50/50 balls, defensive kingpins – Gunners’ ruthless defence never forgot The Arsenal Way

It’s probably around 9am Kenyan time, Wednesday morning- I
just like several Arsenal fans all around the world still can’t get over the
thought of watching Mesut Ozil get his first goal for the club, Olivier Giroud’s
first of the night and more than ever- a beaten Napoli side that couldn’t
fathom a reply save for a few shots from distance.

‘’This Arsenal are in the mood and when they are- boy, they
are unstoppable,’’ said a very popular commentator during the Napoli game. At
this moment it was probably minute 16 and as a Gooner you would sit back and
think, surely we were going to run riot. Wasn’t the case though but for what we
lacked in finishing (in some instances) the players made up for it in several
minutes of possession play.

I promised to write for this site a while back but events
around this country haven’t made it easy for me to, glad we are here now. I’ve
watched the Arsenal do a few things over the past few weeks and I’ve learnt
that two things, the world thought we forgot how to do are back with us.  Check them out, see if you agree with me- and
hopefully enjoy the read.

50/50 balls

I’m no fan of high end tackles, long jumps and dirty play-
probably it’s the way I grew up to love the game- the Arsenal way, but one
thing for a fact is, each team I have learnt to love, those I have loved to
learn about and those I have learnt to loved eternally always have the guy who
does the dirty work.

It’s no guarantee that for every Wojciech Szczesny goal kick or long throw,
the ball has to fall on an Arsenal foot- the players have to work for it.
Mostly, the ball ends up somewhere in midfield or slightly above the halfway
line.

In the past, we have been accused of not being able to go
high up for the challenges; I think the critics suddenly have a change of mind
and a sorry to back up their new found status. Before the ball gets back to the
floor, where we need it, somebody needs to go high up and get it and that’s
what players in the body of Mathieu Flamini and Giroud do perfectly well for us
right now.

It’s not just in the Napoli game, the past few matches (West
Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Stoke City) have brought out the best in our
capability to fight for the aerial balls and hold up play as support arrives.

Isn’t it now even with more confidence that we face West Brom
on Sunday, host Norwich City at home as we seek to make it three wins when Borussia
Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp visit the Emirates on the 22nd of this
month.

Defensive Kingpin

I once read this in the Mirror sometime back last week and I
thought the writer must have taken too long to write it ‘sometimes you don’t
need the speed to play in centre defence, you just need to make the timing
right and the ball on your feet’

Whom am I describing? It’s the big German. Not so talked
about when he first signed on the dotted line for us, I’ve increasingly learnt
to appreciate his merits more than learn to appreciate what an everyday fan
would call his strong points.

It’s not just goals against Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham (last
season) and Stoke (this season); he brings with his height the fear factor we
have all craved for not just when attacking set pieces but even when defending
them. My friends joke a lot every time Arsenal defend a set piece, their
thoughts if I would try and put them in the least words would be- ‘If Per jumps
and the ball still goes over his head, then be sure, it’s never gonna dip down
under the bar’. Not sure how true that is but it best expresses the safety and
comfort of the keeper when Per is right there before him.

I might have not praised Laurent Koscielny so much as I Per
but did you notice one thing, Koscielny gets to those balls but somehow the
calls go against him. Not his fault though, but the fact that the two have
learnt to complement each other even in the absence of the Captain is a plus
for our side. The fact that both can interchange between going forward and
staying at the back-with both actions instilling fear on the opponent gives us
the advantage.

I’m not going to write for long, this was meant to be a
sharp reminder to all those who thought we forgot what to do. So much has been
said about how, ‘we don’t’- you only wish they can say how much ‘we do’ now.
The next few games are going to be crucial; the big leap we have taken at the
start should produce a much bigger jump at the tail end of the season. Best of
wishes to the Arsenal, quick recovery to the injured and as we say it- No
matter the score line, just one more goal!

John Aggrey, owns a website www.superfoota.co.ke , a football site
(voted best sports blog in Kenya 2013) that talks about the beautiful game in
Kenya. He writes for HITC Sport London and is a big Arsenal fan. Check him out
on Twitter @Superjohna07

John Aggrey


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