Arsenal leapt over Everton to reclaim fourth place on Tuesday with a decisive 3-1 victory over the Hammers. After a rather slow start that resulted in us falling behind 1-0 in the 40th minute, Lukas Podolski equalized, allowing us to enter halftime 1-1. The second half saw Giroud get on the scoresheet with a sublime touch and right footed finish and then yet another goal from Poldi sealed the deal for us in the 77th minute. Some quick thoughts/observations.
I was astounded to learn (via Twitter) that the youngest person on the pitch was Giroud at 27 years old. Arsene confirmed that it was his oldest team he had ever sent out to play. The age factor could have played into what seemed to be a sluggish first half performance, or it could have just been down to fatigue from the 120 minutes of play on Sunday. In the end, I think the experience of the oldies helped keep us calm and in the game. Bringing on some younger, fresh legs as subs was no bad idea however. Speaking of...
Having Aaron back is bliss. After playing a 112 minutes in the FA Cup match on Sunday, no one I'm sure, expected Ramsey to get many minutes two days later. But around the 50th minute I found my self chanting (in my head because I was at work, mind you) "Release the Rambo!" One can easily forget a player's contribution to a side when that player has been sidelined for three months. Aaron's energy, stamina, tackling, and eye for a good pass (watch him head down the cross into Poldi's path for his goal) is not just a breath of fresh air. It's a gust, a squall, the first gulp of air you take after being underwater for too long...it's quite a strong and lovely feeling. I guess I'm glad he's back.
Kallstrom will be useful. He still had some waylaid passes, and one could see him getting fatigued around the 60 minute mark, but he had nice tackles, won some very nice headers in midfield, took two shots on goal, and does not panic on the ball when the defense is closing him down. There was a nice moment between him and Rambo when he was trying to get the ball out of our half, but didn't just boot it long. He plays it down the sideline to Aaron, fighting off two defenders while he does it. He has a nice touch and is strong enough to not get knocked off the ball too easily. He could definitely be important in these last four games. Plus, how can you not like a guy who said he had "fun" on his first start for Arsenal?
Conceding the opening goal sapped our confidence. Making goals boosted it right back up. We played so much freer after Podolski equalized. It was like the whole team received a adrenaline booster. It's a cautionary tale - we are still very vulnerable and our confidence may not regain its prior strength we witnessed earlier in the season. That's why it's so viatl we score early. We feed on that energy.
Goal celebration was very muted. I'm not sure if Podolski and Giroud's usually tame celebrations were due to recent performances, criticisms, or just general unhappiness. I found Poldi's reactions particularly unnerving. The first goal there was almost no acknowledgment of the fans, the second he fist pumped to them, but the cheesy, grinning, hopping into the air celebration we have come to expect from him were absent. Even the outlying players on the pitch had reserved responses. It was weird. Either the team is so beat up mentally that they cannot celebrate, or the general unhappiness from the fans has penetrated the mood in the locker room. I could be making something out of nothing. Did anyone else notice this?
All in all, a satisfactory win that gave us a +2 in the GD column as well as lifting us up to fourth. We have a game on Easter Sunday at Hull that hopefully will see the return of Ozil as well as Flamini. But, more on that in a pre-match write up. Enjoy being back in fourth, having some goals scored, and this sunny (at least in northern Indiana) day. Have a good one Gooners.