|Judging By The Massive Queue, The Essex Refugees Come To The Boleyn|
More For The Pie And Mash Than The Footie
I intensely dislike the stress of having to bash out a missive for the Irish Examiner to meet a deadline immediately after the match. Thankfully I was able to get back from the Boleyn and get this typed up and sent, in good time to put my feet up and savour the game all over again on the box, in Sky's Match of the Day.
However, I wish I'd had the benefit of writing the following after having seen a replay of the match. I commented below that I thought Alexis looked a bit leggy, but in truth this was probably only compared to the incredibly high work-rate that he invariably sets because while he might've flagged a little late on, the highlights of the game suggested he was no less influential overall for most of the ninety minutes and that he was far from being "somewhat peripheral" as I've suggested below.
Moreover, it didn't really dawn on me watching from behind the goal on Sunday, but on watching the replay, I realised that the Hammers first-half dominance largely resulted from the fact that with two defensively-minded midfielders in Flamini and Coquelin, we were pretty much set up to play on the counter. In fact my West Ham supporting mate commented that it had made for a surprise, as he wasn't accustomed to seeing his beloved Hammers retain so much possession against an Arsenal side designed to play on the break.
It's also rare to see Arsène make these sort of tactical adjustments, as he's all too often accused of sending out an offensively-minded team, no matter who the opposition are and refusing to adjust the line-up to counter the opposition's strengths. As it turned out, le Gaffer got it right and Coquelin was particularly impressive in doing the job he'd been selected for, by working his socks off to get his foot in and close the opposition down. It must've made for a pleasant change for the Flamster to find himself with such a willing workhorse playing alongside him!
It's also been suggested that Sczczny was under instructions to make his presence more known, in an effort to limit the considerable aerial threat of Carroll. Considering Shez dominated his six-yard box, more than I've ever seen him do before, I wonder why such instructions should be necessary, as I'm certain our back four would absolutely love it if he was doing likewise in every game, to the extent that they could count on the fact that within a certain range, our keeper could be relied on to come for every single cross.
The two defensive midfielders certainly offered our backline more protection than they are accustomed to and ensured that we were that much more secure at the back. But there can be no denying the significant impact of Koscielny's return and how much more comfortable everyone appears with Kos playing alongside them.
I was chatting with a couple of Hammers fans as I strolled from the car to Upton Park. According to them, Winston Reid has been a lifelong Liverpool fan and so they reckoned he'd be far more likely to end up joining the Scousers than us. To be honest, so long as Reid isn't the only centre-back game in town come the transfer window, I'm not sure I'd be too disappointed to miss out, as long as Wenger is able to come up with an alternative solution because I definitely don't think Reid is the finished article. While he might well possess all the necessary physical attributes in his size and speed, ultimately it remains to be seen if Reid has sufficient quality to mature into a long-term first-choice centre-back and besides, the Gunners really don't need more "promise". Personally I'd be far happier with us opting for a player with proven experience, even if that means us having to settle for a centre-back with somewhat limited capabilities in the short-term.
These not so happy Hammers were moaning about Allardyce having rotated the squad and how disappointed they were that as a result, they hadn't even given it a go against Chelsea at the Bridge. As far as they were concerned, this would've only been acceptable if they were definitely going to get something out of our game (which they didn't!). But with them being so accustomed to going to the Bridge without a hope in hell, they would've much preferred to have seen their side make the very most of their best chance of getting something out of a game against Chelsea for the first time in many moons, rather than merely throwing the towel in.
Hearing their disgust at Allardyce having played Kevin Nolan, I suggested that the two of them seem to have a close relationship. "Never mind that" came the retort, "Nolan must have photos of Sam in the nude"!
It's sad to think that this was perhaps our penultimate trip to Upton Park, pending their move to the Olympic Stadium and it will be a crying shame to have to cross of one the last few remaining traditional grounds off the list of awaydays. But then the sight of all the street sellers flogging half and half scarves (half Arsenal, half WHU) was perhaps indicative of the shape of things to come.
Time was when these abominations were limited to Champions League matches, with them being representative of a souvenir of a special occasion (and I must admit to having purchased the odd one on the Continent in the past, when I still had some room in my drawer full of footie scarves). But the half and half scarf seems to have permeated the Premiership, to the point where they appear to be on offer at absolutely every match, be the opposition as grandiose as Man Utd, or as humble as Hull and the fact that there must be plenty of willing buyers demonstrated quite how much the beautiful game in this country has sadly become less a temple of loyal local devotion and more merely a feature destination on the tourist trail.
Jingle Bells...Oh What Fun It Is To See The Arsenal Win Away
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