It’s one of those times I’m not quite sure what to write about. The task gets decidedly more complex owing to the fact I watched the game live. For some reason I just cannot follow the game from the stands the way I do in front of the TV screen. Oh well. Let’s see where we are at the end of this piece.
A strong start, finally
Perhaps Arsene realised starting games in the manner we’ve done recently put us in a bad position and so he managed to get his team to break the habit. Or maybe it just dawned on him and the players that they owed the fans a performance. Or maybe it was just bitterly cold to sleepwalk for most of the 90 minutes.
Whatever happened for us to change our recent dodgy ways, we actually looked the part of a big team hosting a relegation-zone side up until the first goal. Our proactive approach allowed the Gunners to create a number of decent goalscoring opportunities, even though it was at times combined with some horrendous defensive play from Hull.
All this early pressure paid off in the 34th minute, after Ozil’s cutback ricocheted off to an unmarked Gibbs, whose effort was cleared off the line, but Alexis was on hand to poke the ball home. A definition of a scrappy goal, scored with a hand, by the way, however as it was unintentional, the goal rightly stood. It came at the right time too, as the trepidation at missing some good chances started to spread in the stands.
Cech to the rescue
After conceding the opener Hull players surged forward and had the better chances of the two sides until the last minutes of the game. They threatened from corners and free-kicks, but even their open play exchanges caused us some problems.
In simple terms, Hull put the over-protective Gunners under the kosh a bit, and we had Cech to thank for keeping the scales tilted in our favour. He made a couple of really good saves, commanded his area well and no slippery footwork was involved this time. The plaudits for the win will go to Alexis, however Cech was the unsung hero yesterday.
On a side note, it will be interesting to see whether Ospina starts on Wednesday and what will happen if the Colombian has a good game. Not that I want him to be worked hard, not at all.
Oxlade puts in another solid showing
Though Ox is unlikely to become a maestro passer like Santi Cazorla, I still wonder why it took Arsene such a long time and a severe midfield crisis to give Ox an extended run in the central birth. Especially as his best performances all came from the centre of the park (Milan, Palace, Southampton this season).
Ox’s dribbling skills seem better suited and result in more end product from the centre, it turns out he is a capable player in doing some dirty work and his all-round energetic approach to his duties once again made Ox one of our top performers on the day.
Without Santi and Ramsey (at least for one more week), I’d advocate keeping Ox where he is, though I’m unsure Arsene will see things the same way. All of Xhaka, Elneny and Coquelin will be available for out trips to Munich and Sutton (as will our manager himself!), so it will be interesting to see just how much he trusts Ox and values his recent contribution.
Saved for Bayern?
I was surprised to see Welbeck and Perez get just around ten minutes of playing time, while Giroud didn’t even have a look-in. The Frenchman’s fall from grace was as fast as his rise, which is surprising given how regularly he got us goals during that purple patch. Even more so considering we can be quite toothless up front with a more mobile line.
I don’t at this point expect Perez to feature more prominently, which is a shame, as Walcott has been quite tame lately and Lucas continues to be extremely efficient every time he enters the fray. Yesterday he basically got us the second goal.
However Welbeck I would expect to start in midweek, Quite who drops out is another question (my money’s on Theo). It looks to me as though Welbz has been “micromanaged” since his return and if it’s not to get him whipped up for Bayern, then what for? Clearly he’s been spared in the last games and is yet to make his second start after blowing everyone away at St. Mary’s.
The last word
Despite this being far from our most exciting or fluid performance, we got the job done and that’s what really matters. After two debilitating defeats it was vital to regain some confidence by simply winning.
Also, while there are no easy wins in the Prem, I have to give credit to Hull. They have clearly improved under Marco Silva and it was no coincidence they’ve beaten Liverpool and held back United. Even yesterday they looked in it for almost the entire game and put up a considerable amount of resistance. They very nearly got a point for their trouble too.
Say, this went alright, didn’t it? I’ll sign off here.
I have a free week coming up (not as in “buy one get another free” kind of thing, just a break in studies), so I’ll be here covering our annual trip to Germany. Until then, and have a good start to the week.