3 wins in a row. Three actual football matches Arsenal have won, putting 9 very real points in the bank. I think I can get used to it. With time.
Jokes aside, though, we’ve shown some very good football yesterday. Both 11v11 and then of course 11v10. We’ve screwed up moments either side of the sending off and the final scoreline probably flattered us somewhat, but such a showing was still very encouraging, especially on the back of a bleak midweek outing. A lot of positive moments to write home about and isn’t that wonderful?
The free-flowing football
Our link-up and movement looked pleasing indeed. Quick passes, darting runs, aggression off the ball – the complete set. I’ve seen hunger from this team, a burning desire to win, maybe not for the entirety of 90 minutes, but it’s a nice change from the usual hands-off attitude still.
I think no one embodied this change we’ve undergone since Tuesday better than Theo Walcott. He is far from our most technical footballer and he missed chances like everyone else, but he kept plugging away, kept making runs, kept offering himself as an option on the wing or centrally and ended up with a deserved goal. Brilliant stuff from the Englishman, who has looked much better so far this season.
The 20-year old Nigerian was my pick for MoM, easy. Iwobi was simply terrific in and around the box, very unlucky not to have been adjudged the 1st goal and sublime in setting up Walcott for the eventual winner. That backheel was magnificent, executed effortlessly by Alex.
His overall contribution in the final 3rd is stellar, it has to be said. The manager is of the same opinion, and the speed with which Iwobi has been put back into the side indicates just how important he is for the way we play and how much Arsene values the Nigerian:
“I started him last year because I’ve seen that there’s something in him that is quality of vision, quality of give and go, of movement. He can break the lines with a pass and individually as well, so there’s a lot in the locker. Overall, he’s only 20 years old so you could see that he has gained in confidence now. He can take people on much more and he has gained power as well. It’s interesting what he has done.”
The worrying bit is Iwobi’s defensive contribution, but he has demonstrated more awareness in tracing back yesterday. He hasn’t come up completely blank in defensive numbers like tackles and interceptions, while his quick feet and sharp wit allowed him to complete 7 ball recoveries, 5 in the opposition half.
I still believe it might be worth giving Alex a try in Ozil’s position, especially since Ozil had another underwhelming game, but I don’t think we’ll see anything of the sort in our next league game. You don’t mess with the line-up versus Chelsea.
Alexis Sanchez continues his plight as a (kind of) striker
It feels childish to criticize Alexis after he racked up two goals, but there are two caveats: the first goal wasn’t really his, the ball just took a deflection off of him; if you’ve seen the game, you’ll know Alexis wasn’t entirely convincing still. Even Arsene indirectly acknowledged Alexis doesn’t play as a conventional striker by saying:
“We need players who go behind the defenders and Theo can do that well. When Sanchez plays up front, he likes to come to the ball. To have someone who goes behind at the same moment helps us to have many options.”
Sanchez’ overall involvement gives us another option, naturally, however sometimes it makes the midfield too crowded and the penalty box empty. I’m perplexed Perez hasn’t featured more, but I’m prepared to write this off as a minor complaint in the context of the result and the fact the Spaniard may need more time to adjust.
The penalty incident
First off, just wanted to say it’s the most blatant penalty I have ever seen. A deliberate handball in your own box to stop a goalbound effort is a red and a penalty. Textbook stuff.
However I was less than happy with Sanchez taking it. Just like with Ozil, I knew he wouldn’t score the minute he stepped up, but Ozil at least had the humility to never again take a spot-kick for us after that terrible miss vs Bayern.
Sanchez wanted to prove something to somebody, maybe even himself. Perhaps we wanted to score a clean goal, perhaps it was his desire to show he can score from the spot. All the Chilean’s accomplished, however, was reassuring everyone in their belief he is a crap penalty taker.
His decision to take one looks all the more bizarre given Santi Cazorla was on the pitch. The Spaniard has taken (and successfully converted) two previous spot-kicks, so I have no idea what happened there. Neither does Arsene, apparently, but it soothes my nerves the Frenchman promised to sort it out:
“Santi was down to take it. Don’t know why it did not happen, they have pecking order, it was not planned for Sanchez to take it.
I want to know what happened and for it not to happen again. Overall anyone can miss a penalty, we have to accept that.”
That’s settled then. Alexis desire to make things happen is admirable, but his insistence in this particular case should be quelled. He’s clearly not a good penalty taker.
Some closing comments
I also wanted to single out some random moments. Take my hat off for Xhaka’s screamer, exceptional goal from the Swiss. It was also interesting to see Arsene taking off Cazorla for Granit and not Coquelin. Although he most likely did it to avoid an unnecessary red, so it’s probably not the time to read too much into it.
Speaking of Coquelin himself, the man had a very tidy performance, albeit he still operated higher than I would have liked, especially during the first half. This led to some dangerous over-the-top passes from Hull and, were it not for Mustafi’s aggression and exceptional reading of the game, we could have found ourselves in trouble.
Overall it was a very welcome win, one which currently sees us go third, after both Chelsea and United lost (haha). Our next game is Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, where I expect to see some rotation, with guys like Ospina, Gibbs, Holding and Perez getting minutes and then it’s Chelsea at home.
I’m unlikely to be here with you to cover the former, not even sure I’ll watch it, as I’m moving to London (fingers crossed) early in the week, but I’m sure will be back here to cover the Chelsea game.
Up the Arsenal
P.S. Credit for most of the photos to @TheArsenalLens