Last year @7amkickoff wrote a piece about how Arsenal are the team to tug at most heartstrings because of the fact that we are one of the last clubs on the planet left with a semblance of honour in our dealings with people. The piece specifically talked about how Arsene Wenger put faith in first team coach Boro Primorac because the man stood up for what was right. That piece was titled ‘Arsenal in sun and shadow’, and I find that the phrase encapsulates my feelings as an Arsenal supporter in every single season. The trophyless ones as well as the ones with a trophy. It also perfectly describes how we played yesterday. Arsenal in sun and shadow.
The one detail about the match is that the opponents were Watford and a 4-0 win over them should not be counted as surprising or unexpected, but we are on such a disgraceful track from January that it came as a fresh breath of air. That should not take anything away from the team though, because the kind of display we put up yesterday would have troubled any team on the table this year. It was ‘Wengerball’ played as Wenger imagines it in his head. It was the return of the Arsenal we have all known and believed in. It was Arsenal in sun.
Let me also point out at this junction that this was one single match and even if we win all remaining matches, it does not absolve Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy of the responsibility for the spectacular collapse we have suffered this season. I point this out only so that I do not have to defend myself later from people calling me an AKB knob. That is not who I am people, I am an Arsenal supporter.
This was a very hard game to pick a star man out for, with people all round putting in great shifts for the team and Mohammed Elneny showing just how much stamina he has. I have however gone for one of the most obvious choices for the tag today, Alex Iwobi.
The youngster grows day by day into the Arsenal jersey as if he belongs here, which he does since he has been on the Arsenal books longer than I have even been a supporter. He has a great mature head on his shoulders, which are very very well developed for a player his age. He is a complete physical specimen and has good ball control, although the youthful directness may wear off after a year or so of Arsenal first team coaching (Just kidding, don’t kill me).
Video courtesy of @EmanDaGoon
His stats speak out for themselves. With only 49 attempted passes he had an impact on the game comparable in importance to Mesut or Elneny. 41 of those passes were completed and 21 of which were in the attacking third and 20 in the middle third which is a good thing in that he didn’t have to drop down to the defensive third in search of possession even once. He should be credited with the assist for the Alexis goal but since the first time header was saved it only counts for a shot assist. He created 3 chances in total and all from open play that too. He was also alert throughout the match, completing 2nd ball recoveries across the pitch on a day when Arsenal seemed to be winning more second balls than they had won in the entire season up to this point [All stats courtesy of FourFourTwo].
“Arsenal seem to be fizzing with energy today. They are getting every dropped ball and snuffing out Watford attacks in a flash. Wenger must be a happy man”-the commentator on my stream of the game. He was, unknown commentator, he sure was.
The near assist for the Alexis goal was reminiscent of the one Alexis gave for Ozil to head on to goal last year, and it was perfectly weighted and reached Alexis at a time when he was on the highest point on his jumping arc.
Alexis looked really fricking happy with Iwobi about that and returned the favour before the half ended by zipping a ball the to center of the box for Iwobi to slot home after a complex arrangement of Arsenal players interchanging the ball on the right hand side of the pitch turned out to be too much for the Watford defense to follow. It was sweet, it was like watching a kid with below average IQ trying to figure out Quantum Mechanics and then giving up halfway through so that Quantum Mechanics could score a brilliant goal.
Take a look at Arsenal in the game via Whoscored.com:
Look at that. NO WEAKNESSES. My word, that I emjoy.
Iwobi had numerous other opportunities and many of his failed passes were inches away from being assists, because he did a lot of ball playing in and around the opposition 18-yard box. He had a shot that Gomes had to palm away and then he struck the bar which shows that he is a player growing in confidence and it is good that he is repaying the managers faith in him. He also has a very team based mentality, because when asked about how he felt about scoring he said that scoring felt great but he was happier that he could help the team win and that was the best part about scoring. Him and Bellerin were both being interviewed and Bellerin also seems to be a real mature guy, saying that we need to take each game on its own merits and not get confident. That was some interview I have to say, because despite their youth they realise that one performance does not make them due for a celebration in public given the state the team are in. These are small things when everything else is considered, but football is as much about mentality as it is about physicality and it is good to see that we have youth players who are up for the long haul.
On a related note, at half time the Emirates was introduced to the current Arsenal Under-9’s squad. This is particularly significant in the light of what Iwobi is beginning to show, since he played in the Under-9’s squad too. I daresay Iwobi is our own little Kingsley Coman, and although others may baulk at the comparison, I feel he will go on to be an important player for us in seasons to come. With players like him and Bellerin gaining experience in their formative years at the club, we are setting up a very stable squad going forward.
Hector Bellerin turning away from two men on the right side was the highlight of the night for me. That piece of skill was so sublime that it left the two unable to move. Such flair is rarely seen on the right back position in the Premier League with most fullbacks being converted wingers because of their speed and dribbling ability. Bellerin had perfect positional sense as to where the opponents were and that combined with his La Masia honed touch of the ball allowed him to pull off a dribble, which in most games against better opposition he should not even be trying. In any case, it was a treat to watch and he very deservedly got a goal for all his troubles. The guy was basically everywhere and his runs around Sanchez gave defenders big doubts about whom to follow, allowing Sanchez more freedom.
People seem to think that Sanchez showed a different side of his game today but that was because he had removed himself from being the primary threat. Sanchez must learn to do that more and more as defenses around the league have figured out how to nullify his jinks and step overs on the right foot. The combined effects of Bellerin, Elneny, Ozil, Iwobi and Welbeck has allowed Alexis a breather. I am expecting him to have a renaissance if the manager keeps the team more or less constant so let us hope the rejuvenation lasts the remaining games of the season.
It is too much to hope that we win the title but I hope we win all the remaining games and if possible, play all the games like we played the last one. We are on 3rd and with Tottenham drawing their game last night, there is a ray of hope peeking through for us to complete our revival and finish over them again as we are so used to during the Wenger era. Arsenal in sun and shadow.
Onto the next then. COYG.