Unlike most, I certainly do not begrudge Arsenal the slice of good fortune they enjoyed in last night’s must-win match against Leicester.
Why anyone would is beyond me, but in order to pick up wins and go on runs in the Premier League, any and every team needs moments of good fortune along the way, and Arsenal enjoyed a rare piece of it last night.
There again, when you are the only team genuinely harbouring ambitions of winning the game, and playing attacking, progressive football, the chances are that you will put yourself in a position where you are more likely to enjoy a piece of good fortune.
Leicester had set up for the draw, while retaining the vague hope that a breakaway goal might afford them a win. I have no respect for that sort of mentality and it always pleases me when teams time-wasting from the 20th minute fall flat on their collective faces.
Yes, the deflection that carried Nacho Monreal’s shot into the bottom corner of the goal was fortunate, but he put himself in the position to win that second ball and try the shot, while Olivier Giroud worked hard to make a nuisance of himself in the box, thereby putting Robert Huth, the goal scorer, off balance and out of his comfort zone.
Why anyone would bemoan that piece of fortune, earned through endeavour, is beyond me, but that’s football fandom in the 21st century, I suppose, when only four or 5-0 victories are acceptable.
Of course, there was much about last night’s performance that was frustrating. The bizarre reluctance to shoot in promising positions, the ponderous nature of the build-up play, and the occasional wastefulness in possession – they all contributed to a difficult night.
Both Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez were also a little off-colour.
There again, when a team sets up with little-or-no ambition to play positively, it was always going to be a tough ask, whether it is Arsenal or the FIFA All Star XI.
It was great to see the persistence from the team; they kept on attacking, they kept trying to make an impact, and they were eventually rewarded with a much-needed 1-0 win. In truth, only a fool would expect Arsenal to go on and claim a top four sport from here, but at the very least they are putting pressure on the teams around them and they are having a go.
Whether it is too little, too late is a moot point, we are where we are and we have to make the best of the situation by picking up wins and showing willing. For the third game in succession, the team has picked up victory and shown more signs that they are adapting to a new way of playing.
A clean sheet is a great boost to what has been an extremely leaky back line and, but for a few slip ups, they were in control for 90 minutes. You can’t help but be pleased with that.
Credit also to Arsene Wenger, who switched to a 4-4-2 late on when he threw caution to the wind. By the time Danny Welbeck was introduced to the fray, it was clear Leicester had absolutely no intention of playing for the win so the boss abandoned the 3-5-2 to match the visitors man-for-man, a move which paid off.
Denying him or the team any sort of praise in victory is churlish and, frankly, speaks to an agenda.
It wasn’t the 3-0 win most would have liked, but we come into this game with a few days rest after an extra-time win at the weekend, and having rotated two or three players, some of whom had not played in the 3-5-2 system before. A dose of realism is always needed.
All said and done, it’s another three points in the bag, a very welcome three points, and we go on to White Hart Lane at the weekend in infinitely better shape than we were six weeks ago, when the end of the season couldn’t arrive quickly enough.
We still go into the game as underdogs, and with fragile confidence ripe for the shattering, but we have shown that there is fight left in this team.
I, for one, won’t deny them that.