Rosicky's Return To Form Will Drag Arsenal Over The Finish Line
Well that was close. As Mertesacker brought down Long on the 72nd minute, I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking the self-destruct button was cowering somewhere, being hammered repeatedly.
We'd been in cruise control, playing at a canter with some - at times - almost perfect football. Two fine goals from the Little Mozart - Tomas Rosicky - had us pulling away from West Bromwich Albion, and it looked like we'd have to trip up fairly spectacularly for anything but a clear victory to be the outcome.
As this season has shown though, the Arsenal is more than capable of finding the occasional untied bootlace to stumble upon. And as Mertesacker stretched that lengthy limb out, trying in vain to make up for poor positioning, it looked like we'd do so again. That we didn't means that we're back in the top four at least until Tottenham play Everton, we're plum in a purple patch where our form is concerned and consistent at a time we really need it.
Poor Baggies finishing more than strong Gunner resolve helped get us there. Did we deserve to win? You'd say so. Rosicky deserved his MoM award as much as throwing on Vermaelen and Gibbs for Gervinho and the Super Tom made sense. Yet the worry is we're still a team struggling with some parts of our game. Having jumped the hurdle of questioned consistency, it seems that though less catastrophes are now occurring we're still less than cool under pressure.
Usually purveyors of fine possession statistics, once down to ten men it was all we could do to hoof clear and present chance after chance to the West Brom forward line. Giroud, a little anonymous but for a delicious backheel for the earlier Ramsey miss tried to put us up 3-1 in the 95th when it might have been wiser to head for the corner flag. The boss' post-match interview told the story of the stress we were all feeling. Struggling with a throat issue all last week, Arsene Wenger admitted he was somewhat more hoarse at the final whistle than he might have been.
That was the feeling on Twitter too, and no doubt also for Arsenal fans the world over. Digital messages turned to pleading, desperate, caps locked screams. Nerves were being frayed with every second of the five added minutes. And when Giroud went down hurt in injury time, there was more concern for the additional time added on than for the health of the Frenchman.
But such cumulative tension was the realisation of the importance of the match. A match which, similar to last season's away day visit to the Hawthorns was an absolutely must-win for all those connected with Arsenal. We looked shaky when down to ten men, we really did. We lost a centre back, a clean sheet, the boss darn near lost his voice, and we fans - like our players - pretty much lost our cool. But we did it...we did. We beat West Brom and we got the three points. What's more? We're well and truly back in the hunt.