An appraisal for the Arsenal

As a trainee journalist it is essentially my responsibility to report on events in an impartial way and tell both sides of the story. Today will be the one exception.

Arsenal have just beaten Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge. What was that? 5-3 away from home? You heard correctly. Bias aside, it was an absolutely extraordinary game of football.

Chances galore, goals galore, glory glory Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal had conceded four against Blackburn, two at Tottenham and of course eight against Manchester United. They had not won a game away from home since Blackpool towards the end of last season. However, they came into this game having won seven of the last eight, albeit six of those games being at home. So there were reasons for optimism and scepticism.

The game started at a frenetic pace. I don’t think I have every see a game become so stretched in the first ten minutes. Arsenal were caught out numerous times in between the full-back and centre half, Johan Djourou looking very nervous at right-back. Chelsea should have scored through Torres and Sturridge before Arsenal broke and Van Persie had two decent opportunities before Gervinho missed a golden chance, slicing wide when he was better placed to shoot with his left foot. This was all in the first fifteen minutes.

The game didn’t stop for breath with Lampard and Ramires operating well in the midfield and Arsenal looking dangerous through Ramsey, whose midfield running remains outstanding. This may be a bold statement but Ramsey at his best could easily slot into a Barcelona midfield. His awareness and ability to squeeze out of awkward situations makes him one of the best Premier League midfielders of the moment.

Despite this Chelsea took the lead when Juan Mata’s cross was met by Lampard’s stooping header after bad marking by Mertesacker. Arsenal came back strongly and deserved their equaliser on 35 minutes when a Ramsey through ball was unselfishly knocked on by Gervinho for Van Persie to knock into an empty net. This was a fair reflection and would have been so at half-time. Then another calamitous bit of defending from the big German let Terry in to bundle the ball past Szczesny.

You always fear what sort of an impact a goal before half-time might have on the team but Arsenal came out for the second half fired-up and shot into the lead ten minutes after the break. Firstly a goal from Andre Santos, after a shaky first performance shot through Cech when the goalkeeper would have expected to do better and then Theo Walcott. A much maligned figure amongst Arsenal fans, particularly since the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott proved his worth with a brilliant solo goal. After tripping in possession he clambered to his feet, jinked between two defenders and lashed the ball in at the near post.

Chelsea, as the game dictated, came back in search for an equaliser but the game settled down with Song man-marking Mata and Ramsey and Arteta moving the ball nicely in midfield. Chelsea brought on Lukaku, who bizarrely went to the right-wing, and Malouda both of whom failed to have an impact. Chelsea’s equaliser did eventually come after 80 minutes when Mata drilled a shot past Song desperate lunge and Szczesny’s desperate dive into the far top hand corner.

At this stage Chelsea were favourites. In honesty I believe they probably would have gone on to win the game if it wasn’t for a very untimely (or timely – whichever way you look at it) slip from John Terry to let Van Persie in. His composure and finesse when rounding Cech to slot home caused ecstasy in the away end and was added to by Van Persie, completing a phenomenal hat-trick, in injury time.

This was a game, as the 8-2 and the 6-1, that is indeed an anomaly. All Arsenal fans knew this game was winnable but this could have been any score. Arsenal showed a clinical side (5 shots on target, 5 goals) that has been lacking in the past but don’t let this result paper over the horrific errors in part of the defence. Santos admittedly improved throughout and was one of the team’s best performers at the final whistle and Koscielny played well but as a unit they were far from assuring.

The celebrations at the final whistle may have been over-elaborate but the sight of Wojciech Szczesny singing “we’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen” couldn’t help to put a smile on any football fan’s face. Arsenal are well and truly back. And with every fixture in November entirely winnable don’t think we won’t go down fighting.

Luke Lambert @luke_lambert1

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