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Monday, 2 September 2013

Arsenal beat Spurs and it's bye-bye Bale

Christmas comes early to the red half of North London. In fact yesterday was probably the best day to be a Gooner since the victory at Newcastle back in May.

It's amazing how fast the mood can change at Arsenal. After our opening game at Villa things were looking grim from every angle. We'd signed no-one, Spurs had signed everyone and we'd lost 3-1 on the first day of the season. Now just a few weeks on and although the team itself still hasn't been strengthened, the weekend's events will have calmed fans nerves considerably.

Going into the derby I was more concerned than ever about how we'd fare against our near neighbours. As their £100 million worth of shiny new players lined up against our vulnerable and already injury-hit squad I contemplated the scale of the anti-Wenger backlash if we were to lose. In these early season games it is likely that any defeat will be greeted by loud calls for his sacking and, whether these are justified or not, the pressure must be the most immense he's been under at the club. Not that he shows it.

A first half goal was what we needed and Olivier Giroud did the honours, grabbing his third in three Premier League matches to settle everyone's nerves. Or at least it should have done.

Instead the second half was an intense and nervous affair: high tempo, end-to-end attacking and good chances for both sides. We didn't commit too many forward for our attacks and got back to defend well. In the last quarter of the game we seemed to inexplicably lose the ability to clear the ball, and there were several rounds of pinball football inside our area that could have ended up anywhere. As we entered the final five I tensed up, remembering the number of last minute game-savers Bale scored for Spurs last year. Then I remembered that Bale was having a medical in Madrid...

The whistle went and the stadium erupted. Today was all about the three points and although the game could have gone either way at times, it proved to players and fans that whatever has happened off the pitch, when it gets down to eleven vs. eleven, Arsenal will still beat Tottenham.

Whilst missing five first team players.

The day got better when Bale's transfer was finalised a few hours later. The Welshman has been the biggest threat to the North London power balance in decades and though it is sad to see another great player leave the Premier League, the Gooner in me is breathing a sigh of relief. It remains to be seen whether his (seven) replacements will be able to keep Spurs in contention for a Champions League place but beating them at this early stage in the season ensures that we at least get a head start.

The icing on the Sunday dinner would have been a confirmed big-name transfer but with less than twenty-four hours left, we're still making do with rumours, this time of Mesut Özil, Demba Ba and Emiliano Viviano. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I expect at least one move will come off for us today but, unless it's a really good one I'm not going to let Arsène off that easily for what he's put us through this summer.

Yesterday was a good day but there's many more tests to come and we're currently only a few injuries away from a crisis. Today could be good or bad but until 11pm at least, I'm going to revel in what for once was a very fine weekend.

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