There will always be teams in the Premier League whose game plan is to stifle, frustrate, and generally muddy the waters.
Today (Saturday) that team was Huddersfield.
They came within 10 minutes or so of getting away with exactly what they had come for – a point – and, in fairness to them, that’s ok.
There is no point playing in such a way as to invite a hammering or in a manner that means you can’t be competitive. They are a limited squad of players and they focussed on their strengths.
While that is incredibly irksome to those of us who enjoyed more progressive football, when you take a step back you have to give them credit for the way they go about the business. The Terriers punch miles above their weight and the way they setup is a big part of that.
Notwithstanding my begrudging admiration, it was wonderfully enjoyable to see their little hearts break when Lucas Torriera bicycle-kicked their hopes and dreams of a point into the back of the net.
Some 80 or so minutes of fouls, niggles, frustrations, and holdups were wiped away in a beautiful instant and justice, at least in the eyes of Arsenal fans, was done.
It was a victory that will live for no more than a day or two in the memory, but it was a victory nonetheless, and worthy of the same three points as our success against Tottenham last week.
It’s fair to say that we weren’t well setup to cope with Huddersfield’s brand of physical drudgery and the effect it had on our play was annoying. We failed for large parts of the match to get our rhythm going and, when at last we did, we contrived to miss the chances we had created.
There are always going to be difficult days in football, or days when you are really not at your brilliant best. What’s important is that you get some sort of result on those days and, mercifully, we did exactly that.
Over the course of the game, no Arsenal player really covered themselves in glory, primarily because of the way in which the Terriers sat deep, remained compact and defended in numbers. When a team does that, you either score early and the floodgates open, or they cling on from grim life and, on some occasions, they get what they came for.
We’re no stranger to that sort of tactic as a club and it was good, at least, to see some resilience from the home side. As bad as they were in possession, they kept recycling the ball, and kept trying to get it forward. All said and done, a welcome three points.
THE DOWN SIDE
Sokratis Papastathopolous and Shkodran Mustafi contrived to get themselves booked on a day when we really couldn’t afford for that to happen.
As a result, both players will now serve a one-match suspension next week at Southampton. With Rob Holding injured and Laurent Koscielney only just back from a series Achilles injury, our defensive options are threadbare.
In both cases, the bookings were needless and aggravating and will make our task twice as difficult as it could have been next week.
They may have been in service of the win today but, in this case, short-term gain will mean longer-term pain.
To be sure, there will be headaches ahead for the manager as run into a congested schedule over the Christmas period.