Robin van Persie scored his 26th league goal of the season for Arsenal, countering Hatem Ben Arfa’s opener for Newcastle in what became a dramatic 2-1 win for the Gunners, putting them a point behind Tottenham in the battle for third. More importantly, the Arsenal captain showed signs that Arsenal might be growing out of their long and disappointing “soft” phase.
I guess it’s all relative. Put this team in front of any Alex Ferguson side or the Chelsea team of 2005-2010 and Van Persie looks like a lost puppy, but we’re not used to seeing the post-invincibles Arsenal like this. It was their fourth straight win while coming from a goal down (or more), a new Premier League record.
Thomas Vermaelen, the other bad-ass but often injured player on Arsenal, was the one who scored the dramatic winner. Arsene Wenger, who was seen performing is usual pose of clutching his face in the palm of his hands while thinking of the excuses he’ll make up after matches, actually said he believed they’d win all along. I guess he needs to watch the tapes again, but we’re used to Wenger talking about stuff that happened in a parallel universe.
Arsenal’s mental toughness doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Wenger. Players’ skills and such? I fully agree that Wenger knows how to breed and cultivate talent. Mental toughness? Winnerism? It’s all in the players, and Arsenal, who have been enjoying a much more confident keeper in a improved Wojciech Szczesny, look like a confident team, ready to overtake Tottenham at the third place.
Above all is Van Persie, and it’s no longer just his form and incredible scoring rate, which is at 26 league goals and 33 in all competitions this season. The more incredible number is his 44 goals in his last 45 Premier League matches. Simply incredible, very Messi/Ronaldo like.
Getting into a heated argument with Krul after Vermaelen’s goal wasn’t class, but it was class that was never missing from this team during the last six years. Venom, aggression, villainous. Champions, great teams, are made of that stuff as well. Just look at Barcelona, who are much more than Messi and tici-taca. It shows above all, about passion for the game, your team, and about giving a damn.