Arsenal’s performance against the Royals was just what the doctor ordered, and there were signs that Arsene and Bould are starting to find the balance between solidity at the back and a deadly thrust up-front.
Of course, it is early days, and just as I am the first to point out that a bad result does not mean Arsenal are rubbish, it also needs stressing that a good performance and result against Reading does not mean Arsene and Bould have turned the corner. It also needs stressing that Arsenal needlessly conceded two goals, and that we in fact drew with the Royals in the second half.
However, looking at the game for a second time, there seemed to be a pattern to our play throughout the game which might indicate that Bould and Wenger are starting to find the formula for sustained success for the rest of the season.
One wing at a time
Without Theo playing on the right wing, where he formed such a formidable partnership with Sagna during last season especially, Arsenal channelled their wing-attacks through the left for most of the game. Sagna stayed a lot more behind than usually and Ox had to work more in isolation compared to Pod. The German has less tricks to his disposal and relies a lot on support from Cazorla and especially from his brother in arms; the fantastically versatile Gibbs.
Ox is less dependable on support in order to work some magic on the right wing, especially if and when he is giving the most sought after commodity of all for an attacker player: space in front of him. There were signs on Monday that AOC is slowly rediscovering his form and – closely related – his confidence.
Reading allowed us a lot of space on the left wing and boy did we benefit from it. When Gibbs went forward to support our attack the rest of our defence stayed mostly in position, which gave the defence a well-needed stability. Something Bould will have been pleased with.
Vermaelen and Mertesacker more conventional
In general, I thought both the BFG and TV played more conventionally on Monday. They concentrated hard on keeping discipline and there was a strong focus on pushing up and getting Reading to walk constantly in their off-site traps. This worked out very well for most of the game, but as the two goals we conceded showed; further fine-tuning is a must.
It was also clear that TV ventured forward less than usual and this might be another compromise between Bould and Wenger.
Arteta even more our orthodox holding midfielder and Wilshere handed the biggest role of all
I thought Arteta did really well again on Monday. When he is allowed to keep it simple and sit in front of the defence he can be very effective for us. He has got a great positional sense and uses his intelligence really well in sussing out danger. He plays in such a way that you almost do not spot him for large parts of the game, as he allows the team – and us as spectators – to concentrate on the attacking opportunities ahead. We rely heavily on him which of course is a concern, but that is a discussion for another day.
The biggest role on the night was given to Jack. I cannot tell you how much I love this guy right now. What a difference he makes with his drive, intelligence and ability. Yet, he looked so fragile at times on Monday, and we have to wonder whether his body will be able to take the continuous physical challenges he has to face in this pivotal role.
Jack was everywhere and covered the area between attack and defence tremendously well on Monday. Supported by Arteta, he ensured we could keep continuous pressure on the Reading defence, and he was instrumental in winning back possession in midfield as well.
Cazorla played a lot closer to our CF
It was great to see Santi play so close to our CF, Theo, against Reading. I thought Santi played in the DB10 role on Monday and he did remind me of him at times. I did not know he would be so effective in the opposition’s box, but his runs into it, and his general awareness and prowess to finish off opportunities, were a very welcome surprise (at least to me). On top of that, he was just as effective in what he is more known for: finding clever through balls and dictating our attacking play in general. It truly was a top performance by the little Spaniard on Monday.
Jack playing in the lynchpin role and working his socks off together with Arteta, allowed Santi this free role and boy did he reward us for it!
One question that needs answering in the next few weeks is whether Santi can play as close to Giroud as he did to Theo. Theo is a more mobile and faster striker and can exploit space so well: he makes intelligent runs which are very hard to track by the opposition’s defenders, and for Santi, Theo is a dream to play with – just as Henry was for Bergkamp – as he both loves to feed the ball to him in space and likes to benefit himself from the space Theo creates for others.
Of course, we would also need to see how the combination of Walcott and Cazorla in the centre of our attack would work against the disciplined ‘park the bus’ teams, but a more permanent switch towards Cazorla in the hole and three more fluid attackers up-front could well be the way forward.
Plenty of food for thought, I hope! So. let’s discuss. 🙂
Written by: Total Arsenal.