Today’s performance against West Brom was a significant improvement from what we have seen in recent Arsenal games. Lady Luck helped Arsenal on the way with a harsh first penalty being awarded in our favour, but there can be little doubt that the good guys deserved their win today.
It looked like our core players had benefited from not having played mid-week, as they all appeared to be both fitter and more focussed during our game against the Baggies.
The big negative for me today was our inability to take some of the excellent chances which came our way – other than the two well-taken penalties by the impressive Arteta, of course. We also were not able to get the best use out of Giroud, although the Frenchman himself was partly to blame for this.
But, other than those two ‘areas for improvement’, I thought our encounter with the Baggies offered strong signs of Arsenal making progress, and I would like to highlight eight positives from our game today:
- MA8: I thought Arteta had one of his best games this season; at least for the first seventy minutes or so. He tired towards the end and made a few mistakes that could have cost us on another day, but before that he was the solid anchor in our team. His positioning was spot on and he also won many one to one battles; he had great drive and timing, and really imposed himself on the game. Mikel also managed to be more direct against West Brom and his passing was often full of attacking intent.
- Jack Wilshere took the game by the scruff of the neck today. Not Cazorla or Rosicky turned out to be the conductor of our team today, but Jack, the beanstalk climbing, giant-killer was the one who led the team on the pitch against West Brom. There is still room for improvement for Jack – his final ball needs to improve a bit further and he missed a very good chance today – but his ability to give our team shape and purpose is incredibly important for us at the moment. Jack was simply fantastic today.
- Our wingers were disciplined in keeping their shape and stick to their tasks. Ox played a lot better than he did on Tuesday, and hopefully he can build on his performance against the Baggies to regain his best form. Gervinho might have missed a few chances, but his overall play – especially his running with and without the ball – is so important for our team. His ability to take on defenders and get the ball into the box, simply means Arsenal have an added dimension; we are less predictable. If Gervais could just add a bit of sharpness to his game and gain more upper-body strength, he would be far better able to pick the fruits of all his hard work.
- Our full backs were great today. Both Sagna and Gibbs really found the perfect balance between solid defending and supporting our attack against WBA, and I really hope the former signs a new contract and the latter can stay fit for a while. In our 4-3-3 system they are immensely important, and we are lucky to have two very good full backs at Arsenal.
- Our centre backs, as well as our back-four as a whole, looked more in control and coordinated than I have seen them in a while. How many times did they manage to get the Baggies in an offsite position today? It all resulted in a well-deserved clean sheet.
- As a team we pressed so much better than in recent games, and we were also able to win a lot of the one to one battles today, which is an improvement from recent games. WBA were never allowed to get into the game and this was mainly the result of our improved pressing and ability to dominate midfield.
- The whole team did not only have a better shape and gelled a lot better; it also showed real passion and fight. Players stood up for themselves and each other today, and it was a joy to behold.
- Despite our injuries, we were able to bring on three strong substitutes who were all able to contribute in us seeing the game through till the end. It is good to know that we will have an almost full squad available for the tough – and oh so crucial for gaining momentum – December and January fixtures.
Next up in the PL are away games against Reading and Wigan. There are no easy games in the PL for Arsenal this season, but with a strong squad, and a good possibility that the above mentioned eight positives can be repeated again in fixtures this month, Arsenal should be able to make further progress in the table. However, it will be key to further integrate Giroud into the team and provide him with quality service; and as team we need to score more in the PL by taking our chances better than we do currently.
Still a work in progress and another set-back cannot be ruled out, but we can take plenty of encouragement from today’s strong team performance.