Arsene Wenger is not known for nullifying the opposition, but against West Ham he took steps to do just that by starting Francis 'Cockles' Coquelin alongside Mathieu 'Flames' Flamini. No wonder the 2-1 victory at Upton Park warmed the cockles of Arsenal hearts!
The returning Laurent Koscielny heralded some much-needed defensive solidity to the back four, but I fear the France international may be in and out of the team unless he has completely recovered from the Achilles problem that has dogged him this season.
What made this victory all the more impressive was West Ham's ascent to nose-bleed territory in the Premier League. This was a game where mistakes would be punished, so Arsenal duly stepped up to the plate.
Danny Welbeck, amongst others, showed why he was one of the bargains of the last transfer window, by scoring the winner and causing West Ham problems with his pace. I'm not sure why some say the jury's still out on him, as his industry has already completely won me over.
Other strange things I've read on the Internet include 'Gibbs and Chambers can't defend'. Okay, they didn't start against West Ham, but I still maintain both will become Arsenal legends.
Chambers had a blistering start to his Arsenal career but had had to backpedal a bit of late, since being moved from position to position in the back four. I see him as a centre back personally, so I'd be loath to play him at right back against a quick
left wide man (especially with the pacy Hector Bellerin waiting in the wings).
Gibbs is another kettle of fish entirely. Very few Gooners prefer Monreal to Gibbs at left back, but Nacho is more experienced and perhaps earned his selection based on that. Additionally, Gibbs may have needed a rest, which maybe the real reason he was left out.
Whatever the reasons behind the mildly curious team selection, it's time to enjoy 6 points from two games against London opposition.
Next up is Southampton, who have just taken points from league leaders Chelsea. Perhaps this will be the toughest test of this festive period so far, given the way they knocked us out of the League Cup (if I'm allowed to still call it that!).
We'll soon see if Wenger rates them or not, as I'd suggest a team with Flames alongside Cockles will show Le Boss is taking the Saints seriously. The only drawback is if this midfield partnership continues to prove itself successful, it will discourage Wenger from spending on the transfer front.
Still, it's results we want, not necessarily extra bodies. Unless we're talking about Mats Hummels, of course, who I see as a necessary addition to the back four. What a fine late Christmas present the Germany international would be for the Arsenal faithful, particularly if Podolski moves to Inter Milan on loan leaving the Gunners with one less World Cup winner in the squad.
Before I sign off, let me suggest that Wenger makes the following New Year's resolution: to buy players when necessary and not to always try to paper over cracks with stop-gap solutions.
Having said that, Cockles deserves another Arsenal chance, which makes the likelihood of a recruit in central midfield quite remote. However, here's wishing for a top central defender and a trophy for 2015 (and I don't mean the Emirates Cup either!).
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