16 March 2014

Three NLDs, three clean sheets. So why the complaining?

No, it wasn't pretty. Yes, aside from Rosický's wonder-strike, we played poorly—by some standards, you might even say we were outplayed by the Spuds: 59% possession, 17 shots taken to our seven, better organization, whatever. I enjoy an attractive, well-played match as well as anyone (which is no small part of following Arsenal, who, for the better part of the last 20 years, have offered some pretty damned attractive footballing), but there will be times when the result will matter more than the method. Pretty much every time, come to think of it. There are no points awarded for style, after all. The only stat that matters is the scoreline. By that count, we again bested Spuds, and we did so at White Hart Lane for the first time since 2007 (in the Prem, that is). For as brilliant as another 5-2 might have been, three points are still three points, good enough to keep us a point off Chelsea's pace and level with Liverpool.

Still, the complainers can't quite content themselves with a positive result. Pity.

Maybe it's Liverpool's fault. After all, they shellacked Man U at Old Trafford earlier in the day, highlighting our own inability to do the same, and this may have put a few fans in a funk as they fretted over our own poor showing at Old Trafford. Maybe it's Tomáš's fault for scoring so early—the fastest goal we've ever scored against Tottenham, if I recall correctly. He set us up to expect a romp, didn't he? When Ox missed a few minutes later, though, the glee was already fading as too many of us began to wonder and then worry at what might happen. But for some poor finishing from Adebayor and silly diving from Rose, Spuds did have chances that they couldn't finish off.

Some folks are just too hard to please, to be honest. A North London Derby is always going to be tense, and form matters little. The passions on both sides can overflow, leading players to mis-play the ball in their urgent desire to make something happen. Rather than criticizing the boys for struggling to create chances or score more goals, why not credit them for a hard-fought and well-earned victory, one delivered through stout and resolute defending? That might be too much to ask.

Slagging a team is easy; so's supporting them when the scoreline's 3-0. Unfortunately, we're not set up, nor are we currently equipped, to deliver those kind of results. Shorn of threats like Ramsey, Walcott, and Özil, we're going to have to manufacture wins, grinding them out from time to time. Still, players stepped up and did what it took, which is apparently not quite enough. I know that twitter is not where one goes for measured, well-thought out critiques, but it still surprised me to see how negative people were being. Giroud was apparently the worst player on the pitch. Wenger was a terrible manager. And on and on.

Frankly, I'm proud that we went into hostile territory and claimed the result we needed. No, it won't produce as many iconic, memorable moments as other derbies, such as Theo's salute or Henry's slide, and this won't go down in history as the greatest match ever played by any stretch. Slogs are inevitable, and when a match fails to live up to the hype, the hype has to shoulder some of the blame.

So we ended up defending a lead for the entire match while failing to generate much of anything going forward. Fine. Whatever. How many times have we pressed forward looking for a goal only to get caught out and concede instead? Whether we won 0-1 or 0-10 doesn't matter, and it's not as if we're going to catch up to Liverpool or Man City on the goal-differential issue. This might be an issue should we finish even with Chelsea, but goal-differentials only come into play after we're level on points. First things first, then: just win.

We did that.