02 November 2014

Are you not entertained? What will it take to slake Gooners' thirst?

I think we can all agree that 70 minutes was a lot longer than any of us would have chosen as the moment when we finally broke through against Burnley, they of the -11 goal differential. After all, they'd managed a woeful four points, scored only five goals over all, and hadn't won a single match. We should steam-roll them them, scoring early and often on our way to putting this one to bed well before halftime. Even the gloomiest of Gooners wouldn't begrudge such a start, even given our apparent inability to keep a clean sheet or score the first goal. This was to be, after all, a invigorating, revitalizing fixture, one that would allow us to lay to rest if not slay certain demons that have beset us so often.

Ohhh, Santi Cazorla...
However, the first half unfolded as all too many have unfolded before, with Arsenal dominating possession (rising to as high as 85% at one point) but little to show for it but a few squandered chances, a handful of howitzers into the stands, and a nifty save or two from the keeper. And so we went into halftime locked in a scoreless draw against an opponent who seemed more than happy to batten down the hatches and ride out the onslaught, with the idea of a scoreless draw all the more galling against the backdrop of them having conceded 12 goals in their previous four fixtures. By the time Cazorla gave the gentlest of touches to a ball eight yards away from an empty net only to see it snuffed out, it looked indeed like we'd have to resign ourselves to a draw, with us wasting our best chances once again.

However, such a mindset, borne though it may be of many other frustrations, was misbegotten. Burnley may have set out to stubbornly deny us, keeping eight men in and around the box in order to frustrate us, hoping that the pressure on us to score would build to such a pitch that we'd be undone, with boos and cat-calls reigning down on Arsène, as the demands to bring on Walcott became well-nigh irresistible. Their plan was working for the most part, which made it easy for us to focus on how empty-handed we were with more than 3/4ths of the match gone, a drought perhaps punctuated by the near-misses and flubbed chances. Instead of celebrating what almost came to pass, we've convinced ourselves to regret them as what would never be, whether it be a brilliant save, a wasteful shot, or a missed hand-ball. Each moment of Alexisian brilliance that came to nought only offered a reminder of how much we've relied on him to this point and how bereft of other options we have when he can't quite deliver.

So it was fitting and just that Alexis found a way to finally break through. In that 70th minute, one we usually jeer as the one in which Arsène finally makes a substitution, Alexis nodded home from a Chambers cross, and the rout we had expected was on. Barely 130 seconds later, Chambers opened his account—on a set-piece, no less—and while it's true that we had to wait almost 20 more minutes, Alexis found our eighth stoppage-time goal on a deft cross-in from Gibbs, and we finally had a scoreline that lived up to our feverish dreams. For helpful contrast, Chelsea, they of the undefeated season and +15 goal differential, needed a dodgy penalty to see off QPR at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool lost 1-0 at St. James's Park, and Everton stumbled a to a scoreless draw at Goodison Park against ten-man Swansea. Patience, in other words, is a virtue.

For one reason or another, we like to leave it late. Whether that's a credit to our opponents' stalwart defense, a demerit against our stubborn attack, or some mixture of the two, it might be starting to pay off. We've won three games on the bounce, and while it may be comforting to see us seize earlier leads, we're starting to show signs of life. Chelsea, despite their indomitable start, are but nine points ahead. That might sound like a lot until you consider just how average we've been and how perfect they've been. We're off to a slow start, to be sure, and it might already be too late to reel them in. Time will tell.

Some would say that the 3-0 scoreline flatters us because the goals all came in the last 20-odd minutes of the match against a club that looks ready for relegation. They'd have a point. Then again, Arsenal have all three. No, the goals didn't come as early as we might have hoped. When do they ever? On this day, the waiting was not borne of wastefulness on our part so much as it was from diligence on theirs. We've grown accustomed to seeing the glass half-empty; on this day, we should see it as more than half-full, if not overflowing.