The Ox introduces himself to Europe

This blog comes to you powered by disc 2 of the new Death In Vegas album, Trans-Love Energies….

Trans-Love Energies is also the reason you didn’t get a review of Wednesday’s Champions League action. Well, kinda. Let’s face it, it’s been a beautiful week here in the capital city and who really wants to spend a sunny afternoon sitting indoors writing about things most of you have already seen? So, when my friend Rachid mentioned he was heading out to Angel yesterday lunchtime, I thought sod it, I’ll go with him and pick up the new Death In Vegas album. So I did and I’m glad I did. Even if it means I’m a day late in bringing you my thoughts on a good win for Arsenal on Wednesday night.

And it was a good win, despite what most of the media say. With the players we were missing, through injury or choice, any kind of win was going to be a good win. Rosicky in for Ramsey and the Ox taking Theo Walcott’s place were predicted here on Wednesday afternoon, but I didn’t really think Arsene would risk Marouane Chamakh given his stinky run of form. That said, the need to keep van Persie fresh for Sunday afternoon was, I suppose paramount. And, at the end of the day (or night), it was a gamble that paid off.

Before I go any further a question: why is it that when Arsenal dominate a game, only to lose it, we are told (rightly) that possession is only 9/10ths of the law, yet when we win a game where the opposition have created a few chances but been infected with the profligacy that usually affects us, we are merely lucky?

Ok, slightly long winded. But you get my point, I think. When the media hammer Arsenal for some admittedly shambolic defending on Wednesday night, where is the caveat that tells you, actually, this was Arsenal’s eighth, yes eight, defensive combination in 11 matches? Is it not unreasonable to expect that there might be a few issues to iron out? Not, for the record, that I have any problem with the media saying that- if we defend as we did through much of the first half- Adebayor, Bale and co could end up having a field day. However, when that assessment makes no mention of the way that Mertesacker and Song formed a pretty effective barrier in front of Szczesny during the second half, you have to question where it’s coming from. I’ve not always been Alex Song’s biggest fan, but I thought he had an excellent game on Wednesday night. And it all started off with that crossfield pass to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Ah yes, the Ox. Two home games, two goals. That’s some start to the 18 year old’s Arsenal career. Whatever people may say about Olympiacos quality, I think anyone would admit that the Champions League is several steps up from League One. Or the Carling Cup competition come to that. The weird thing about watching him as he took the ball on his chest, cut inside and prepared to shoot (on his weaker foot), I somehow knew he was going to score. And wasn’t his celebration great? It seems like it’s been a while since we’ve seen a goal celebrated with such unbridled joy. Ok, so after an impressive opening twenty minutes, he faded somewhat- though he still could have doubled his tally for the match and shhould have had Olympiacos reduced to ten men. But, without wanting to put pressure on one so young, he looks to have the lot; intelligence, awareness, vision, composure, speed and strength. I wonder what Theo Walcott, still to add even a stepover to his game after all these years, made of it all as he looked on from the stands. I reckon Oxlade-Chamberlain should make the the bench on Sunday.

It wasn’t all about Alex though. Because yet another new boy got off the mark on Wednesday night. Andre Dos Santos strode clear into the Olympiacos half, after a great touch from Tomas Rosicky, saw his cross for Chamakh blocked and simply stepped inside to tuck home the loose ball. It promised to be a much easier night than it turned out to be and I wonder how much we will come to thank Mikel Arteta for his magnificent goal line block just minutes after the goal (and general composure in possession).

The fact of the matter is that, despite Olympiacos rattling the frame of Szczesny’s goal in the second half, it was a much better performance from our boys in the second half. Arsene managed to rest some key player players- though I wonder how much Arteta and Sagna will have left in the tank by Sunday afternoon- and get three points on the board. And I think that, on Wednesday night, that was all that mattered.

So, we turn to the weekend with Arsene now having completed 15 years in the Arsenal hot seat. What better place to go and celebrate that achievement than White Hart Lane, the scene of our last league title triumph? The team news for the weekend is hardly encouraging, with Laurent Koscielny still to recover from whatever injury he has. But we can worry about that a little more tomorrow afternoon.

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