Two goals from Alexis Sanchez gave Arsenal the points against Hull City yesterday and three much-needed points they were. A bitter chill ran through the Emirates with little to warm supporters hearts beyond seeing their beloved Arsenal play.
Supposedly Mark Clattenburg apologised to the Hull players at half-time for missing Alexis’ ‘handball that never was’. We’re still waiting for Martin Atkinson to do the same for missing Marcos Alonso’s forearm smash across Hector Bellerin’s face last weekend. Hell will probably freeze over before that happens.
Let’s be clear: there was no handball. Ball to hand rather than deliberate and no-one but Alexis knows if he intended to carry his hand and arm in an entirely natural position. The other consideration is whether it made a whole heap of difference? Had his hand not been there his chest, face and head were; the ball was ending up in the back of the net.
As it was, the goal gave us a just-about-deserved lead at half-time. While Arsène overstated Hull’s abilities after the game, they were a half-decent team and at least had a go at playing football, unlike so many teams who come to the Emirates just to defend.
There was some sort of torture after the opening goal as we retreated into our shells and didn’t chase a handsome victory. The defeats against Watford and Chelsea injected caution into our play; we’d have liked another goal but weren’t prepared to take the risks required to score it. Or weren’t ready to leave a stuttering defence open to the counter-attack.
Which is exactly how the second goal came. A Hull corner was cleared effectively to Mesut Özil and his pass into space gave Alexis the opportunity to round the errant run of the goalkeeper, before firing goalwards. Sam Clucas did what every good defender does, and handled on the line before refusing to look at the referee in the hope that the inevitable red card wasn’t being brandished. It was, unfortunately for him.
Afterwards, Arsène told the press that it was calculated performance, as opposed to the tentative one we all witnessed. We’ll need to be at our best to win on Wednesday and at the very least, much-improved, to secure a vital scoring draw.
Wenger also denied that he was contemplating standing down at the end of the season. He was tired from working long hours, he said, rather than being fed up with the job as Ian Wright claimed. Reports this morning suggest Rafa Benitez is in the Arsenal board’s sights; that four-man shortlist for Wenger’s replacement is like a Gremlin: it’s been fed after midnight and more names are popping up on the list.
The important thing from yesterday was the three points. Arsenal up to third albeit temporarily, I’m sure. But we’re out of the losing rut; now it’s time to rev up for Bayern.