Well, that went a bit better, didn’t it? A convincing win at home, some breathtaking football and a clean sheet on top. Yummy.
Of course we have to take a toothless Bournemouth into account. Eddie Howe’s side offered precious little and at one point the commentator said it was probably the worst he has seen the Cherries perform. Bournemouth suffered a fourth consecutive loss and it looks like they are in for a long campaign.
However, while the Cherries are a side I quite like, I’m not overly concerned with their fate or problems. Arsenal needed a confidence booster, a soothing balm to calm the nerves, and yesterday was all about that. We won, convincingly, and that’s all that matters at this stage. Let’s take a look at different aspects of this win.
I was wrong when I suggested the Gunners will go back to 4 at the back. I feared this switch because I had every reason to believe Wenger would stick to Ramsey and Xhaka in midfield. Removing a safety net in the shape of a third central defender has the potential of making us even more leaky.
Thankfully, Arsene kept the three at the back, giving Mustafi central stage and flanking the German with Koscielny and Monreal. Certainly a trio most capable on paper, albeit I do wonder whether a certain more experienced German remains a genuine option. I don’t like Mustafi propensity to throw himself into tackles, while doubts over the lack of organisational skills in that back three will persist. Unless, or until, we overcome a stronger opponent with such a set-up.
Bellerin was switched back to the right, freeing up space for Kolasinac on the left. This is yet another bonus of Oxlade leaving Arsenal (oh by the way – nice debut, Ox). Both Hector and Sead looked immediately more comfortable in their natural positions (what a surprise) and the Serbian tank delivered instantaneously, setting up Welbeck for the opener seven minutes into the game.
Xhaka and Ramsey did indeed start once more, as did Ozil and Welbeck, the latter in a withdrawn position. Sanchez gave way for Lacazette, and it is yet another sub that worked very well. Lacazette showed his killing streak once more, smashing the ball from Welbeck’s lay-off to put Arsenal two up. The Frenchman has been brilliant throughout, harassing Bournemouth’s defence and forcing them into mistakes. A clever, hard-working we have in Lacazette, who is also a deadly finisher.
Man of the match: D-d-d-d-d-d-danny Welbeck
The bone of contention when the starting XI was announced, Welbeck had a brilliant game, one of the best in an Arsenal shirt. Fans had an issue with Alexis on the bench much more than Welbeck on the field.
Danny Welbeck is an instantly likeable guy, making it easier to sympathise with him during hard times and praise him when the good times come knocking. He always works hard for the team, and this makes it nigh on impossible to lay the blame at his door. Welbeck’s only issue is finishing (a pretty big issue for a striker, admittedly). Even yesterday the first goal he bundled in clumsily and I’m not entirely certain his second wasn’t a scoffed low cross. However the chip which almost gave Danny a hat-trick was sublime and I don’t think anyone would have begrudged him a trio of goals.
However ridiculous it may sound in isolation though, even such a performance is unlikely to see Welbeck start against Chelsea in a week’s time. Purely because we can’t, and shouldn’t, drop Lacazette, while Ozil’s place in the side won’t be under threat no matter what. But Alexis is hardly a bench-warmer, so something has to give. In a 3-4-2-1 it will be Danny Welbeck.
Coquelin’s injury spells trouble
We went into this campaign a midfielder short and everyone knew that. With Cazorla out indefinitely we needed to strengthen. We didn’t, instead choosing to rely on Ramsey and Wilshere, two players with a rich history of aches and niggles.
While Coquelin isn’t even a starter in this formation, he is vital in shoring things up. He is our only screening specialist, losing him for any period of time robs us of the little defensive security there we had.
The only way to compensate for that loss that I can see is Calum Chambers. It is abundantly clear the Englishman is low on the defensive pecking order, but his nous in the area coupled with good ball distribution can’t be ignored. Yesterday we were largely untested by one of the worst sides in the league, form-wise.
Next week we are going to Chelsea, and the Blues will be well up for exploiting any weaknesses of ours. Central midfield will certainly be targeted, Konte’s side is excellent in transitions. They would have looked at what Liverpool did to us and will be chomping at the bit.
With the window closed Wenger will certainly have to become creative and come up with some plan to compensate for losing Coquelin. Whether it is a flat midfield, a more restrained role for Ramsey, deploying Calum Chambers, or something else, doesn’t matter. We need a solution, a workable plan.
The last week
Bournemouth represented a comfortable opponent at a turbulent time. All we needed to do was get the points on board to restore some confidence in our ability.
We did just that, played some nice football along the way, and showcased our attacking depth and potential. Walcott and Iwobi were unused subs and this tells you a lot, especially after we shipped out Oxlade, Campbell and Perez.
A much sterner test against a much better opponent awaits us next Sunday. It is a true chance at redemption, an opportunity to show the Liverpool debacle was an aberration and that we can get results away from home to a top six side.
It will be anything but easy. We’ll need to critically look at the weak spots of this team (central midfield!) and come up with a workaround. For now though we can just enjoy a comprehensive win that puts some wind in our sails.
And I’ll be here later in the week.