It's probably my fault, you know. The last time I asked the Arsenal players to get in there and fight, we were left with Bolton bitching and moaning, rightly so, about our ex number 10's tackle on Mark Davis. A repeated request yesterday afternoon and we're left with a nasty tackle from Cesc Fabregas last night and some very unhappy Wolves. If your only experience of the game was watching what Match of the Day's editor chose to serve up as highlights, you might not know that our old friend Karl Henry was up to his usual tricks last night. He hit Andrey Arshavin with a shocker of a tackle halfway up his shin, but the referee, Mark Halsey, decided that it wasn't even worth a free kick; Match of the Day, whilst feeling that they "ought to talk about Fabregas", had nothing to say about Mr Henry's latest hit.
Lee Dixon, on the MotD sofa last night, explained on Twitter that it was just a question of time constraints and that he had apologised to Arsène over the lack of balance in the coverage of the two tackles. Well, the coverage of one, the complete lack of coverage of the other. For me, if you think about it, it makes sense. In a twisted sort of way. Seriously, Karl Henry hitting someone with another bad tackle is not news, is it? He does it all the time and, like Tom Huddlestone, he seems to get away with it more often than not. Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal captain, on the other hand... well, a certain standard of behaviour on the pitch is expected of someone wearing our armband. I'm not saying that he, or any of our previous captains, live up to that standard 24/7, but it is expected. By the manager, by the supporters and by the media. The Daily Heil has just arrived free with some Tesco shopping and, to be fair, they don't go overboard on Cesc's tackle. But they don't mention Karl Henry's at all. That can't be right, can it?
Anyway, none of the above is to justify what Cesc did. It was a bad tackle and I think it was a nice touch of Cesc to apologise to the player involved, good of Arsène to apologise to Mick McCarthy and even better not to get drawn into an argument over whose tackle was worse. Having spent two and a half paragraphs talking about two incidents, it would be good to talk about a battling win that should breathe a bit of life into the players. I think most reasonable Arsenal fans accept that it's not possible to go out there and be dazzling all the time, but it is important to pick up points even when not at your best. Like Chelsea, for example. Chelsea, by the way, unveiled a banner at the Bridge last night commemorating our 2,000th day without a trophy. Nice work fellas, but not quite the same as 49 years without a league title, is it? How quickly people forget..
Anyway, the way to win when not at your best is, quite clearly, to be clinical with the chances you get. Having had a disappointing, but inevitable tail off in recent fortunes, Marouane Chamakh made a devastating return to form last night and, from Alex Song's pinpoint cross from the right crashed home a header to put Wolves on the back foot after just 37 seconds. He then rounded off the game, after a lovely through ball from Cesc to guarantee the points in stoppage time at the end of the match. That doesn't quite tell the full story though and Arsenal will be grateful to goalline heroics from Rosicky and a great block from Sagna as well as a commanding performance from the man who, surely please God, has ended Manuel Almunia's time at the club. Yes, just days after his error gifted Newcastle all three points, Fabianski, suited up(in pink!), donned the gloves and put in a performance that says much about his mental strength and confidence. It also won us the match.
Having been at full stretch to palm away a deflected cross on his goal line in the first half, and then tipping a delightful chip from Kevin Doyle over the bar in the second, when he got down to Berra's last minute shot, not only did he stop it, he held it. He then got up, threw to Rosicky, who fed Cesc and... well, the rest is history. For all the chances we had, Arshavin and Djourou hitting the post- our season's woodwork tally is now the highest in the division at 11- Fabregas inexplicably shooting wide having been put in by Rosicky, this could easily have been a game we failed to win. That we faced a barrage and withstood it, well, I don't get into what it does for us in the 26 games we have left, but it should, at least, enable us to leave for Goodison Park at the weekend in good heart.
That felt like the end, didn't it? It was, but as I went to hit save, I happened upon the news that was all over Twitter last night, but has now been confirmed by Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny is now sitting back and watching the ink dry on a freshly minted new contract with the Arsenal. He says,
"It's a great feeling to sign a new contract with Arsenal and I'm so pleased. The negotiations happened very quickly and it was easy. I'm now looking forward to continuing the hard work on the training pitch and doing my best whenever I have the opportunity to play in the Arsenal first-team."
He then went the Wilshere route, thanking everyone he's ever known for the help he's had in his career and that includes everyone at Brentford, where he excelled on loan last season. It goes without saying that this is great news for Arsenal. Adding up two and two, it seems that Szcezesny must have been encouraged by the way the goalkeeping picture has changed at Arsenal this season, otherwise he wouldn't have signed. He began the season as number 4 in the rankings, despite a widely held belief that he is the most talented of the 4 keepers who began the season in north London and is now sitting on the bench as cover for his fellow countryman. It's difficult to see how this situation will change even when mediocre Manuel returns to the fray, or when Mannone comes back from Hull. If he comes back from Hull.
All of a sudden, I think we've got reason to be happy with the goalkeeping status quo!
"It's a great feeling to sign a new contract with Arsenal and I'm so pleased. The negotiations happened very quickly and it was easy" Wojciech Szczesny
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