If the Gunners are to pip Everton to the final qualifying spot for the Champions League – and on paper, they will probably not face a trickier test than West Ham United in their remaining four fixtures – it looks like they will do it the old-fashioned way. Organised in defence, nick a goal or two up front.
On Tuesday, West Ham had come to spoil and stall – goalkeeper Adrian was delaying picking the ball up from as early as the fifth minute.
Arsenal, though, were simply not at the races. Touches were heavy.
Olivier Giroud dallied and half-heartedly flicked when through on goal on the half hour. Bacary Sagna waved a lazy foot at Matt Jarvis in the area, a penalty on another day.
Kim Kallstrom, virtually anonymous since joining the club in January, did his best to keep that impression going with a forgettable performance, capped by his failure to track Antonio Nocerino for West Ham’s goal.
But then the Hammers took pity on Arsenal and started giving them the ball.
Arsenal had not looked threatening until Stewart Downing picked out Santi Cazorla, their only first half bright spark, on the edge of the box to feed Lukas Podolski for 1-1.
To Arsenal’s credit, they showed a lot more in the second half.
Giroud demonstrated a great combination of strength, touch and power to put them ahead, and Podolski’s second (and fourth in three games against West Ham) was confidently taken after a clever header down from Aaron Ramsey.
Their defence was solid, with Andy Carroll ineffective, and Jarvis and Downing largely nullified.
There were some nervy moments as Mo Diame drove through the midfield (he has recently said that he wants to go to Liverpool – should the Gunners be ready to pounce?), but not nearly as many as some of their recent performances, and in the end, it was comfortable enough.
Overall, though, it is hard to avoid looking at last night’s performance, particularly the lethargy of the first half, and conclude that Arsene Wenger and his team simply believe their own lack of hype – a chorus of nerves, fatigue, and complacency.
With Hull, Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich to come, and Everton still to face the two Manchester clubs, they will probably still muddle through to fourth again.
But it would be nice if they didn’t need a Nike advert to remind them of what they used to be.
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