A lot of fans – and even Arsene Wenger himself – insisted Arsenal were a little lucky to score four goals in a comfortable win at Swansea on Saturday.
Personally, I don’t. If a goal is allowed to stand despite being a good four or five yards offside, or a penalty is given for a clear dive, then you can consider it fortuitous.
But the own goals scored by Swansea, and a third Arsenal goal that owed a lot to a deflection, are simply not in the same category for me. They were goals that were earned.
To get into the sort of prime shooting positions that we did, as regularly as we did, and against a team well organised at the back as Swansea were, requires a great deal of patience and no lack of ingenuity.
Despite a difficult opening half-hour, Arsenal stuck at their task and were well rewarded for their efforts. So while there is an element of luck involved in seeing the ball cannon off a defender and into the net, particularly when the ball may otherwise have been heading wide, it is not a slice of luck that is born from nothing.
I think Arsenal earned their luck and deserved the 4-0 win.
If you get the ball in the right areas, take a few chances, and show willingness to have a shot at goal, the chances are things will run in your favour. On at least three occasions at Swansea, the Gunners did just that. They put numbers in the box, they weren’t shy in running at defenders, and they weren’t afraid to take shots at goal. The end result speaks for itself.
Swansea, by contrast, failed to get the ball forward regularly enough, and were wasteful in possession. If you don’t spend a lot of time in the opposition’s final third, the opportunities Arsenal enjoyed simply don’t present themselves. It’s that simple.
Of course you can feel a little sorry for a team that’s battling to avoid relegation but that’s just how it goes.
As a whole, Arsenal completed the job in comfortable fashion. The opening half was a little more difficult than perhaps it should have been as again we found ourselves caught out by the intensity of our opposition.
Our first-half performances over the last month have followed a pretty similar pattern and, while we as fans can all see it coming, it continues to surprise Arsene and the squad, who fall victim to the same high-intensity press time and again.
Towards the end of the half we became a little combative and started to keep hold of the ball better and the rewards were obvious. The half-time break again allowed Arsene and Steve Bould to shuffle their pack and the second half was a masterclass in how to roll over a struggling opponent.
In truth, Petr Cech and the back four were largely untroubled, even if Swansea carried a deal of menace in the first half-hour. The clean sheet was a nice bonus and is something we can build on with any luck.
But it’s clear our starts must improve. We have been too predictable of late and teams are catching us out. We have to find a way to step on the gas from the opening whistle, and not be so lackadaisical in possession.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until it happens, if we can perform for 90 minutes, we will beat pretty much any side in the league. Eventually, it has to happen.