Having collected the maximum six points from our last two fixtures, the mood has certainly improved among the clubs fan base in recent weeks. Despite this, the two goal victory at Bournemouth which got us back to winning ways two weeks ago, wasn’t enough to curtail the disagreements between Arsenal supporters on social media sites.
On that occasion the most noticeable debate centred on the numerous supporters, including me, who believed the team had taken their foot off the gas following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring our second goal. Other supporters however, felt that fans of that opinion were simply looking for another stick to beat Wenger with. A bizarre statement when the manager wasn’t mentioned once in the original comments.
This would suggest that those who have never questioned the manager believe they are able to criticise individual players without it being a personal attack on the manager whilst any general comments made by supporters who have publicly criticised Arsene, are nothing but needless ‘Wenger bashing’. When will these people learn that it’s not always about him?
Suggesting the team took their foot off the gas is very different to saying you’re unhappy with the win or that the three points isn’t the most important thing to take from a game. At two nil we were in the ascendancy and some felt it was a missed opportunity to improve our goal difference with Bournemouth appearing to be on the ropes. For those who believe goal difference to be an irrelevant side note, how would you feel if Spurs beat us to the title on goal difference in May?
On to last weekend’s victory, with the exception of winning a trophy, there are very few moments as a football supporter that can beat witnessing your team scoring the winning goal against a title rival in the final seconds of added time. Whilst at this stage of the season, the significance of the three points won against Leicester City can by no means be determined, the euphoric celebrations of both the players and supporters in the aftermath of the returning Danny Welbeck’s last gasp winner, suggest the points will at least provide a timely moral boost for upcoming fixtures.
After criticising the manager in the past for making poor in game decisions and failing to react to on field situations, it is only fair that I praise him for making substitutions that had a positive effect on the outcome of last weekend’s game. I have seen some supporters question what changes would have been made had the visitors kept eleven players on the pitch but this will remain an irrelevant mystery. As it was, Arsene reacted positively to Danny Simpson’s red card by almost immediately replacing Francis Coquelin with a more offensive player in the form of Theo Walcott.
This was exactly the type of substitution that a title chasing manager should have made in the home fixture against Southampton only a few weeks ago. Whilst it could be argued that the Leicester game was a completely different scenario with them having been reduced to ten men, we had the Saints predominantly on the back foot throughout and I retain a strong belief that replacing one defensive minded player with another, was the wrong decision.
In my previous piece I had expressed my concerns about Walcott’s form and general application during recent matches and with Arsene having left him out of the starting eleven for an important fixture; it would appear that he too, had finally recognised the substantial dip in Theo’s contribution levels. On a positive note it was encouraging to see Theo’s reaction to being left out, with him looking far more interested and alert than he had done for a number of weeks after his introduction on the hour.
Even before his late heroics last weekend, the return of Danny Welbeck to the squad after a lengthy absence had lifted the mood of supporters prior to kick off. With his FA Cup sixth round winner, against former club Manchester United at Old Trafford being fondly remembered.
Although there are some areas of his game that require improvements, there is no doubt that he offers pace and an impressive work rate. If he can stay fit Danny will be a valuable asset for the remainder of the season and I’m hopeful the increased competition for places will give Olivier Giroud the motivation to raise his game in the same way he did earlier in the season when his place was being threatened by Walcott.
Up next are Hull City as we look to retain the FA Cup and with Barcelona on the horizon, I just hope Arsene is able to find the right balance between resting players and playing a side strong enough to reach the next round, come on Gunners, let’s make it three in a row….