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Monday 7 October 2013

STILL Top of the League (even if only on goals scored)

Having bashed out the following missive immediately after Sunday's match for an 8pm deadline and having since seen the highlights on MOTD2, the replay of our goal at the Hawthorns shows that it was Mezut Özil's doggedness in winning possession of the ball back in front of our own penalty area, which enabled him to begin the attack that eventually lead to our all-important equaliser.

After having taken a certain amount of stick for daring to question whether our new German superstar might prove to be a bit of a luxury player, as I pondered whether the fact that Mezut barely ever breaks sweat might be indicative of a lack of industry, I feel its behoven of me to set the record straight. Özil demonstrated in the build up to the goal this afternoon that he's more than willing to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in when required. 

What's more, with us having marvelled at several more triumphant displays since I questioned Mezut's overall contribution to the team in the amount of graft he's willing to undertake, it has subsequently occurred to me that he possesses the same Bergkamp-esque quality of doing most everything on a football pitch with such deceptive ease that it's very plausible to perceive him as not putting in much of a shift.

There's a serenity about everything Özil does on the pitch that he never really looks like he's working his socks off and I must admit that my jaw dropped, when a mate suggested after Tuesday night's sensational victory that according to the stats regarding distance covered, Mezut was only 2nd behind the Flamster. I am therefore most happy to bow to the far greater insight of others on this particular subject.

It's been a while since we've enjoyed a smattering of stunning Arsenal contributions to MOTD's Goal Of the Month selection, testament to an absolutely magical month. Long may it continue

International breaks.....who needs 'em

A big thank you to the Irons, since dropping two points at the Hawthorns didn’t seem nearly quite so disappointing as it might’ve done, if it wasn’t for Spurs drubbing at home to West Ham. Moreover, after going in at the break a goal behind against West Brom, it felt far more like a point gained, than two lost.

I guess the Gunners were always at risk of suffering something of an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” reaction, following the neutering of Napoli in midweek, with a scintillating fifteen minute spell of football, which was as wonderful as anything we’ve savoured for some time.

Most pleasing on Tuesday night was the way in which we set about our Champions League opponents at such a high tempo, with an intensity which resulted in us blowing away Benitez’s side, without them having barely had a kick of the ball. By contrast, we appeared to lack the same high adrenaline level going into Sunday's game, with some perhaps guilty of reading too much into the extravagant flattery of the recent media hype.

Instead of setting about the home side, determined to put the Baggies under the cosh, I got the distinct sense that we were guilty of waiting for the game to come to us. In the absence this high-energy, fast-paced opening to the game, of the sort the could’ve quietened the home crowd and put their team on the backfoot, buoyed by the confidence of their triumph at Old Trafford, the likes of Berahino and Amalfitano required no further encouragement to ruffle a few more prima-donna feathers.

            Yet all credit to le Gaffer and his stubborn tendency to stick to his guns because if football management was a democratic process, the vast majority of us Gooners would’ve given Jack Wilshere a clip around the ear at halftime, consigning him to the bench to give our midfield prodigy time to get his head straight. Who knows whether the distractions of the overblown “fag-gate” saga were to blame, or whether this was just symptomatic of Wilshere being found wanting for the necessary blinkered focus on his football.

Nevertheless, despite it being obvious that Jack doesn’t enjoy being asked to do a job out on the left flank and although his effort on goal would’ve ended up going straight down the goalie’s throat, if it wasn’t for a fortunate deflection, Wilshere was responsible for dragging us back into the match after the break. Not to mention conjuring up the deliciously perfect pass that might’ve resulted in Giroud scoring the winner, if it wasn’t for Myhill’s determined goal-minding.

Yet we mustn’t forget that we had Anelka’s profligacy in front of goal to thank. In days of yore, you could’ve bet your shirt on the prolific French striker finding the back of the net and bagging all three points for the Baggies. Moreover, despite the contrast in the verve and vigour of our midweek victory, compared to Sunday’s somewhat flat-footed display, even when we were undone at the back, the Gunners continued to display the composure that we’ve accrued in recent weeks, in recovering the situation and this bodes well for the rest of the campaign.

Meanwhile, with Walcott confined to the treatment room for the time being, young Serge Gnabry appears to be our only natural wide-man. There’s no doubt that we look a far more resilient outfit with both Flamini and Arteta offering protection in front of the back four. But this leaves Wenger with a bit of a conundrum, perming three players from our glut of talented midfielders, when all of them possess the instinctive tendency to want to play through the middle of the park.

Still our hard-earned point at the Hawthorns was sufficient to take us into the Interlull, sitting pretty atop the league table (even if only on goals scored) and completely aside from the psychological significance, my Spurs pals can rest assured of me making the very most of another couple of weeks worth of crowing time.

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