I’m not big on match reports, but a first win of the season with the transfer window only just slammed shut prompts a few thoughts. And 2-0 away at Liverpool always brings back a lot of happy memories.
Firstly, two of the three new boys are now off the mark, and the whole performance at Liverpool was far more coherent than either of the previous two matches. Individually all three newcomers performed well, though Giroud is not getting the breaks in front of goal yet. I’m still confident that he can cut it in the Premier League; he’s big and strong and makes the right runs. It’s only a matter of time. Ian Wright scored the minute he set foot on the field in an Arsenal shirt, but Henry and Bergkamp took longer. Nothing to worry about yet.
Diaby has improved 100 per cent in each match and looked Vieira-esque all game. Arteta continues to look great in a more defensive role. He’s a better player all round than Song and far more disciplined. This undoubtedly helps the back four with their new-found solidity. As I write, Jamie Redknapp is on my TV screen crediting Steve Bould for all the clean sheets, without a thought or word for what’s in front of them. Where’s Gary Neville when you need him?
To be honest I’m not yet convinced that the ‘Bould effect’ is anything more than a happy accident so far. Yes, we’ve gone three matches without conceding at the start of a season for the first time in 88 years or something, but we’ve played Sunderland, who didn’t seem to realise a pitch has two halves; Stoke, whose biggest tactic is the long throw; and a Liverpool team that are on a downward spiral they don’t seem to be able to get out of, and haven’t looked like winning a game yet. Obviously the old cliché that you can only beat what’s in front of you applies – or only draw 0-0, as applicable. But the defence has so far been tested only rarely. When Mannone keeps two clean sheets in a row, you know there hasn’t been much of a challenge.
What there was against Liverpool was a lot of misplaced passing across the back four that fortunately Liverpool couldn’t take advantage of. Others will if we continue to play like that, but I hope the Bould effect will be that we don’t carry on like that for too long.
Mertesacker looked uncomfortable against Suarez, as you would expect against a small nippy forward. Howard Webb’s worst decision was booking Per for his first challenge, but fortunately the ref was more lenient with the odd arm across a Liverpool player by the German later on, and of course Suarez doesn’t help himself by hitting the deck more often than a squadron of Harrier jets. To be fair to Mr Webb, he then had a reasonable afternoon and I saw nothing else to complain about.
I thought Gibbs had one of his best games, but again we are talking about a disjointed Liverpool team that are hardly setting the world alight.
Up front the attacking is definitely more direct than it has been for several years. This certainly ups the entertainment value, and if they miss the odd shot so what? For a few years we have only seen shots when the passing options run out, and consequently they’ve usually been shots in desperation rather than expectation. Cazorla and Podolski are both prepared to run at people and create space from their movement. Even Diaby, so help me, was running at the Liverpool defence and scything through it, leaving opposing midfielders in his wake and creating acres of space for the front men to exploit. I hope Arsène doesn’t ‘cure’ the new boys of this too soon.
Unfortunately I don’t think our goalkeepers are good enough for the team to sustain any sort of serious title challenge, even if the defensive improvement continues and we adequately replace Van Persie’s goals. I would have liked to see a goalkeeper brought in, as well as another proven striker, but hey, let’s not ‘kill’ Mannone and Chamakh.
Five points from three matches is not great when you want to challenge at the top, but it could be a lot worse. Onwards and – we hope – upwards.