Arsenal shifted through the gears in the second half to claim a much-needed win against Southampton on Wednesday night.
Despite having only a few days rest since picking up a 2-0 win over Manchester United, the Gunners dug deep to collect the three points, courtesy of goals from Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud.
Victory moved Arsene Wenger’s men to within three points of Manchester City and four points of Liverpool, with a game in hand over the latter.
On a night when a win was the only prerequisite, it was nice for the team to come away with another clean sheet and a fourth league win in five matches to boot.
All things considered, you can’t help but be pleased at a pretty solid all round performance from a team that is still adapting and developing in the 3-4-3 system.
There were some general grumbles about the measured, if a little circumspect nature of our first-half display, but I don’t buy it myself. You can’t expect Arsenal to blow everyone away within the first 15 minutes, this league simply doesn’t work like that. Quite apart from anything else, it is far more important that Arsenal keep themselves in the game than throw the result away going recklessly in search of a huge advantage early on. That’s not to say they couldn’t have quickened things up a little in the opening 45 minutes, merely that we have 11 humans in our team, not miracle workers. Sometimes patience is a virtue.
Of course, there were a few hairy moments in defence which required Petr Cech to produce some smart saves, but no team in the league can go 90 minutes without conceding a few chances. The most pleasing thing was that the incidents of self-inflicted agony which have typified much of our season showed signs of continued diminishment.
For the most part, it took good play from the hosts to get through our defence, as apposed to some act of gross stupidity gifting an opening.
I did note, however, that Kieran Gibbs continued to struggle as left wing back and I wonder if a change of position with Nacho Monreal might suit both players better. Kieran is undoubtedly quick and takes up good positions, but he really doesn’t possess the sort of cut and thrust that makes Victor Moses and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain such threats in the same position.
Further forward, Aaron Ramsey continued to demonstrate how much he benefits from the freedom of the aforementioned 3-4-3 setup as he registered an assist and looked much more like the sort of player who stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2013/14.
It is quite strange how certain players thrive in certain systems, while others completely fade. Our old 4-3-3 setup proved ideal for Theo Walcott, who has managed 19 goals this season, but made Ramsey look an absolute fool at times this season.
A simple switch in formation and Ramsey is suddenly looking vastly improved while Theo can’t get time on the pitch.
Once more Danny Welbeck showed his industry and willingness to get involved but there is still, in my mind, a vacancy up top for a genuinely world class striker, someone with all the directness, pace, and power of Welbeck, but with a killer instinct in front of goal and a knack for getting on the scoresheet.
That question is for another day, however, and for now, I will bask in the reflected glow of victory and look ahead to Saturday’s clash with Stoke, another make-or-break fixture against a hard-working, obstinate side who are sure to make it tough for the Gunners.