When you last heard from me, I was cursing Olivier Giroud for what I saw as a costly late miss against Chelsea. Since then, both he and Arsenal have been significantly rehabilitated. The team bounced back with 3-1 wins over Olympiakos and West Ham, with Giroud grabbing an assist in each and a goal in the latter.
Perhaps I should go away more often. I saw most of the Olympiacos game and highlights of the West Ham match. The Champions League tie was typical of most Arsenal group stage games – we got ourselves in a bit of trouble with the usual defensive sloppiness, but pulled through thanks to our overwhelming attacking power. The pace at which we attack is often too much for sides in Europe. It tends to be at the back that we undo ourselves – see Milan last year for the perfect example.
West Ham was a real test – Carroll and Nolan are handle for any side, particularly one as aerially vulnerable as ours – but we got the breaks and continued to play our football. Santi Cazorla was, of course, instrumental. His thumping third goal was great, but the turn, spin and pass inside his own half to set Giroud away to set up Theo’s crucial strike was in some ways even more impressive. We were reassured also by the return of Per Mertesacker, although a worrying trend is developing in our defence.
It was well publicised that in Arsenal’s first three games of the season they kept three clean sheets. Steve Bould was declared as a defensive deity, and all was as rosy as a bank account named by Harry Redknapp at the back. Well, since then, Arsenal have conceded at least a goal in each of the following seven games – many of which have been from crosses.
The lesson there, I suppose, is that we should not in such a hurry to judge performances. The same lesson could be applied to Olivier Giroud, who is showing some encouraging form. Against Olympiacos he was used as an impact substitute, and was desperately unlucky not to score with two good efforts, although he did head on expertly for Aaron Ramsey to chip home. Against West Ham, he started as much for defensive reasons as offensive ones, but grabbed a real strikers goal, playing a one-two with Lukas Podolski before toeing the German’s cross home. It’s clear he’s feeling a lot better about things, and he continued his momentum with a crucial headed equaliser for France against Spain in midweek. What’s important now is that he gets a run of games – as impressed as I’ve been with Gervinho’s efforts upfront, having a genuine centre-forward would improve this team immeasurably.
I feel the same about Jack Wilshere. I know we’re supposed to be cautious and protective, but I just know how much he’ll be able to add to the side. He’s tantalisingly close now, and whilst this weekend has come soon I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench for next Saturday’s game against QPR before starting in the Carling Cup at Reading.
Things are looking up. We have several very winnable games before the next ‘season-defining’ clash with Man United at Old Trafford. It’s a good time to be back. For me, Olivier, and Jack.