Looking back at the past weeks where Arsenal lost three consecutive games to teams they ordinarily should trash, it's almost like those losses never happened and everything seems to have returned to normal. Not to extol failure, but to acknowledge the fact that things can always get better if you don't stop doing.
Like Arsenal went on a form of good run in their quest to revive their season and earn a spot in next season's Champions League, it happens to us also in life that when you seem to be getting a hang of things, everything just falls apart in the twinkle of an eye, just as Arsenal lost those games. Never give up doing. Just keep pushing and things will definitely turn around as long as you sey your eyes on the ultimate goal. There is also hope for you.
After the Chelsea game, the momentum was definitely with us and even though I knew Manchester United have a history of turning up against Arsenal just like they did in the reverse fixture, I still was geared up and hoping for a victory and this was further strengthened when we got the first goal that early in the 7th minute.
Gladly, Arteta did not try to make one of those his experiments and started with virtually the same team that played Chelsea, save for Cedric that replaced Holding in the starting lineup. Although I didn't hope that Cedric would start due to his end product in the final third in the last few games, he wasn't a bad option in the end.
I'd take this time to mention that although we may troll players when they fair badly in the spirit of bants, I think it was taken too far with the bomb threat on Maguire and his family. Our hearts are with him and wish him well. It was understandable that he was left out on the bench. In like fashion, it was good to see the fans of both teams observing the one-minute clap to show support for Cristiano Ronaldo following the loss of his son. You know, this is one of the beautiful sides of football, where opposition fans understand the need for solidarity for oppositions in times like this. Our hearts are with Ronaldo and his family as well.
Getting the first goal early was crucial. We knew this started with that in mind. The build up was neat and it would have been more beautiful had Saka hit the net with his own strike. Nonetheless that De Gea parried the ball, I couldn't be happier that an Arsenal player, surprisingly, Tavares was on hand to tuck the ball away.
I have been very critical of Tavares in all of his appearances and rightly so. Even yesterday after scoring, he showed traces of shakiness in defence. I would have hoped that the goal would help his confidence, which I still believe will, he was shaky many times in the game and almost cost us at some point. Arteta also acknowledged that he needs time to settle and I saw how he hugged him after the final whistle. His talent going forward is never in doubt. I saw the several runs he made forwarded and that's a good thing to give a different dimension to our game when we need one. He just needs to work better on his confidence and defending.
The second goal was needed to get a cushion and it was quite confusing for me at first when I thought Nketiah had scored, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside and a penalty awarded instead for a foul on Saka by Telles. What courage I must say for 19-year old Saka. For the second game running, he was brave enough to step forward for the spot kick despite what he endured after missing one at the Euros for England. It just shows his mental strength and two out of two would only give him the impetus to keep taking them. Perhaps, Arteta may leave him as the taker going forward, a least for the foreseeable future.
It would have been out of sort had United not responded and they knew this. Arsenal also became sloppy. I knew that the next goal in that game would be crucial for whoever scored. Another goal for Arsenal would have almost settled the tie, but a goal for United would mean game on. Like he likes to do against Arsenal, Ronaldo hit his 100th Premier League goal. What a man this guy is. He. Is the first player to have a century of goals with three different clubs and two different leagues and even the Champions League. What a man.
I must admit that the turning point of that game was the missed penalty by Bruno Fernandes. Tavares had inadvertently handled the ball while contesting a header. There was no contesting that even though the distance of his hand to the ball was very close. My thinking is that Ronaldo may have left the kick for Fernandes, maybe he felt he wasn't in the right frame to take it or Fernandes took it because he. Was the captain. I thought Ronaldo was going to take it and I would have counted the goal already. Maybe I was a bit relieved not to see Ronaldo step up. Bruno had scored 18 of his last 20 kicks, so, there was still a likelihood he could miss. I saw how Ronaldo encouraged him after he missed the kick. Had that goal gone in, I could never have ruled out United coming back.
Sometimes I wonder what standards are set for VAR in taking decisions of what constitutes a red card offence. That tackle of Fernandes on Tavares would have been a sending off had the culprit being Xhaka. I'm glad Xhaka fared well under such immense pressure on the day and scored a stunner to kill any hope of a comeback for United. Im not surprised of how influential he has been in that Arsenal team. Yes, he had his rough time just before Arteta arrived, but Arteta knew the qualities he posseses in terms of mentality and leadership and kept faith in him. Almost like a broken record, I have always sounded how vital he would be to Arsenal ending the season strong and he keeps proving that with every game.
What else can I say about Mohamed Elneny. This guy is a typical professional. Just like Xhaka, Elneny was on the verge of leaving in the summer and even in January but Arteta noted that he couldn't afford to let Mo leave due to his qualities as a person and a player in and around the dressing room. Mo has not been the most favored in terms of playing time with all managers Ater Arsene Wenger, but whenever he gets his time like now, he takes it with both hands and we could see the difference he brought to the team in the two games he's started. Wth him, I feel less worried about the absence of Partey, even though I can't wait to see the Ghanaian back.
I felt so happy when Tomiyasu came on in the final minutes for Cedric and his adventure forward showed what we missed. One of those runs earned Ronaldo a yellow card, sadly. This means we'd get to see him in the last few games. I believe this will give us more steel at the back.
We have West Ham next and it's definitely a banana skin for us. We need to be careful but go all out for it. As it stands, the Tottenham game is our most important of the remaining five. Their dropping two points yesterday has given us the advantage, so we know our meeting with them is going to be very feisty. Gladly, they still have to play Liverpool who are chasing the title. This may be working in our favour in the end.
Thank you for reading.