After the events in midweek an Arsenal fan would be forgiven if he were found to be hoping for a draw at the Liberty Stadium. I was also one of those people even despite knowing that Gomis was not at his best. All the hope and ‘cohesion’ in the world would be soon forgotten in the aftermath of a second loss inside a week and it would be a really bad time to lose. With Bayern Munich in midweek and the Sp*rs at the next weekend, a derailment was on the cards if we lost this one. Thankfully, we took a well ground out 3 points from the Swans and improved our goal difference in the process. I credit this win to Wenger’s team talk at half time, and to the pseudo substitution at half time.
There was no substitution at half time you say? I don’t agree with you, and the commentators on my stream of the match agreed with me as well. Mesut Ozil had an anonymous first half, as anonymous as it gets for the German. If we have a look at the main threats on goal in the first half from Arsenal, you will see that in the build up to the shot- whether on target or off- Ozil was not present. The ball that fell to Campbell was not from Ozil, the pass to Giroud which he hit first time was from Sanchez and in general the German was making uncharacteristic errors on the ball, both forced and unforced.
Maybe it was something to do with squad mentality because the first half was distinctly’ un-Arsenal’, if I am allowed to say so. Passes were lost every few minutes and in dangerous areas that too. I don’t remember which team this was against, maybe Bayern, but there was a match where Alexis kept losing the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch with square passes and needless dribbles. Suffice to say that Arsenal seemed to be fielding a team of 5-6 Alexis’s, and usually that is a good thing but it was not!
During the first 45 minutes of the match Mesut didn’t do much worth taking note of. I did notice him tracking back along with the rest of the squad though. Every time we lost the ball there was a three pronged press from our front line-Giroud at the centre, Campbell on the right and Mesut surprisingly on the left. Unsurprisingly, Arsenal were also not at their best. Without Ozil and Cazorla pulling the strings behind the frontline and Alexis a long way off his best, we were lucky to even muster the couple of shots at goal that we did.
The stats (or the lack of them) tell a sad tale for our team at half time and especially for Ozil. Take a look for yourselves-
An overall rating of 5.92( from Whoscored.com), 0 shots on target, 0 tackles successful with one attempted, dispossessed exactly 0 times, 0 dribbles successful and 89% pass completion with 28 passes completed. Interestingly 16 of these were forward passes which says a lot about Ozil’s mentality and also about the fact that the team wasn’t doing well. Usually one of the Ozil forward passes counts as a key pass. This is all put into perspective when you see that Ozil had the ball only 5.3% of the time proportionately and Jonjo Shelvey and Ashley Williams had 7.7% and 8.8% respectively.
The second half was markedly different with Ozil enjoying 11.2% of the possession, which was the highest number in the half. In the second half he wasn’t dribbled past a single time and effected an interception too. He was the highest rated player in the second half with a rating of 8.21. He completed 29 passes out of an attempted 32 and five of those were key passes which had an impact on the game. His two assists sealed the game for us.
Keeping these stats in mind, I would say that Ozil pretty much came into his own after the team talk. When Ozil has more of the ball it means we have better penetration in general because he plays more forward passes than backward most of the time. It also means that the team as a whole is imposing itself on the game because he is being allowed more time on the ball. Swansea started a bit deep and they stayed that way throughout the game which meant Ozil had no problem controlling the second half with his incisive passing and intelligent positioning.
Some moments in a match really stand out for me and not always because they involve some technical brilliance but also because they have a greater significance in the overall scheme if things. Going along with the naming of the column, I am going to call these ‘Stellar Moments’ from now on and this match had a lot of those, but I will try to keep it short. So here goes-
1.) Campbell going past three players: Joel Campbell picked up the ball deep in the opposition half and jinked past two defenders before body feinting away from the third. This display from him does not surprise me because he is a player who was played at a World Cup for his nation, and that too for Costa Rica who do not have a dearth of attacking options. This was a good display from him both of commitment and of skill. The desire he has to prove himself to the manager and the fans will only benefit us these few weeks that he will own the position on the right wing.
2.) Ozil taking the corner which led to the goal: Cazorla had taken our first corner in the match and it wasn’t exactly the best corner the world had ever seen. The next time that we won a corner, Santi Cazorla was already standing over the ball but then Ozil took responsibility. He is always accused of not doing so and this was a very positive step from him. It is important that he believes he can make a difference and it appears he does so. We got the goal as much due to Giroud’s smart movement in the box as due to Ozil’s decision to take the corner.
3.) Cazorla calling Mertesacker over when we won a free kick: The only thing TV viewers have over fans in the stands is that we get to see the player’s interactions close up. This is something I am thankful for. Today I saw Santi Cazorla clearly bellowing at Per Mertesacker to come up to the opposition penalty box in the 76th minute, when we had already knocked in 2 goals. This tells us that the team must have significantly improved their set piece deliveries and must have practised these a lot, and also that we have the desire to close out games which might have been lacking sometimes earlier.
4.) Giroud coming down to our right back position to help out to Bellerin: You might be wondering why I singled Giroud out for this praise when Campbell was doing it all the time in the match. Well Campbell is a player on his last chance and Giroud is a player on a run of form. When Giroud does it you know that this is more a team mentality than a single man’s desperation. Giroud was defending, defending I tell you! He was trying to block the shot from Montero no less.
5.) Hector Bellerin colliding with the post at light speed: His collision with the post yesterday was scary, because he was going for the ball at full speed. He was oblivious of the fact that he was going to collide with the post, and also to the fact that Ayew was offside. His clearance after Gomis missed the goal was also a big save for us. There are no words that can describe his importance to us. This is a legend in the making here, let’s keep him our own.
One point to note from the game is that our defensive efforts were concentrated on the right side of the pitch just behind the halfway line and around the periphery of the centre circle, where Santi weaves his magic; and the attacking efforts are concentrated around the left side of the pitch where Sanchez cuts back on his right and Ozil normally plays. The heat map is somewhat misleading because of Joel Campbell’s presence but narrowing it down to Ozil and Cazorla we see that the one two’s that they so commonly play to each other have a very specific reason, it is because during counters Ozil is free and the ball being won is instantly passed to him most of the times. You can see a couple of one two’s in this match too, where Santi and Mesut carved apart 4 Swansea men. This dynamic is very important and shows up on the statistics too- Cazorla and Ozil have shared 28 passes between themselves in the match.
With Ozil having notched up 9 assists over all competitions in this season he sits well at the top of the assist charts, with Douglas Costa on 6. Having scored twice also, this makes it 11 direct contributions to our goals column and it averages out to a direct contribution to a goal just over every 101 minutes. Should this rich vein of form continue I see no problem in overcoming Bayern or Sp*ds.
Olivier Giroud: This man has made a knack of turning up when we need the first goal. He used to score late on but now he seems to be scoring freely. His defensive contributions have gone up; his shielding of the ball was always excellent. He is taking down more long balls than ever before and his attitude remains professional. I don’t know what else he can do for us. It was his 150th game and I am happy he marked it with a goal.
Joel Campbell: If there ever was a man who personified desperation and determination on a football pitch, it was Campbell last night. He was playing almost as a secondary RB and his finishing was top notch when he scored the goal. He was determined to make a point to everybody and I daresay he has started very well in making it.
Jonjo Shelvey: Swansea owned the first half midfield battle only because of this guy. He created two chances for them and got stuck into every place he could. He was able to stand up to our midfield and that is a compliment to him.