Two weeks later than we had all hoped, our season finally started at Vicarage Road last Saturday. An impressive attacking display, consisting of both pace and purpose during the first forty five minutes, ensured that we went in to the interval, three goals to the good. With the points practically secured during the first half, our intensity levels in the second half didn’t quite match those of the first.
In the past we have thrown away, seemingly unassailable leads, which has led to some supporters believing that Arsene instructed the team to shut up shop in the second half. Personally, I consider this to be unlikely and our approach to the game during the first half was by no means, a gung-ho one. It is more likely that Arsene, simply instructed his team to continue where they had left off.
Having a big lead at the interval, can often make it difficult to maintain the same tempo for the remainder of the game. The players will have already considered the game to be won and in reality, they were never likely to repeat their performance from the first half, in the second. It was also evident, that the tactical and personnel changes made by Watford after the break, helped to them to make the game more of a contest.
In some ways, I can understand where the supporters who felt that we had missed an opportunity to give our goal difference a significant boost, by giving Watford a real hiding, were coming from. At times during the first half, it was evident that the home defence were struggling to contain the pace and movement of our forward line.
However, you could argue that there are occasions where the best option is to be content with what you already have. Had Watford managed to add a second goal with any real time left on the clock, we would have been left hanging on for the three points, despite facing a limited opponent. Thankfully, although our defence appeared vulnerable at times, we didn’t concede again.
Last season I was critical of a perceived lack of effort on Theo Walcott’s part and credit where it’s due, there has been a noticeable improvement so far in this campaign. There of course, remains room for improvement in his decision making and end product but his superb assist for our second goal last weekend is a good start.
After picking up our first three points of the season against the Hornets, there are some additional positives I will discuss. Arsene has frequently made comparisons between the return of an absent player and making a new signing. He is not far wide of the mark where Laurent Koscielny is concerned.
The are few defenders who possess the attributes to improve the quality of not one but two positions in their team. What I mean by this, is that when Laurent is in the side, whoever his central defensive partner is on the day, becomes a better player too. You could say that at times, having Koscielny in the side is like having an extra player.
Returning to the subject of new signings, Granit Xhaka’s display against Watford gave us a glimpse of what he is capable of. His vision and passing range is superb and he looks capable of providing the link that we’ve been missing between our defence and attack. He now needs to show that he is able to dictate play against top class opposition too.
A new centre back and forward have long been required and it has frequently been a case of better late than never, where Arsene is concerned. He gets there eventually but it is usually months or in some instances, years, after the rest of us. Thankfully he finally has delivered them in the form of Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez.
We will have to wait and see whether they prove to be of sufficient quality to take us to the next level but why were the deals left so late? From what my understanding, we have paid the original asking price for both players so you have to question the late timing. Both players will need to quickly adapt to their new surroundings.
Having seen very little of Mustafi, other than a handful of international appearances, and only a few highlights of Perez, I will reserve my judgement on their signatures. However, it is pleasing that Arsene has at least made an attempt to find solutions for those two positions.
The past goalscoring record of our new frontman has already been questioned by some Arsenal supporters but up until the last campaign, he had been playing out wide. Meaning very little should be read into his statistics to date. All we can do, like with any new arrival, is give him a chance and make a judgement on what he does for us. Shkodran and Lucas will both have my immediate full support.
It is perhaps inevitable that when there are new arrivals, there will also be departures. It would appear that Arsene finally recognises that Calum Chambers’ development would benefit from a loan spell, after allowing him to join Middlesbrough for the season. This is something I said should have happened before the start of the last campaign. Like I said, he does get there in the end.
Arsene’s treatment of Joel Campbell last season was bizarre. After initially struggling to find form, he began to impress with his work rate and creativity. It was shortly after this, that he found himself back out in the wilderness. During pre season I thought he looked sharpe and anticipated him being a useful squad member. The decision to loan him was a bit of a surprise but if Walcott can continue his recent improvement and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can fulfil his potential, Joel won’t be missed too much.
The biggest talking point in terms of our departures is without doubt, Jack Wilshere’s loan move to Bournemouth. Had the loan been a short term one, two or three months, then I’d be in complete agreement. It is clear that in order for Jack to regain his form and fitness, he needs to play regularly and he is too far down the pecking order to be able to do that with us.
Some supporters believe Jack has displayed a lack of ambition by choosing Bournemouth as his temporary home. I disagree and think that suggestion, is complete nonsense. First and foremost, Jack needs to play regular football and he will get an opportunity to do that at Bournemouth, if and when he’s fit. I also believe Eddie Howe’s side, have a style of play that will allow Jack to flourish. Let’s hope he comes back having proved a point.
Serge Gnabry has also departed the club on a permanent basis. I would have been happier to have seen him sent on on loan and some reports suggest that Arsene did make attempts to keep him. But in fairness, how many youngsters have returned to haunt us after leaving during Arsene’s tenure?
He does get somethings right, let’s hope Arsene and the team have done exactly that come May….