FIVE things we learnt from Arsenal this weekend

Arsenal midfielder Alex SongThe weekend saw Arsenal scrape past the Hammers at the Emirates with an 88th minute header from defensive midfielder Alex Song. A late Arsenal goal is something that is becoming all too common. Perhaps Arsenal fans would like to see the Gunners kill off the game a little earlier, but it’s a sign of the determination and will power of these players that they don’t give up until the final whistle. It’s an important victory for Arsenal who maintain their title challenge. But what did we learn about the Gunners from their performance against West Ham?

Alex Song is the world’s most attacking holding midfielder and this is a mixed blessing:
Despite having a rocky start to his Arsenal career song has matured into a decent player. When Arsène Wenger played a 4-4-2, Song tended to take few risks, anchoring himself in front of the back four and making few attempts to get forward and support the attack. However, now that Wenger’s keen on the 4-3-3 formation, Song’s style of play has adapted to suit the change. This season has seen Song become something of a box-to-box player. The good news for Arsenal fans is that this has brought them a new source of goals. Alex Song already has four goals this season (he has scored in each of his last three games) and none were more important that his 88th minute header against West Ham. After the game, Wenger had this to say about Song: “He has got the taste to go forward, even if I think a little too much sometimes for a holding midfielder! But that is part of our game as well”. There’s the problem – without wanting to take away from Song’s good goal and great overall performance, his ventures forward can sometimes leave Arsenal open at the back. You wonder if Wenger will have a little word in Song’s ear, asking him to curtail some of his attacking instincts.

Arshavin is lacking in fitness and drive:
In a previous article I mentioned that Arshavin was looking a little worse for wear. Not everybody agreed with my prognosis at the time, because statistically Arshavin was still producing the goods. Now, however he’s gone seven games without a goal, and fans may not be looking so favourable upon the diminutive Russian. The energy and the determination just don’t seem there anymore. Arsenal needed somebody to pick the game up by the scruff of its neck and carry them across the finishing line, but Arshavin went missing once more. It’s all the more disappointing because we know the kind of form he’s capable of producing. Let’s hope that he turns a corner and soon.

Clichy CAN cross:
Just when Arsenal fans were about to give up, Clichy received the ball in space, looked up and curled in an inch perfect pass – just far enough away from Robert Green, but close enough for Song to make contact. Clichy is a player better known for his pace and defensive ability. His crossing has often left something to be desired in the past. He’s improved since the days when his each and every cross would end up in the stands, but nobody was expecting a cross of this quality from the right foot of Gael Clichy. Perhaps he has been practising, perhaps something just clicked – whatever it was, Arsenal fans will hope that Clichy can continue to deliver the goods.

Arsenal can win tough scrappy games:
For a short period of time, it probably appeared as though it was going to be one of those days Arsenal fans know all too well. Despite all their attacking prowess, it appeared as though Arsenal weren’t going to make the breakthrough that they require in order to maintain their title challenge. They hit the woodwork twice and were met on other occasions by an on form Robert Green.This time they made their dominance pay with Song’s 88th minute goal. This is a refreshing change from the result they picked up at Sunderland a couple of weeks ago, where they could only pick muster a 1-1 draw. Everybody’s looking at how Arsenal perform against the big teams this season, but if they don’t get these kind of results then they wont even be up there competing with the big teams.

Cesc’s hamstring is a real worry:
Fabregas’ hamstring has been the source of a lot of bother for about the last month or so. It clearly affected his performance against West Ham on the weekend. After the game, he told reporters: The first half was probably the worst first half I’ve done in my life because I didn’t have confidence. I couldn’t turn, I couldn’t sprint, I was losing every ball. But after in the second half I had strapping, it was a little bit better, and maybe because we wanted to win so much I didn’t think about it that much. But we see how it reacts.” What’s worrying is that this injury just doesn’t seem to be going away. Hamstrings usually take a couple of weeks or so to recover, but Fabregas has had a problem with his for over a month now and it’s still affecting his football. It’s likely that it’ll be a couple of weeks before we see him again, meaning that he’ll miss games against Shakhtar Donetsk, Newcastle and Wolves.

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