It’s been a busy bank holiday weekend as practically everyone I know seems to be getting married at the moment, so this comes a little after the piece, but it is still very pleasing to see another home match full of frustration finally turn into a victory.
There are all sorts of things that you can grasp hold of to illustrate the differences between last season and this. So often last year matches at the Emirates against well organised opposition (as City were on Saturday) ended in draws, this didn’t. So often Hleb’s passes went astray and he never found the killer ball, this time he did, and so often last term Cesc’s finishing lacked that clinical edge. Against City, his finish was lethal, firing past the impressive Kasper Schmeichal to secure a valuable three points with just ten minutes on the clock.
The lead could’ve been established earlier in the second half, RVP’s tame penalty saved by Schmeichal’s legs, and had that been crucial I imagine a lot more would’ve been made of the fact that the linesman flagged to indicate the keeper was miles off his line (which he was), and was ignored. In a week of refereeing blunders, this wasn’t a good moment for the officials.
In reality though, City can count themselves unfortunate to have lost. They defended superbly, and had Almunia not been so quick off his line to deny Mpenza, or had Petrov had his shooting boots on, the result could’ve been very different. Some are suggesting that Arsenal are weaker this season, as shown by this performance, but after seeing so many fine displays end in one or no points last year, you’ll struggle to find a Gooner who cares right now. Make no mistake about it, City are a decent side and will cause teams a lot of bother this season. They defend well as a unit (as they did last season under Stuart Pearce), and they have flair going forward which means a goal can come from nowhere. Ask their city rivals.
So it was an excellent result, the first at the Emirates by the scoreline made so famous under George Graham, and with the rest of the big four winning over the weekend it was also a very important one. Next up is the return leg of the Champions League qualifier, in which I expect some rotation. If Sagna doesn’t recover from his knock Hoyte may get a game, while Denilson and Eduardo may get starts.
As for all the transfer speculation, who knows what to think? Wenger seems certain that he will sign no-one else, which is a risk, but he’s wise enough to know this. I’ll comment on this more in future articles.