There is a simple joy that comes with watching your team win a game of football and we all got to feel that again as Arsenal posted an impressive 2-0 win over West Brom.
Despite a really poor run of results that peaked with abject 2-0 loss to Swansea a week ago, I felt confident going into this game that we would get the job done. I just couldn’t see how our effort and intensity would be as low as it was a week ago and given the rest afforded to a number of the first team mid-week, as well as West Brom’s poor run of form, I felt a win was on the cards.
If it wasn’t for some poor finishing — Gervinho, the excellent Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski can all hold their hands up here — the margin would have been greater than the two we managed. Our defence were as solid as they have been all season while the aforementioned Wilshere, as well as a rejuvinated Santi Cazorla and a commandeering Mikel Arteta ensured we held good possession throughout the ninety minutes. It wasn’t a great performance, but a good one at a time when three points was vital.
The big talking point of the game was of course the first penalty decision. I don’t really think there’s much to discuss though: Santi dived, it wasn’t a penalty and that’s life. It’s absolutely shit if you’re a West Brom supporter and I have to admit feeling a little guilty as Arteta whacked home the penalty, but that’s football. I think Santi should be suspended for a couple of games, or something similar, but only if it’s a rule applied consisently. It isn’t, so both life and football goes on.
In my opinion diving is a relatively easy thing to stamp out of the game, it’s just that the authorities are too lazy to do anything about it. All that needs to be done is to ensure the punishment for being found guilty of diving outweighs the potential reward for getting away with it. At the moment a yellow card is a risk worth taking to ensuring the brilliant goal-scoring opportunity a penalty-kick provides, and that won’t change unless something is done. I know there are cultural considerations to take into account but I think they are blown up out of proportion when looking at a solution to a quite frankly annoying part of the game.
As for Arteta’s penalty, you have to take your hats off to him. After missing late on against Fulham he had the balls to step up and got the job done. I thought he might miss, to be honest — and I thought he might miss the second too! — but he won the battle of the minds with Boaz Myhill and a comfortable win was the reward.
As a team we definitely looked fresher and the win, achieved in front of a raucous home crowd, should ease the tensions between fans and the team and, especially, the manager. We’re just two points from fourth spot now and five points from third. First and second look beyond us, unfortunately, but with Champions League qualification assured and two cup competitions to look forward to all’s not lost.
Speaking of one of those domestic cups, we face League Two team Bradford for a place in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening. It may not be the most exotic of fixtures but with a genuine chance of silverware at stake and our next game away to Reading not until Monday, I’d like to see the manager play a full-strength team. We have an opportunity to build on the confidence of Saturday and post a dominant performance against Bradford. It would send a message to the other big sides in the draw — such as Chelsea and Swansea — and keep the momentum rolling.