Thursday, 22 November 2012

Podolski Stunner Dispatches Montpellier

Arsenal have secured their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the 13th successive year thanks to their 2-0 win over Montpellier at the Emirates last night. With Schalke beating Olympiakos 1-0, Arsenal have guaranteed their participation in the knockout stage with a game to spare. They can travel to Greece on the 4th December safe in the knowledge that progress has already been assured.

This was a game Arsenal should have won as the reigning French champions have had a difficult season so far. The first half was a rather forgettable affair with neither side troubling the other's goalkeeper. In the 10th minute Koscielny saw his powerful header cannon off the crossbar, narrowly missing out on giving the home side the lead. Podolski had a couple of half chances that were snatched at, both falling wide of the target. Arsenal just couldn't get into their rhythm, with misplaced passes occurring more often than we fans are used to.

Thankfully Arsenal came out all guns blazing in the second half and quickly took the lead. 3 minutes into the second half, some good work by Podolski and Vermaelen down the left flank saw the captain swing a cross into the box which found the head of Giroud, who knocked it down into the path of Wilshere. The young Englishman finished with a lovely flick off the outside of his left boot to score his first goal in nearly two years and give Arsenal the lead. You could see the goal meant a lot to Jack, the little scamp celebrating with his tongue out, pounding the badge on his chest. He was loving it.

It wasn't long before Arsenal scored again and effectively put the game to bed. Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his first start in quite some time, robbed the ball in midfield and used his pace to drive at goal. He laid if off to Podolski just outside the penalty box, where the German striker played a delightful one-two with Giroud, whose lobbed ball over the defence fell beautifully to Podolski who laced an unstoppable shot past the helpless Montpellier keeper to make it 2-0. You won't see many goals better than that. Podolski absolutely destroyed the ball, making contact right on the sweet spot. It was a magnificent finish that took the remaining fight out of the French side.

And that was pretty much that. Giroud narrowly missed out on scoring against his old club, Geoffrey Jourdren making a good save, and Cazorla tested the keeper with a volley, although he sliced it a bit which took a lot of the power out of it. Deep into injury time Montpellier's Emanuel Herrera narrowly missed the target with a long range shot that Szczesny's dive would have probably stopped. A minute later the final whistle was blown and the game was over, 3 points and progress into the next round secured.

Overall it was a good team performance and the type of win we needed to build on the victory at the weekend against Spurs. There were a couple of moments in the first half where our defence looked typically suspect, carved open on a Montpellier counter-attack in the 12th minute for example, but they tightened things up in the second half. I felt Vermaelen looked much better than he has done recently, a bit more like the Vermaelen of old. Koscielny, apart from one blunder on the edge of our own box in the first half, combined well with Mertesacker in the centre of defence and Sagna was his usual reliable self at right back. One of the things that impresses me most about the Frenchman is his ability to control the ball so well when his heels are practically on the sideline; he does exceptionally well to keep possession with such limited space. In attack I felt Giroud had a great game despite not scoring. His control and first touch are brilliant for a big man and his cushioned header to set up Wilshere's goal was perfect, exactly how he should be utilised in attack. Use that height and strength to our advantage. His assist for Podolski's goal was sublime too.

So now we can travel to Olympiakos in a couple of weeks with the pressure off and use that game to maybe blood one or two youngsters in the competition. I don't think we should field a team with too little experience, we still want to win and top the group after all. But the Olympiakos game provides a perfect opportunity to start players like Arshavin, Ramsey and Gervinho, maybe even Chamakh or give Walcott a chance to shine up front in that centre forward position he so covets. Whichever team Wenger decides to choose, fans can relax a little bit. Well, as much as Arsenal fans can relax these days...

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's Time We Talked

I have seriously been neglecting this blog. Escape to N5 has not been given the attention it deserves. We just beat Liverpool on Sunday and if you look back about 3 or 4 posts, you'll see my match report from the same game last season. A lot has happened since that match way back in March and it's pathetic I have not been able to blog and comment on any games since.

I just don't have the time or energy to spend my free time away from work here on the blog. Having said that, I don't want to give up. I enjoy writing little pieces here and there about Arsenal. I just struggle to see the point in writing match reports a day late when the game will have already been written about by countless others immediately after the final whistle. Yet I don't intend to pack it in just yet and I feel I can still contribute some meaningful pieces here at Escape to N5.

So a lot has happened since my last post, when Robin van Persie dropped the bombshell that he wasn't going to sign a new contract. Our former captain has since joined Manchester United and carried on his fine form from last season, scoring a hat trick at Southampton in a 3-2 come-from-behind win for United (despite missing a penalty). I was sad to see him go, he'd been my favourite player for the past 5 years or so and was a joy to watch. It's a real shame he moved to one of our rivals because now all the great memories from his time at the club have been somewhat tarnished for me.

Theo Walcott nearly left the club recently after failing to come to terms on a new contract with the club. I think it was a good decision by Arsenal not to sell him and continue negotiations. We all know Theo hasn't really set the world alight during his time in North London but he's still young and has gotten better every season. I think it'd be unwise to give up on him just yet, plus he's an easy guy to support - what you see is what you get and I admire clean-cut players like Walcott. Alex Song also departed for pastures anew, joining Barcelona in a transfer that seemed to come out of nowhere. At a club already full to the brim with talented midfielders, Barca's acquisition of Song seems puzzling. I liked Song a great deal, especially over the last 2 years, but I think Wenger made the right decision to sell him if Alex was unhappy. If Diaby can stay fit and continue to play like he has recently, I don't think we'll miss Song's impact much at all.

On the positive side, the signing of Santi Cazorla from financially-plagued Malaga has been a masterstroke by Wenger. The dynamic Spanish midfielder has slotted into the side with ease and looks supremely confident in the playmaker role. Cazorla was the kind of player we lacked last year after we lost Fabregas so it's a joy to watch a player of Santi's quality pulling strings in midfield. He's a real talent.

Let us also pay attention to our solid start to the season. Despite scoring no goals in our first 2 games against Sunderland and Stoke, every fan must be impressed with the new stability evident in the defence. Three games and three clean sheets, two of them without our number one goalkeeper. The partnership of Vermaelen and Mertesacker in the centre has rarely been troubled thus far in the campaign and the entire back four has looked impressive. Gibbs is continuing his development as a top left-back and Jenkinson has filled in admirably at right-back in Sagna's absence. In fact the game against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday was his best performance yet. Mannone has performed well since Szczesny went down injured and I feel a lot more confident in him than I ever have previously. It looks like the young Italian's loan spell at Hull last season did him wonders. I think it's clear to every Arsenal fan that Steve Bould's influence since taking over as the assistant manager is having an effect on the defence. The team look a lot more confident in defending as a unit and hopefully Bould's presence can continue to have the desired effect.

On a personal note I'm getting ready to purchase my new home shirt in the next week or so. Most years I just get the shirt without a player's name on it but this year I feel like spending that little bit more. The only problem I'm having is deciding on which player should grace my new shirt. Here's where I'm at:

Lukas Podolski 85%
Santi Cazorla 10%
Mikel Arteta 5%

I've admired Podolski for a long time and his signing this summer was easily the one I was most excited for. Once he got given the number 9 I was convinced, as the number 9 is one of my favourite numbers. Yet some doubt has crept in, despite Podolski scoring his first goal for the club at Liverpool on Sunday. My decision to delay choosing the German has nothing to do with his play, of which I've been very impressed with since he joined. It's the superb start to his Arsenal career by Cazorla that has me questioning whether or not I should choose the Spaniard for my new shirt. Another Spanish midfielder is in contention as well. After the mad deadline day we experienced last season, it was the signing of Arteta that excited me the most and I felt he had a very good first season at the club, his match winning goal against Man City being a highlight. His solid and reliable presence in midfield is the reason he makes the list, plus I like the number 8 (thank you Mr Wright and Mr Ljungberg). Once I buy and receive the shirt I'll post some pic's on here.

That'll do for today. I felt the international break gave me a chance to catch up so I hope you've enjoyed my little re-cap. Like I said previously, I don't know how often I'll be writing on the blog but I'll try to make more of an effort from now on.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Robin Refuses Contract Bombshell

And so we bid farewell to yet another captain. We're beginning to make a nasty habit of it at Arsenal. 

Today our talismanic striker Robin van Persie released a statement that declared he would not be signing a new contract with the club and thus ending his time with us. He stated that after meeting with Wenger and Gazidis, the two groups disagreed with how the club should move forward. It's not officially confirmed that he's leaving us right away - he still has a year left on his contract. But seriously, what human-being is going to stick around at his job for 1 more year, full in the knowledge that he's going to be leaving afterwards, and for free as well? Robin understands that this statement ends his time at the club because there's no way he's playing for us this year - the fans would crucify him every game; no one would support a player we all know is leaving. Plus Arsenal would be mad to let him walk for free next year; they'll look to offload him for the highest possible price this summer instead.

I've been a huge fan of van Persie's right from the beginning. It was that last minute curler against Southampton in the 04/05 season that did it for me. I thought, "this guy is really something, what a left foot." Unfortunately injuries and inconsistency slowed his progress but every time he played you could tell he had something special. His mastery over the ball is second to none - he can control it in ways few can and he places it wherever he wants. This past season we witnessed what a fully-fit and healthy van Persie can really do over an entire season. Gifted the captaincy at the beginning of the year, the Dutchman revelled in it and went on to record a remarkable year, scoring goals at will on his way to picking up Player of the Season awards across the board. His 2011/12 campaign was one of the greatest in Arsenal's history and puts him right up there with the greats - very few Arsenal strikers have recorded 30+ goals in a single season (37 in 48 appearances).

Which is exactly why it's so sad it has to end like this. After the disaster of last summer when we lost our best two midfielders in Fabregas and Nasri, the club will want to avoid a repeat of that nightmare. Van Persie will be sold to the highest bidder and probably as soon as possible. I'm just praying he doesn't join one of our Premiership rivals, ESPECIALLY Man City. If he moves to Barca or Juventus I wouldn't be quite so upset, but if I have to endure him scoring for fun on Match of the Day every weekend I might cry a bit.

Looking on the bright side, I suppose we can take heart that at least the club prepared for van Persie's departure. The signings of Podolski and Giroud look extremely clever now. The pressure will be on them  to perform and deliver the goods - every Arsenal fan in the world will be praying they can.

I really didn't think he'd leave. I thought he was different. "He's not like the rest of them, he loves the club for real" I said. If nothing else, van Persie's statement today has taught me a lesson in naivety and that football has changed immeasurably since I was a kid. Loyalty means nothing to footballers anymore and money talks, like it always does. And why shouldn't it? Van Persie doesn't owe us anything, not really. If you were offered  a new job that doubled your wages and promised bonuses (trophies), you'd do exactly the same. It's just a shame we've lost that romantic aspect of football, where players truly played for the name on the front of the shirt and not the one on the back. But what else do we really expect nowadays? Ultimately van Persie's departure shouldn't be of any surprise. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

Hey, maybe Wenger will call an emergency meeting and all will be resolved before the weekend. Van Persie said it himself: "As soon as Mr. Gazidis is back from his 2-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments." Maybe they'll talk it out everyting will be ok? Soon we'll see photos of RVP shaking hands with the boss, announcing he's signed a contract that'll see him finish out his career with us. I can dream can't I? In all seriousness this is surely the end of RVP at Arsenal, and it's a real shame.

At least he went out with a bang.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Giroud Who?

Since my last post (way back in May - whoops!) we managed to secure that precious 3rd place by beating West Brom, signed Podolski good and proper and the Euro's have been in full swing. England were knocked out on Sunday so my attention turns right back to all things Arsenal. In particular, our new signing, Mr Olivier Giroud from French champions Montpellier for a fee estimated to be around £12 million. The confirmation of Giroud joining us took a while despite rumours claiming the transfer was all but done. Even Wenger came out and claimed the deal was "90% done", which was a surprise because Le Boss rarely talks so openly about transfers, especially when they're not completed yet.

The 25 year old French international joins us after a successful season at Montpellier. The 6ft 3ins striker scored an impressive 21 goals on his way to helping his side win the league and played in all four games France played at Euro 2012 before they were knocked out by Spain. Arsene had this to say about our new striker: "He has proved that he is capable of performing at the top level with club and country, and we saw what a big influence he was in Montpellier’s championship-winning side last season. We all look forward to Olivier joining us and seeing him play in an Arsenal shirt."

I'm excited to see what Giroud can offer our squad. His height could be a huge boost for us, especially from set pieces. He's not guaranteed a spot in the starting eleven just yet, as competition will now be fiercer than ever in attack. Somehow Wenger has to find a way of fitting Giroud, van Persie, Podolski, Walcott, Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ryo Miyaichi is a possibility too) into our forward-three, without disrupting the apple cart. The new boys, Podolski and Giroud, will not be happy with sitting on the bench, at least not for long. I haven't even included Chamakh and Park in the equation, both of whom look extremely redundant in this squad now.

There's been a few fans who've mentioned that the signing of Giroud has been made because van Persie is leaving but I don't believe that's the case. The club would be stupid to let RVP leave, even for the ridiculous money Man City would offer, and I don't think Wenger see's Giroud and Podolski as replacements for our captain. I'm sure the boss has secured the new signings to support van Persie and not to replace him but if the Dutchman were to leave the club, we're prepared for the fallout at least.

Giroud will join up with the squad in July and I'm excited to see how he gets on during pre-season. Let's hope he comes good and doesn't turn out to be another Chamakh.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Just One More Win

It's been a while huh? My last post was all the way back in March when we beat Liverpool at Anfield. Since then Arsenal have been on quite the journey. We've been up, we've been down, we've bought Podolski, we've had our new home kit unveiled, we blew the chance to secure 3rd place only to get another opportunity a day later when our closest challengers failed to pounce. So now it all boils down to one final game. Sunday 13th May at The Hawthorns against Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion in his final game in charge before he vacates for the England job. Win this match and Champions League football is guaranteed for next season and in all honesty, finishing in 3rd would be considered a good season when you consider how awful Arsenal have been at times this campaign. They've been wonderful at times too, particularly our irrepressible captain (pictured above), but the majority of Arsenal fans would agree that this hasn't been one of our better seasons (although it's definitely had it's moments). So here are some of my thoughts on the state of the club and all things Arsenal.

It's stating the obvious but still needs to be stressed: we must beat West Brom on Sunday. I can't bear the thought of leaving our position in the hands of Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea and praying they all lose their final games. If we win, we're in and that's all there is to it. If Arsenal can't beat West Brom, then they don't really deserve 3rd place and that's the honest truth. This squad is more than capable of beating the Baggies but we've been tripped up a couple of times there in the past. It's been said a few times lately but the team really do need to treat this game like a cup final. After the horror show that was Norwich last weekend, the focus must be on executing the basics and fundamentals, limiting mistakes and taking our chances. The pressure will be on van Persie to win this final game but I'd like to see the squad help him out a bit. Despite how amazing he's been this year, we've been far too reliant on his striking prowess and its clear the rest of the team haven't scored enough goals. I'd have an enormous grin on my face if Gervinho and Chamakh popped up with a couple of late goals on Sunday, but it'll never happen.

On the subject of van Persie, the club sound confident that we can sign the captain to a new deal and that we won't have to suffer another awful summer of watching our talisman leave for pastures new. I feel pretty confident he won't leave for Man City or Juventus and that he'll remain our captain for a bit longer. I'd love to say he'd stay at Arsenal for the rest of his career but in today's game you just can't tell. Money talks and it often speaks louder than loyalty. Still, van Persie has always come across as sincere and honest and I believe him when he says he wants to stay at the club for many more years to come. If we can get his signature down before the Euros, I'll be a very happy Gooner.

It's been clear for a while now that van Persie needs some support up front because we can't expect the guy to carry us in every single game. Plus, if the worst happens and the captain goes down with an injury, we really have no one else to replace him up front. So the news that the Podolski signing has been wrapped up before the season has even finished is good news. The experienced German international is in the prime of his career and will only be 27 once the 2012/13 season begins. He's a very good signing and can play up front or out on the left as part of the front trio we like to use so much. Here's hoping he adapts to life in England quickly and can become a dangerous part of our attack. There's been a lot of rumours about the young French midfielder Yann M'Vila and a possible move to Arsenal from Rennes. He'd be a great addition to the team but he will undoubtedly cost a lot of money and certainly more than Arsenal will probably be willing to pay. We already have Song in that position, who I'd hate to replace, even with a player of M'Vila's calibre. Regardless, M'Vila will be one to watch next month at Euro 2012, especially if he could become a potential Arsenal player later in the summer.

Anyway, I'll leave it there for now. I'll be working on Sunday so will miss the West Brom game live, but I'll be keeping an eye on the scoreline the entire afternoon. Keep your eyes peeled for a possible Euro 2012 preview I'm planning too.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Late Winner Levels Liverpool

90 minutes of utter crap from Arsenal but none of that matters now after two magic moments from Robin van Persie. The captain's two goals gave Arsenal all three points when they didn't really deserve any, as Liverpool looked rampant for the majority of the game. But the crucial difference between victory and defeat? Arsenal took their chances and Liverpool didn't, as they've often failed to do at Anfield this season. Arsenal played so bad but to grind out a win and take home the crucial three points is amazing. Half way through the game, with the way we were playing, I'd have settled for a draw. Deep down Arsenal needed the win to keep on track for 4th place but I just couldn't see it happening - Liverpool looked ready to score that second goal at any moment. So victory at the final whistle tastes even better this afternoon, as Arsenal stole a win they really didn't deserve.

The Gunners did not start the game well at all. After 17 minutes Suarez jinked into the box and fell to the ground; the referee judged that Szczesny's outstretched leg had brought the Uruguayan down but replays showed it wasn't quite so clear. It was judged to be a penalty nonetheless and Dirk Kuyt took the ball and placed it on the spot but Szczesny redeemed himself with a fantastic save to his right. The ball rebounded out to Kuyt whose second attempt was saved by Szczesny again. A heroic effort from out Polish keeper for sure.

But Arsenal couldn't capitalise on the swing of momentum and were soon behind to a stupid own goal from Laurent Koscielny. A Jordan Henderson cross was swung in from the right and looked harmless enough but Koscielny tried an acrobatic clearance and ended up sticking the ball past Szczesny and inside the post to make it 1-0 to Liverpool. It was really clumsy stuff from the Frenchman, who has had a really good year but still can't shake those odd moments of madness that cost us dearly.

Fortunately the squad didn't let Koscielny's mistake shake them, as minutes later Arsenal were level. A beauty of a cross from Sagna found van Persie in the box, whose header was too powerful for Pepe Reina to comprehend in the Liverpool goal. 1-1 and game on. It was a really nice goal and a rarity too; I'm not used to us scoring from crosses into the box and heading it home.

But that was as good as it got for Arsenal. For the rest of the game Liverpool looked likely to score at any moment. The home side hit the woodwork twice and would have surely taken the lead if it weren't for the brilliant goalkeeping skills of Szczesny. The young Pole really kept us in it. Despite not playing to the best of his abilities recently, he really upped his game today and played a blinder. Szczesny deserved the Man of the Match award for sure.

Well... that was until van Persie decided to show up in the Liverpool box in stoppage time. With 8 minutes of injury time to play (because Arteta had to go off with a concussion - hope Mikel will be alright) I was worried Liverpool would take that time to get that second goal. A goal they'd been so close to earning all game. But van Persie had other ideas. Alex Song controlled the ball in midfield and lofted a pinpoint pass into van Persie, who just managed to stay onside, before the Dutchman volleyed a stunner past Reina's inside post to make it 2-1 to Arsenal and game over. Song's pass was beautiful but van Persie's finish was vintage RVP. The strike was his first touch, a sumptuous volley from that devastating left foot of his, reminiscent of his goal against Everton earlier in the season. The captain struck the ball so hard and so fast that Reina stood no chance, even at his inside post where the Spaniard should be in the safest position. It was a phenomenal goal, worthy of winning any game. At the end of the game van Persie was awarded the Man of the Match award but the gracious captain had to share it with his goalkeeper. Both Szczesny and van Persie were the best players on the pitch for Arsenal. When the rest of the team were having an off-day (that's being kind) they elevated their performances and made it count when it mattered most. Can't ask for much more than that.

So a 2-1 win at Anfield is always something to celebrate, even more so when you look at the Premier League table this afternoon. We've narrowed the gap on Spurs in 3rd place to just 4 points - it was 10 this time last week. We've also piled on the pressure for Chelsea, who must win at West Brom this afternoon to remain in touch with us (currently 0-0 at the time of writing). The negatives from this afternoon? Mikel Arteta's concussion looked pretty serious and I've read reports he's had to go to hospital to be checked over. Hopefully our Spanish playmaker will be alright. Matters were made worse when Abou Diaby, making his return this afternoon from another long-term injury, limped off with 10 minutes left because he'd hurt himself again. I haven't heard whether its a recurrence of the injury he's just recovered from, but hopefully not. The guy has no luck where his health is concerned.

Enjoy the win fellow Gooners. Always nice to get one over the Merseysiders in red.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Putting Them Back In Their Place

What a game. I mean, really, WHAT A GAME! I was at work of course, which fucks me off because yet again I miss out on an epic victory, perhaps the most intense and important North London derby in decades. But I did manage to follow it online, thanks to a nice combination of BBC Football's live text and Arseblog's live blog. When I saw we'd gone behind after just 4 minutes I gotta admit my head dropped. I thought, "Here we go again, fucking Arsenal bottling it in the big game, AGAIN". When we went 2-0 down? I pretty much gave up all hope, walked away from the computer and started to contemplate an extended absence away from football for a bit, at least until the 'Wenger Out' shitstorm and negative vibes would end. Thankfully this plan can never be put into action because Arsenal showed some resilience, some real character and emotion and fought back. To go 2-0 down and then come back to stick 5 in a row past our rivals, that's what a local derby is all about. Today's 5-2 victory is so amazing because this is exactly what we Arsenal fans needed, a massive boost after a pretty miserable couple of weeks. A historic win and even though we're still 7 points adrift from Spurs in third place, does anyone care right now? We beat the dirty Spuds 5-2! They can stick their third place up their ass!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Signing Off In Style

Thierry Henry played out his last game in the Premier League in the only way Thierry Henry knows how: he brought some of his trademark 'va-va-voom' to the Stadium of Light, scoring the winner deep into injury time to secure Arsenal all three points against a stubborn Sunderland side. After Wenger revealed yesterday that Henry will be returning to New York on the 16th February and that his loan will expire after 6 weeks, the match this afternoon took on an added importance. And what a way to say goodbye from the legend.

I'm just about to settle down for Match of the Day and I've been excited all evening to watch it. I'm so glad Arsenal managed to turn this afternoon's game around, it showed real spirit and resilience from the team. It began to look like another fruitless trip to the North, especially after Sunderland's James Mclean had put the Black Cats in the lead with 20 minutes left to play. But Arsenal didn't collapse and succumb to defeat like they've been known to in the past. Within 5 minutes, substitute Aaron Ramsey had us back on level terms, and the Gunners were back in business. With normal time coming to a close, I'd have gladly taken the draw on what was always going to be a difficult game. Ever since Martin O'Neill took over, Sunderland have been well and truly rejuvenated under his charge and are a completely different side to the team we faced at the Emirates in October. However, Thierry Henry didn't feel like settling for a draw and found himself on the end of an Arshavin cross deep into injury time to volley home the winner and send the Arsenal faithful home happy, complete with another vintage Thierry Henry moment to remember forever.

The added bonus from today's win? We finally capitalised on Chelsea's run of form, as they slipped up again at Everton, losing 2-0 to the Toffees. Arsenal leap-frogged Chelsea into 4th place and now is the time to start a good run to try and secure that crucial position.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for another priceless memory Thierry.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Routing The Rovers

Apologies for not posting since the Leeds FA Cup game. In all honesty, we've been bloody awful since, with a single 3-2 win over Aston Villa the only shining light amongst all the darkness of January. Losing to Swansea, Man United and squandering a billion chances at Bolton haven't really motivated me to get on here and blog. Until today, when we thrashed Blackburn 7-1, and all of a sudden I feel like writing something (typical eh?)

Finally having a weekend off work helped a lot. This was my first Saturday at home in forever (I still have to work tomorrow though) and I was over the moon when I saw Arsenal had a 1pm kickoff. After getting a good stream for the game, it wasn't long before the Gunners settled any early nerves. Van Persie arrived in the box to tap in Walcott's neat cross to make it 1-0 after only 80 seconds or so. Arsenal didn't relax after taking the lead, dominating possession and narrowly missed out on increasing the lead a few times. However after half an hour, Blackburn finally found themselves in our half of the pitch, when a long punt down field earned Rovers a free kick just outside the box, perfect for Blackburn's set-piece specialist Morten Gamst Pedersen. It turned out it was a bit too perfect as the Norwegian international curled in a delicious effort which Szczesny could do absolutely nothing about. I was furious. It really was a wonderful free kick but at the time I couldn't appreciate that. I was livid that, again, typical fucking Arsenal, we gave away the lead to a team destined for relegation when we'd been all over them from the moment the game kicked off. The first little mistake we made and we were punished and I felt like it was going to turn into one of "those" games yet again.

But Arsenal responded, and in some fashion. With a slick passing move reminiscent of the 03/04 Invincibles, the Gunners broke with pace, with the sublime Alex Song splitting the defence and picking out Theo Walcott with a sumptuous pass. Theo's quick first-time pass found van Persie for another easy tap-in and it was 2-1 Arsenal. Did the home side sit back and relax after regaining the lead? Certainly not, as it was 3-1 Arsenal before you knew it. A beautiful reverse pass from captain van Persie found the onrushing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the penalty area, who calmly took it round Rovers' keeper Paul Robinson and slotted home for his first Premier League goal. The Emirates was euphoric, the rout was on, and the team were firing on all cylinders. It got even better for Arsenal soon after their third goal when Blackburn defender Gael Givet received a straight red card for lunging in on van Persie. At first glance I didn't think the tackle warranted a straight red but replays showed Givet going in two-footed on van Persie and according to the football laws that's a definite no-no these days. Arsenal were already looking rampant but Givet's dismissal put the game beyond all doubt: Blackburn had no chance from then on.

The second half saw Wenger's men continue to assert their dominance and it wasn't long before they added yet another goal. After Blackburn failed to clear an Arsenal corner properly, the ball fell nicely on the edge of the penalty area to Mikel Arteta, who smashed the ball home to make it 4-1. Three minutes later and the Arsenal faithful were celebrating again: Theo Walcott dribbled in from the right, drawing defenders in before releasing the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain. The "Ox in the Box" took a single touch before dispatching the ball past the stranded Robinson to make it 5-1. Not one to be left out, van Persie showed up minutes later to complete his hat trick, sweeping home a delicious low cross from the excellent Coquelin to make it 6-1. A classy goal for a classy player, the goal gave van Persie the match ball and his second Premier League hat trick this season (the other coming against Chelsea in that memorable 5-3 win).

Ahead by five goals, Wenger brought on some substitutes to rest a couple of key players like Song and Koscielny. Thierry Henry made another appearance in the red and white, to the home fans' delight of course, replacing the in-form Oxlade-Chamberlain to much applause. Unfortunately the substitutions seemed to take the rhythm out of the game, as very little happened for the last half an hour or so. But not before Henry stamped his impression on it. With seconds left in the match and the stadium already emptying, Henry dispossessed the Blackburn defence before playing a one-two with van Persie, who could have had his fourth goal of the afternoon if he so wished. Instead he played it back to Henry, whose shot deflected off Scott Dann to make it 7-1 and give Thierry his second goal since rejoining the club and his first Premier League goal in five years (his last being away to Middlesbrough in 2007). It was a perfect ending to a near-perfect afternoon of football.

This type of performance was desperately needed to regain some confidence in the squad. It's been a while since we really thrashed someone and it was beautiful to watch us tear apart Blackburn so easily. A good win and nice to see so many gorgeous goals. A few more games like this please Mr Wenger, if you don't mind.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 9 January 2012

He Only Bloody Went And Did It

I was planning on writing a full match report tomorrow after work but I don't think it's necessary anymore. Not after THAT. A moment of magic and sublime skill from the legendary Henry won us the game and the script couldn't have been written any better. A fantastic Arsenal memory for all of us, vintage Thierry Henry.

What a hero. I'm speechless.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Return Of The King

Now I appreciate this is rather old news now and I know I haven't posted for a while (been very busy at work) but I just wanted to chip in and say how happy I am we are getting Henry back at the club, even if it is just for a couple of months. I am over the moon about this.

Obviously he won't be as quick as he once was and he won't score as many goals, as my colleagues at work have pointed out in glee, but it's just nice to have him back. Despite plying his trade across the pond nowadays in a raw and developing league like the MLS, he still possesses the necessary quality to contribute something to this team. With Gervinho and Chamakh leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations, the squad will be desperately short of firepower in attack and anything contribution Henry can bring to the team will be of immense help. Van Persie is still very much the man as far as goals go but it'll be nice for Henry to come on and give our captain a rest once in a while, or offer some support. For too long now van Persie has been forced to carry the burden of scoring practically all our goals; he has flourished and revelled in his new responsibilities but it's been a case of him having to, since Gervinho appears to be afraid of shooting in case he hurts the opposition goalkeeper and Chamakh looking lost every time he gets within 10 feet of a football pitch. So having Henry in the team should add a bit more potency when going forward, even if his age holds him back a bit these days. He still has a majestic touch on the ball and a keen eye for the killer pass, plus he still knows his way around the goal-mouth as his past year in New York proves. Yes its the MLS but Henry scored 15 goals last season and at the age of 34 that ain't too shabby, especially as he seems to play more in behind the striker now. I think Thierry will be perfectly placed tucked in just behind van Persie, feeding the Dutchman with clever through-balls and defence splitting passes.

The Frenchman currently holds the club record with 226 goals, as most of us know. Let's hope he can add a few more on top of that figure over the next couple of months, starting with Leeds on Monday Night.

Thanks for reading.