There’s not much more that needs to be said about Arsenal’s memorable 5-3 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday. I could repeat what everyone else has said about the entertainment and sheer brilliance of Robin van Persie, but that would render me somewhat pointless.
So instead I’m going to focus on the performance of the player that interested me the most – Andre Santos, our new left-back.
Since joining from Fenerbache on that hectic last day of the summer transfer window, the bulky Brazilian has rotated with Kieran Gibbs for the left-back slot vacated by Gael Clichy. He already has as many goals in a couple of months at Arsenal as Clichy managed in his entire eight years with the Gunners, but has divided opinion so far among fans as he comes across as slow and suspect defensively.
We got the best of both this weekend. His first half was poor, as he allowed Juan Mata to get in the cross for Lampard’s goal far too easily. Later in the half Ramires didn’t need too much skill to waltz past him and into the box either. Not great, but at times he was clearly part of a defence that was playing a very high line and struggling as a unit anyway. I’d say if he’s going to survive in the Premier League he will need to lose a few pounds, which would hopefully see him gain a little speed and flexibility.
In the second half, however, he improved immensely, and showed that he has the ingredients to be a solid defender. He made a crucial block from a late Mata shot, and repeatedly broke up play on Chelsea’s right.
And of course, he scored a nice goal. It has to be said he was gifted a hell of a lot of room by the roaming Bosingwa, and given a lot to aim at by the seriously in-decline Petr Cech. Still, he exploited the space and showed the composure in that kind of position that Clichy simply never could. His goal was arguably the most important of the lot, giving us a much-needed lift immediately after the break.
If we played a 4-4-2, I think he’d be worth a try as a left winger, given his goal scoring record and attacking ability. However, we obviously don’t play that system and he simply would not fit in as a winger-forward or as one of the middle three.
Wenger should perhaps pick and choose what games he plays him in carefully, as he does look like he might struggle with quick, nippy wingers. Still, he’s a good alternative to Gibbs, and it is nice to have genuine competition in that position. Hopefully he will only get better once we adapts to the English game, and we’ll see plenty more exotic dances!
Elsewhere, praise really must go to Koscielny, Song and Ramsey for all simply doing their jobs so well. They provided the platform for van Persie to perform, and how well this seems to be working for the Dutchman, who has done something even Henry or Bergkamp never managed – a hat trick on the ground of one of the ‘big teams’. I hesitate to use the words ‘fellow title challengers’, but perhaps now I shouldn’t.