cause to celebrate. Should the team perform to the level seen during most of Saturday, four points seems very doable.