Football has never been about what you deserve, it’s about what you get – every Arsenal fan can tell you that.
In normal times, it’s Gooners sat tearing their hair out wondering how on earth they’ve conspired to lose a game they dominated, how they could possibly have failed to score when presented with such a multitude of gilt-edge opportunities. We are the living embodiment of footballing frustration.
On Wednesday night, however, it was Chelsea fans left reeling – and I can’t tell you how good that felt.
We can argue all day about the nature of the performance but, at the end of the 90 minutes, it was Arsenal who came away with three points from a match I fully expected them to lose. There have been countless times when bad luck and bad judgement have denied us what we deserved this season so it was high time somebody else suffered it’s bitter taste. And how.
Mikel Arteta made his intentions clear from the outset, it was a return to the back three for Stamford Bridge and a match that would be spent almost exclusively on the back foot. It was a system that proved pretty effective early in Arteta’s tenure before it ultimately ran out of steam earlier this campaign.
It may not have been a popular choice among fans but it was designed to stifle Chelsea and, for long periods, it served its purpose. That said, we relied on a dash of good fortune to wash it all down too.
The first half was notable only for our goal, with Jorginho handing us on a plate the sort of goal we have given up all too regularly this season. His no-look back pass was disastrously errant and allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to square for the onrushing Emile Smith Rowe to make it two goals in two games.
It was richly deserved for the young midfielder who, amid a miasma of mediocrity, really has been a shining light. It’s clear that, if he stays fit, he can be a huge part of our future alongside Bukayo Saka et al.
With the lead fortuitously gained, Arsenal failed to do much else for the remainder of the half. There were, in truth, pretty abject for large parts of it and struggled badly with getting the ball out of their own defending third. But for some shocking misses and good goalkeeping, we might have squandered our lead quickly.
Things were a little better after the break though, aside from a few rare forays, the pattern was more or less the same as Chelsea started to throw bodies forward with abandon. In truth, however, they failed to register a shot on target in the second 45 and spent most of it doing the kind of huffing and puffing that is so familiar to Arsenal fans. When a team is camped on the 18-yard line, even one as unreliable as Arsenal, it’s tough to break down.
It was pure relief all round as the final whistle blew. I don’t think anybody, not least the manager, could really believe we’d got away with it, but go away with it we did. In doing so, we keep this flat-lining league campaign of ours alive for a little longer.
If nothing else, it means we are just a point away from matching last season’s total, with more wins and a better defensive record to boot. In this campaign of misery, that’s something to savour.
All said and done, it wasn’t a sparkling performance from Arsenal and that shouldn’t really be a surprise to us. We’ve not been good for any length of time for a while now. But it was gutsy, determined and, ultimately, successful.
We can argue for days and days about this missed chance, that missed chance or whether we got what we deserved from this game of that. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that mattered about last night were the three points and if you can’t appreciate that, you can’t appreciate anything.
It wasn’t about what we deserved, it was about what we got.