Many eagle eyed Gooners know that you can get a taste of an Arsenal performance within a few minutes of a game. The crispness and speed of our passing in the early exchanges has been a good indicator of what is to follow for a number of years now so when we started the game continuously giving the ball away to the French champions, I was a little concerned. Jack Wilshere in particular got stuck in the habit. The last mistake seemed to be on his mind the next time he received the ball which lead to his next misplaced pass. I dread to think what the atmosphere would have been like if that was Ramsey making those errors.
However Jack wasn't the only culprit, it seemed as if the whole team had lost the ability to play simple passes at a normal tempo and we know that for us to carve teams open we need to play quick interchanging passes at speed. This has been our downfall for a number of years, a topic that I have spoken about too many times before.
It is this reason why I have fallen in love with Oliver Giroud. Wengerball is adapted, adjusted and no longer needs to be running perfectly to work. A disjoined passing performance was fixed when Thomas Vermaelen swung in a right footed cross from the left and Giroud beat his man at the far post to head the ball down into the path of Jack Wilshere who had tip toed his way into the penalty area. His left footed flick over the advancing keeper was clever and we had gained the lead. A goal that did not involve one touch football.
van Persie, Henry or even the classy Dennis Bergkamp wouldn't have made that assist. Giroud knew exactly what he was doing and he had given us a taster of that against FC Koln in pre season when he knocked down a cross to Santi Cazorla at the edge of the penalty area.
We hadn't created much before that goal. Laurent Koscielny had crashed a header against the crossbar and a few passing moves were cut out at the edge of the Montpellier penalty area.
Luckily Szczesny didn't have a great deal to do as our defence looked far better than it has in recent weeks. We had improved after the break, perhaps buoyed by the goal advantage and our passing looked better, not quick enough to break through Montpellier but certainly sharper and more accurate.
I was willing Oxlade-Chamberlain to have a strong game after his injury but it was difficult for him. It must be tough to not yet have the match sharpness then come into a side that isn't functioning very well. However he did play his part in our second goal. Driving inside from the flank he poked the ball to Podolski whilst taking a clattering for his troubles at the edge of the box, Podolski played the ball to Giroud and spun into space, Giroud clipped first time pass into Podolski's path was absolutely fantastic, Lukas Podolski who according to Arsene has the hardest shot at the club let fly on the volley with a cracking shot down the throat of the keeper and into the roof of the net. 2-0 and the game was all but over as a contest.
Lukas Podolski had hit the side netting in the first half and then made up for it with the exquisite volley. It is exactly where we want to see Podolski. The more times he gets to strike the ball at goal the better for Arsenal. 7 goals in 17 games from a wide position is very good going for a player adjusting to a new club, league and country.
I found interesting that both Wilshere and Podolski played their first 90 minute games of the season in the same game. Aaron Ramsey had replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and looked cool and composed as he has done all season from the bench. It seems to suit him at this point.
Gervinho replaced Giroud but I don't think he received a single touch of the ball, I could be mistaken but I didn't see it happen.
A special mention to Laurent Koscielny who looks back to his best one mistake aside where he dwelled on the ball and was disposed but he was as sharp and quick along the floor as ever. Striding out of defence with the ball fully under his spell and not allowing the opposition strikers a seconds rest. I really like his partnership with Mertesacker so it will be interesting to see what happens at Villa on the weekend.
Schalke beating Olympiacos 1-0 in Germany means that we have guaranteed progress to the knock out rounds once again.
Arsene has promised to take a strong squad to Greece for the final group game but personally I hope we rest some of our players who have played many games this season. Players like Cazorla, Arteta and Podolski. It is only an advantage to finish top if you know which second placed team you will be facing. Many second placed teams this year are very strong teams so finishing first isn't always best.
I would love for the likes of Eisfeld and Gnabry to be complimented with strong players around them to see what they can do.
We need to improve our game for the tougher tasks ahead, that will come with a run of good results and more work on the training pitch but what is fantastic is that we have won the non Arsenal way. That pleases me no end. We have seen the other English clubs (perhaps not this year mwhahahaha) do it so often when not playing at their best so it is great to continue to score from knock downs, corners and deflections. I look forward to the point where we can marry to the two together.
Onwards and most hopefully upwards.