It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t free-flowing, it wasn’t a great performance, but it was three points. Too often this season, Arsenal have been exceedingly good at doing stupid things at key moments in games, and the past week, which has brought three wins and three clean sheets, has offered signs that the Gunners are finally learning from those mistakes. Against a good Southampton team, a positive result was vital otherwise the hard work done in the previous two games would have felt useless. Even though it was late, the 1-0 victory was the clearest sign to me that this Arsenal team are beginning to work things out.
After the defeat to Manchester United, I was really struggling to see where Arsene Wenger could take the team as they almost looked frightened when the pressure was on. It’s looking like that loss was a watershed moment for the manager and squad, and a conscious effort has since been made to not be so naive and stupid again. It’s better late than never to have happened, and so far, the subsequent results have been positive.
It has stemmed from keeping three clean sheets as the defence haven’t been left as exposed. Emiliano Martinez has been a surprisingly calming influence in goal, while Per Mertesacker looks like everything is right in the world now he’s got his mate, Laurent Koscielny, back alongside him. Mathieu Flamini has also had a couple of effective matches in front of the back four, showing discipline to not get needlessly caught out of position. He still lacks the passing and distribution skills of Mikel Arteta, but Flamini’s positioning has been improved.
With everything looking more secure at the back, there’s still enough attacking talent in the Arsenal team that, nine times out of ten, a clean sheet should result in a win. Even if it doesn’t seem like everything is clicking, as was the case on Wednesday as Santi Cazorla didn’t assert the same authority on the game he’d shown against Dortmund and West Brom and Alexis Sanchez had one of his more frustrating games for the club as it almost seemed like he was striving too hard to make things happen, it only takes one moment to make the difference.
Knowing this, Arsene Wenger got his main substitution right against Southampton. Too often he leaves things until the 70th minute before making a significant change, but on Wednesday he introduced Olivier Giroud at the right moment, with just less than half an hour to go. There were some boos from a few supporters unhappy at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s withdrawal, but the Ox hadn’t had much of an impact on the game, and it was entirely understandable that Wenger wanted to revert to the front three of Alexis, Giroud and Welbeck, which had shown positive signs of linking up well at West Brom.
While I wasn’t surprised to see the Ox go off, considering Tomas Rosicky was waiting on the bench as the game looked like it needed his driving forward runs to try and unlock the stubborn Saints defence, I was staggered that Aaron Ramsey played 90 minutes. Frankly, the Welshman had a bit of a stinker. He was tidy enough in the midfield alongside Flamini, but his attacking game was a bit of shambles as he over-hit passes and found row Z when shooting. I’d have taken him off, but there’s a reason I’m a fan blogging about the game and why Arsene Wenger is there to make the managerial decisions.
Ramsey stayed on, and as the game entered the final two minutes, he was alert as the ball dropped in the penalty area following the clear handball from Jose Fonte. Under pressure from defenders, Ramsey picked the right pass to give Alexis Sanchez a tap-in to win the game. With a secure base in defence, it only needed the one moment, and after indifferent performances from both of them, Ramsey and Alexis got it right.
The introduction of Giroud changed the pattern of play as it came when the game was in a bit of lull. Suddenly Arsenal were more direct and had someone putting the centre-backs under a lot of pressure. As he’s just returning from three months out with injury, Arsene Wenger has to use Giroud carefully, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him start on the bench after starting at West Brom. In the end, using him as a second half battering ram against tiring defenders worked as he caused a calm defence to panic, leading to the space for Alexis to tuck home the winning goal.
Stoke on Saturday will present a different challenge as, despite the claims of their footballing style changing from the Pulis era, if they try to play Arsenal at their own game, they’ll get destroyed. Instead, Stoke will be physical, aggressive and direct. I expect Giroud to start as he can match their physicality, but as he showed on Wednesday with a deft flick to create a chance for Danny Welbeck, the Frenchman is a big target man that can still play the Arsenal way.
Speaking of the Arsenal way, it might not be something readily associated with Arsene Wenger teams, but there is something very Arsenal about back-to-back 1-0 wins. Arsene Wenger is beginning to work this team out, but it has to continue on Saturday to make up the ground needlessly lost earlier in the season.

12 thoughts on “Wenger gets it right as Arsenal grind out a win

  1. It was a jaded performance. I don’t think we could have nicked a win had Saints were not reduced to 10 men. I am wondering about Ramsey. He reminds me of the 2012-13 version. Why is there such a stark dip in form despite having the summer rest?

    1. yeah, that’s right. i just wonder what will happen if they play with 11 men? that’s why I’m not convince with Arsenal performance right now. We try very hard and a bit of luck from our last 3 winning matches. When we were out of luck, then we will start scream to Wenger again. Last time we can win 2 or 3 nail with mid table teams easily. Right now 1-0 is already over the moon. However win is a win. I’m happy right now but still anxious until January. Can we get to top 4 by jan? Wait and see.

      1. i turned off my TV when stoke hit fourth..apparently it was disallowed and our last minute heroics could not save the day..clearly need a strong defender and an out and out holding MF

    2. Yeah..right! 4-0 at that point of time when i watched from the highlight. Luck Luck Luckily the fourth goals had been disallowed which i don’t know why. If that goal count, we will definitely totally demoralized and there will be no more heroic comeback, i believe.
      I think this year, Chelsea already cursed us. If they loss, we won’t catch them anyway. When we win, the fans want Wenger to stay. After this, what’s now?
      The only thing I’m not convince with Arsenal today is like what happen today. There is no “SURE THING” in this team right now. It can be “just good enough” or it can be “a very bad day” on different occasion.
      The “SURE THING” is when we were luckily loss the match. Right now we are luckily win the match. Like Chelsea today, they loss but luckily loss to Newcastle. Until that day come, I will not convince Arsenal performance.

      1. well said and i think that day is not so far as we have tremendous squad..all we need is a couple of players of defensive mindset and we will be fine..Wenger says by 2017 we can win a title..that’s a very big statement and if a person of such experience says that I believe he can deliver it! Today’s moment to rejoice is definitely Ramsey’s goal!

  2. Along with Giroud, I think it’s worth mentioning that our favorite player, Podolski had a decent 10mins. He made great runs behind the defence, forced Forster with a couple of saves and looked energetic overall. He also made an almost-perfect cross to Giroud which was so, so close in giving us the lead. It was a good cameo from a player who’s been glued to the bench for most part. He ought to start more games in this busy period.

    1. True. I was impressed by his energy and positivity, and he looked hungry rather than just sulking about being on the bench so much.

      1. He is unpredicted player. When we need him so much, he can’t perform. He is better as sub rather than playing 90 mins or a starter. That’s why Wenger still not convince to put him in the first team. Until now, I still can judge him on his performance. Is he gonna be just like Arshavin?

      2. Sorry..typo error. Until now, I still can’t judge him on his performance. Is he gonna be just like Arshavin?

  3. I’d take a gritty, 1-0 win any day over a dominating but wasteful game.
    Expect the same thing against Stoke.

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