By Tim Todd on his couch
Thank the gods for Alexis Sanchez. The Tocopilla Tornado, a man who never seems to stop running, never seems to stop attacking, never seems to stop defending, Alexis Sanchez embodies all that fans want from a footballer. If only Arsenal had 11 Alexis Sanchez’s.
The crowd was spartan, not literally Spartans — that might have been fun to see the Spartan crowd slay the Albion supporters, but rather just sparsely populated as the combination of tube strikes, Thursday football, late-season ennui, and the call of a cool beer in a pub and watching Arsenal on television begged many fans to stay home. And as is the norm with an Arsenal crowd, those who were in attendance were sitting quietly, politely watching the match unfold.
Arsenal were playing football the Arsenal way and lulling the crowd to sleep with some highly accurate sideways passing when Alexis fell from the heavens, stepped in front of Ramsey’s pass, and turned so fast that he actually had to reach down and grab a bit of the earth to stop himself being flung off by centrifugal force.
Bypassing his marker Sandro, who looked like a cart horse and cart, Alexis looked up at the goal and from 20 yards out uncorked a champagne blast into the lower corner. The shot reminded the gathered fans why they go to football matches. They lept to their feet in joy and rained down cheers on Alexis.
Meanwhile, Sandro was still doing the math on how a cart horse and cart is supposed to do a 180 degree turn.
The way Alexis took the shot gave the impression that he was just fed up with Arsenal not winning and if someone else wasn’t going to win the game then he might as well do it.
Energized by the early goal, the crowd settled back in for a nap. This respite was made especially easy by the West Brom goalkeeper taking two minutes over every goal kick before kicking the ball out of touch.
Arsenal tried to liven the game up again with some incisive play around the West Brom box and Alexis again provided the spark, slipping in Elneny and Bellerin for some shots. And West Brom for their part remembered that they are a football team and managed to work the ball into the Arsenal end so that they could win their all-important corners.
I firmly believe that Tony Pulis’ one tactic is to get the ball to a wide man and his job is to get as deep as possible into the opposition half before trying to kick the ball off a defender and win a corner. I firmly believe this because that is what I saw.
Meanwhile, Arsenal played right into this tactic. Even at 2-0 up they played eight outfield players in the center forward positions leaving Per Mertesacker alone on more than one occasion with Salomon Rondon. Gods bless you Arsenal, never change! How else will I know that I’m watching Arsenal if I’m not screaming “WHY THE … ARE WE PLAYING A HIGH LINE AT 2-0 UP???” at the television?
The tactics make sense because West Brom play with six center backs. Shakespeare might say they make the beast with six center backs. If you know your Shakespeare then you are pretty grossed out right now about making six backs with Sandro, McAuley, Olsson, and the other three hulking dudes that I can’t name off the top of my head.
McAuley hit the crossbar with one of their corners and with West Brom fully spent from that penetration, they decided that was enough excitement for week and went back to play defense.
Sandro has at this point fully turned the cart and horse and stands in midfield beaming like a child who drew his first picture of mommy and daddy. Alexis collects the ball near him, runs circles around him three times, Sandro falls over, and the cart and horse collapse with little tweety birds circling his head.
Meanwhile, on my couch, I was looking up things on my phone. Summer is threatening and I ripped my shorts the other day. Yes, I was actually bending over to pick something up. How did you know my shorts are very old? I’m not fat. I’m big arsed.
Then Arsenal won a free kick! Ramsey! He was tripped.
Alexis set Mertesacker and Giroud in the wall and West Brom didn’t notice that Arsenal had just put our two tallest players in their wall. It was like that one time I was at that fancy French restaurant and they secretly swapped my coffee for a Big Fucking German and a Giant Handsome Frenchman. I don’t know how I didn’t notice.
Then Alexis tried to kill Mertesacker (this is a reference to the one time Sir Alex of Ferguson once said an Arsenal player tried to kill Robin van Persie by kicking the ball at his head) and luckily Mertesacker did what he does best and ducked an aerial challenge. The ball went in as Bananas Foster stood and wondered how Mertesacker and Giroud got in the wall. I expect an episode of “How it got Made: Arsenal’s second goal against West Brom” will uncover the mystery.
The second goal ensured that everyone could go on vacation.
Sandro was first, he was taken off to work on his cart horse turning mechanics. West Brom created one final good chance, from a… wait for it… CORNER. It was the third time in the game that no one on Arsenal collected, claimed, headed, or really noticed the ball in the box. This time when it fell to the back post where there was a West Brom “forward” he cleared the ball off the line. Saving his team the ignominy of scoring a goal.
Alexis was taken off for a much deserved early shower. After the match, Arsene Wenger said that this was a top quality performance and that fans should be here, enjoying this quality.
If you love football, you go out there and I think you see quality football. That’s what we try to give to our people. It was a special night as well, Thursday night, and I don’t know if you are intelligent enough, nor am I, to detect exactly why everybody that did not turn up tonight did not turn up.
I don’t expect Arsene Wenger to give anything less than a glowing review of any match that Arsenal win. But I love football and I don’t think yesterday was “quality” football. I think Arsenal have a special player who caught a West Brom side on vacation. That second goal in particular was the kind of defending that you don’t see from a team who are on their game. The same goes for the numerous chances that Arsenal conceded from undefended corners.
If a lot of people stayed away from the Emirates because they couldn’t be bothered, well that makes perfect sense to me. This is the end of our season of ennui.