For the second time inside a week Arsenal have done something I thought they were not capable of since the meek surrender to Watford: they showed some guts. Both against Everton and Swansea the Gunners went behind; both goals were conceded against the run of play; both were the first moments of danger created near Cech’s goal.
True, yesterday our attacking display in the early stages was subdued. We struggled to play through the packed Swansea defense and pull off those one-touch combinations to open space and create chances. We still dominated though: so when Bellerin’s lame attempt to win the ball back led to Clucas having a free shot I was mad.
Indeed, just like last week after Rooney’s opener I said “here we go again”. And for the rest of the first half we showed promise in attack. Barring Sanchez’ effort (well-saved by our old pal Fabianski), we created precious little. I was jumping between faulty streams, I hasten to add, so might not have got the full picture.
However after the restart we looked reborn. The Gunners went about getting the equaliser with vim and vigour, and just six minutes into the half the sides were level. Kolasinac drilled a low shot into the bottom right corner following a penalty box scramble and that was the turning point.
Seven minutes after that we were in front. A sublime diagonal from Xhaka found Kolasinac, the Bosnian cut the ball back for Ramsey and the Welshman’s first-time hit with his weaker foot was enough to see the net ripple. It was Aaron’s 50th goal for the Club, and a rather important one at that.
Sensing blood, the Gunners went for more, however we struggled with that final decisive action in the final ⅓. Bellerin’s shot from a sharp angle grazed the bar and then the Spaniard’s low cross for Lacazette went agonisingly close to the latter’s head. In the end we couldn’t get that third goal to put the game out of Swansea’s reach, but for once it didn’t matter, as Paul Clement’s side really struggled to put together a final siege on our goal. Perhaps because the players were shellshocked by the Gunners’ second-half response.
Now, in all that, there are still some points worth highlighting. The game itself didn’t appear to me all that eventful (again, an impression possibly inaccurate due to the constant jumping between streams). Obviously our comeback deserves praise, of course there were three goals scored, but I still have a feeling that, overall, the game was somewhat under par on the technical level and as a result there was a lot of midfield brawl, but not that much end product on both sides to make it particularly enjoyable.
Is Cech’s form a worry?
After the Watford defeat, @7amkickoff ran his usual “By the Numbers” piece, which showed how Cech has steadily declined since joining, at an alarming rate. Now, since then he played in a further 2 league games, failed to keep a solitary clean sheet and conceded three goals.
I’ve looked at the very simple numbers and they showed Cech faced 4 shots on target and saved … one. Quite obviously, since he conceded three! You can say the Niasse goal doesn’t really count, Cech was caught with his pants down by a back pass from Monreal and wasn’t on the line when Niasse rolled the ball in.
I, however, will say that Cech screwed up twice. He could do little about Rooney’s screamer, but for both the Niasse goal and the one from Clucas our veteran goalie took the worst possible route: indecision. He was caught in no man’s land twice, because he committed and then changed his mind halfway through.
Like I said above, four combined shots over two games is nothing, it’s not a sample size good enough for anything. It can just be a bad patch and a couple of brainfarts. My problem is, I think Cech’s area of expertise keeps narrowing.
He is still an excellent shot-stopper on the line, but he is becoming more and more insecure off it. Throw in the fact he is absolutely rubbish at penalties (which we concede a lot) and I genuinely think his last season for Arsenal should be on the bench. We need a new goalkeeper this summer.
Under normal (read: competitive) circumstances, I’d say we should check out how badly our second goalie can do. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced by Ospina at all right now. It is clear he is someone who needs a run to get into his groove, but can we afford the luxury of the many mistakes he’ll make before hitting top form?
We are in a worrying situation, one which will most definitely need addressing in the summer, if not in January.
What’s the deal with Lacazette?
The narrative that the Frenchman is yet to complete a game for us is somewhat flawed: it turns out he completed his first league game, against Leicester! However it is still the exception, and still points to a problem.
Is it a simple problem of fitness? I surely hope so. My worry is that Arsene might have a gentleman’s agreement with Giroud. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Giroud, and he has scored quite a few winning goals for us in the last minutes. Even in the above mentioned Leicester game!
However, I can’t help but wonder if we are playing into our opponents’ hands by dropping Lacazette and introducing Giroud late on, especially when we protecting a lead. We invite more pressure as a result, because the opponents’ back line can move higher up, safe in the knowledge Giroud won’t be running behind their backs.
Lacazette may not be the quickest striker in the league (maybe not even the quickest at Arsenal!), but he is better at making those runs and exposing the opponent’s defense on the counter. I hope that whatever problem he has (assuming there is one), he’ll sort it out sooner rather than later.
After all, no one cancelled the possibility of tactical rotation. Wenger doesn’t have to start Lacazette every game, Giroud is still perfectly capable of playing from the off. If anything, I would welcome such a move against different types of teams. Wenger himself said recently he doesn’t see much difference in quality between Laca and Ollie!
The last word
Despite a good win I somehow managed to spend a large chunk of this article discussing problems. Call it nitpicking – we can always do better after all!
On a serious note, don’t think I’m not happy we won. I am. Like I said, we showed mettle and periods of technical brilliance in the last two games, turning both around and getting the job done. It is huge.
Six points allowed us to gatecrash the top four … well, almost. Technically we are still fifth, behind Chelsea on goal difference. But the margin to the top has certainly shrunk. We are just a point off third-placed Spurs, and four behind United, whose arsehole was licked clean at the start of the campaign. We have most definitely made huge strides in the right direction.
Hopefully we’ll continue that ascension next week by bollocking City next Sunday. Up the Arsenal!
I’ll back here to cover it naturally. Have a cracking one until then.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.