Purely in terms of results, this has actually been a good week. It doesn’t feel like it for obvious reasons, but a 3-0 win and a 2-0 win are good results, not only because of the victories, but the nature of them too. We played very well in both games and rarely looked troubled at the back. We also played some stellar football and hopefully we’ll continue to do so despite the midweek aggregate result.
The first thing to mention when speaking about the game last weekend was the quality of the goals. The kind of passing and movement that was on display was impossible to live with for the opposition defenders.
West Ham seemed to be content to soak up pressure in their final third and try to hit us on the break with the pace of Sakho, Downing and Jarvis. It didn’t work mostly because we pressed them hard and high, winning the ball back quickly and preventing them from getting at our defence.
Recently we’ve been allowing our opponents to have the ball in their half, so by pressing higher we stopped the supply of searching balls down our flanks to their forwards.
Tactically it worked a treat, with the Hammers only having one shot on target and seeing only 32% of the ball.
For our part Wenger had obviously seen their counter attacking plan coming and deployed the superb Giroud to do what he does best, receive the ball under pressure and distribute to our attacking midfielders. With their defence sitting deep the game was made for him and he played very very well. This was a big departure from the United game which was all about counter attacking. This kind of tactical flexibility has made us unpredictable and dangerous.
(The game was also very good practice for Monaco, who were likely to play in a similar way, albeit with more quality).
I sincerely hope that the rumours that Walcott is leaving in the summer aren’t true. His very presence is enough to curb the enthusiasm of any full-back and when he’s fit and firing he gets goals.
He could and should have had a penalty against West Ham and he got himself into goalscoring positions. I thought he played well and he is an asset to the team. As he gets his form back I think he’ll get back to the Theo we know and love.
I feel that the communication and understanding between Coquelin and Rambo needs work. They can be forgiven for a few lapses because as central midfield partnerships go, this is a new one.
I’ll be looking out for an improvement between them because they have the potential to form a strong partnership.
He scored a good goal, but it demonstrated why Coquelin has been such a revelation. Why was he up there in the first place? While I understand that he had Coquelin behind him, if the attack had broken down both him and Ramsey, (and four others) were in West Ham’s penalty area. Coquelin and Chambers were over the halfway line, leaving just Mertesacker and Koscielny holding the fort in our half. Had the attack broken down, a long ball over and behind Chambers into an area Flamini should have been covering could have caused us all sorts of problems. For the score to have gone 2-1 would have made the last 7 minutes plus stoppage time very uncomfortable.
As tempting as it clearly was to join in an attack when we were two goals up and dominating, Flamini should have been next to or behind Coquelin in case we were countered.
We didn’t crash out of the Champions League, we were edged out by a decent team with good players, and I don’t feel too bad about it. I’ve written previously that we’re not good enough yet to beat the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich over two legs. Any games in Europe would have been a needless distraction, when we need to focus on realistic targets like a top three finish and winning the FA Cup.
As for the game itself, Monaco seemed to have a plan which they forgot about very quickly.
It looked to me like they wanted to slow down our play and bog us down in a midfield war of attrition.
Their pitch was dry and slow, and they started the game by aggressively closing down both the player on the ball and runners off it whenever we got into their half.
By only closing us down in their half they were unlikely to get too tired and would have looked to hit us on the break.
The problem that they had was that their plan allowed us to get into a rhythm after around 10 minutes. By the 20 minute mark they had completely surrendered control of the game and we punished them. The problem that we then had was that we didn’t punish them enough. We needed to have scored twice before half time, because they came out for the second half having learnt not to invite as much pressure. They played a little higher and it took us longer to dominate them again, by which time it was too late. Glorious failure is still failure.
Giroud isn’t considered by most to be top class. Part of the reason for this is performances like Monaco at home. He had a shocker, and top class players are consistent.
Once he eliminates the odd bad game here and there, I think people will start to appreciate how good he is. He’s mentally strong, he has a superb touch and his ability to pick out a pass in a crowded penalty area is second to none.
He’s been a revelation of late and his finishing has improved too. I’ll be surprised if Wenger brings in another centre forward this summer unless it’s back up for Giroud rather than competition.
In the build-up to Giroud’s goal against West Ham, Özil didn’t even seem to look before his initial pass to the goalscorer. He simply knew where to play the ball.
Against Monaco he was an inspiration and since coming back from injury he’s been an inspiration. If we can keep him happy and fit he can be the difference this season and next, when hopefully we’ll make a real push for glory.
They’ve got so many injuries/suspensions that this game should in theory be an easy three points, but as we all know, easy games in the League are rare.
What I worry about in situations like the one we’ll face at Newcastle tomorrow is players being given a chance and playing out of their skin for a place. Look at Coquelin. He got a chance through injuries and played so well he’s now one of the first names on the team sheet. Arteta and Wilshere will struggle to get back into the side. There will be players tomorrow with a point to prove. They will work hard, try to get at us and force their way into the starting 11.
We’ll need to put the midweek disappointment behind us and play them off the park. Depending on City’s result in the early kick-off we could end the weekend in 2nd.
Follow me on twitter (@CaptainDeeg) if you want to see me rant during the game.