When I saw the team sheet today, I was actually a lot less concerned pre-match than I have been mostly this season.
The team had very good balance to it and all the players put a good shift in, although that should be a given.
As embarrassing as the antics at the Stoke railway station were, I sensed it would add a little spice to our season, whether negative or positive I couldn’t call but 8 goals in the last couple of games is a massive improvement.
In spite of Wenger’s major flaws the players’ lack of effort has been disgraceful for months and should take large portion of the blame, they seem to have regrouped to fight for their boss rather than just speaking about it now.
Now the reason I was quite confident in the team was because of the balance.
In attack we had a focal point in Giroud with 2 quick runners that boast superb work-rate either side of him, it’s perfect conditions for the link-up forward Olivier and we look dynamic with that front 3. I’m sure Ozil will be licking his lips, we’re still missing his final pass.
On to the midfield which I liked although we’re missing great players in this area it was well mixed. The 4-3-3 formation hasn’t been great to us this season but it was against Newcastle as we had 1 playmaker in Santi Cazorla, Oxlade performed a good box-to-box role whilst Flamini sat deep.
Usually we have too many players that want the ball when we play Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta and Ozil within this system and our game becomes very sluggish and slow.
Everyone had a different role today thus allowing Cazorla to flourish in possession with 3 attack minded forwards ahead of him.
I hope now with the realisation of an array of attacking talent that doesn’t even see Podolski or Campbell get a look in Wenger can stop playing No. 10’s out wide and use the more attack minded options we have. All in all this will enhance the options of whoever is our main creator on the day.
I do think Oxlade is a long way from regularly appearing in central areas but he’s good in a trio as he gives us great energy and penetration and as long as there’s a more adept passer beside him he’ll bring some good there for us.
It was similar to the way we started against Galatasaray in a way. Just Ramsey and Santi the difference.
Defensively although barely tested we looked okay. Debuchy is much better equipped to play central than Monreal, as Wenger said he does have the attributes to play there and is probably the closest player we have to Koscielney when looking for solutions.
He is quick, very good in the air considering his height, he’s a good tackler and my favourite attribute of all is his fight and character. Without seeing him play central I knew we’d be better off than when we’ve used Monreal there solely for that reason. I’m a big fan.
Gibbs was solid but Bellerin was the real star back there, going forward it doesn’t surprise that he’s a Barcelona product, he’s very adventurous and gets into great situations as he did for his assist.
He has a lot to improve on defensively and will need to get stronger to play at this level on a weekly basis however he will get better with experience.
Even if he’s not the most efficient tackler his speed allows him to recover well and having another body to beat for the opposition is always beneficial for us.
I personally would have liked to see Martinez get a prolonged run in the team as I think Szcesney needs to realise his stern competition and not feel like he can walk straight back in the team but he was solid when called upon so no complaints there.
It was a good performance and one that doesn’t surprise really as we can dispatch any team outside the top 6 at
the Emirates it’s Anfield that will be the bigger test for us to see if we’re really ready to turn a corner this season!
Wenger’s ardent supporters complain that he doesn’t get enough credit when we win so I will give him this, as although the team selection from the defence to midfield was more or less enforced on him he got the balance correct.
Also taking Giroud off on a hat-trick to give Podolski a chance was a good bold call. If any other forward went off we’d have suddenly lost our counter-attacking threat at a time Newcastle were beginning to find a way back in.
Podolski and Giroud in our front line would have encourage Newcastle to push up more, so a very wise call by Arsene there.