The most misquoted lines in the most famous play in all of history reads “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet…”
You probably know it as, “Would a rose by any other name not smell as sweet?”
Whichever way you look at it however, there was nothing Shakespearan about Arsenal FC on Saturday.
It wasn’t the poetic flow we’ve become accustomed to whenever Arsenal take the pitch. No flamboyance. Not even the moral victory that has always been a feature of Arsenal in recent years. The goal itself was offside. Furthermore, it was scrappy. The goal secured the 1-0. Just a 1-0. Against the bottom placed club in the Barclays Premier League. Nothing more to write home about. No exquisite slide rule pass. No blitzkrieg counter attack. It was just that. 1-0.
In the end though, it fully emphasized Shakespear’s point. A scrappy win is still a win, regardless. Not by any other name will it be anything else. A win is a win.
And in light of Arsenal’s recent run, they were more than happy to take it as it was.
However, the manner in which it was eventually acquired masked the truth about the game. Arsenal thoroughly deserved all three points regardless. They dominated midfield. With Jack Wilshere back, his combination with Mikel Arteta and Santi Carzola was seamlessly brilliant. They kept it, passed it, zipped it, distributed it and rarely lost it. That, at least, meant that even before Stephan Mbia’s ludicrous action to get himself sent off for QPR, Arsenal were winning the game in as far as playing terms were concerned.
The reason though that they weren’t winning it in as far as the scoreline was concerned was that the front three was nowhere near as good as the midfield three. No fluidity and movement to open up spaces for the chances to be created. And Julio Cesar was having a blinder of a game in the QPR goal.
That was until, with QPR reduced to ten, Arsenal capitalised on their numerical advantage. In the end, it was Arteta, but it wasn’t artistic. Offside he may have been, but it all happened so fast. Arshavin’s cross, Olivier Giroud’s header, Julio Cesar’s palms, Arteta’s header, crossbar, back to Arteta, back of the net. No time to react. No one pointed out the offside. The QPR defenders didn’t even appeal for it. Only later, after countless replays, reverse angles, still images, lines drawn across the pitch, was it recognisable as offside. They’d gotten away with something that no one had actually noticed in the first place.
But that is not the only thing that Arsenal survived. They also survived the battle and battering handed out to them by QPR. QPR did everything; clipped their heels, knocked their kness; anything to stop the Gunners from playing. So convincing was Mark Hughes about that strategy that even Granero bought into it. Esteban Granero. Silky and elegant Granero. A great paser of the ball. A man who years ago would probably have been on Arsene Wenger’s shopping list. He was bought from Real Madrid. Real Madrid of all teams. He is Spanish. Spain of all countries. And rather than kick the ball about like a Madrileno or a Spaniard, he went about kicking the Arsenal men around, to the point of almost seeing a second yellow.
That however is the basis upon which other less technical teams will play against Arsenal. Bully them around. Mix their determination with hard work, organisation and physicality. And that has been where Arsenal have stuttered for the past seven years. Hint of physicality usually followed by a hint of giving up from Arsenal. The beautiful football remains beautiful. But in the midst of flying boots and raised elbows, the efficiency vanishes.
Saturday was a step in the right direction though. A hint that maybe that bit of gamecraft has started developing. Gamecraft – that extra ability and strength that bridges the gap between knowing how to win, and actually winning. Some will utter mental strength. Hold your horses though. Mental strength cannot be judged by one game. It comes about from a series of games won with the elan of gamecraft. That breeds character. Character that ensures no matter what the circumstances, the belief to win is there.
It is that character to win that has been lacking in the past seven years (and there is damning evidence to that effect). If Arsenal re-discover it, then maybe this could be the year to beak the drought. For with it, the phrase a win is a win, a rose is a rose, makes much more sense.
Meanwhile follow the writer Mike Njoroge on Twitter at @mikenjoro