The following are my thoughts or perhaps 8 things, from the match, after watching it and reading all the follow-on (primarily) dross in the various web news pages.
- Style Matters: If you look good, you feel good, or so it was said on SNL in my youth!
We played 2 games or styles in this one. We opened pressing slightly – not heavily as was often said – in more of what I would call a “contain” approach. The second, in the second half particularly, was sitting back and more of a relaxed countering approach mixed with our usual ball control when / where possible.
This matters a lot. First, because it shows we are getting all our top teams and players together well enough to: a) play different tactics for different teams and situations; and b) able to do 2 in one game. Second, because it shows we can attack to get the result and then switch to close the game out – oh to have had this ability in game 1 vs Liverpool, where despite a less than spectacular performance, we were set for all 3 points and snatched 1 from its jaws.
- Pressure Matters: All the pressure was on Liverpool. Win and “perhaps in”, lose and “swim with the poos” if you can’t make the Europa league. No question that this hurts Liverpool’s hopes a lot, but that’s not the pressure I am on about.
No, we didn’t press heaps. It always looks like it when you look at Alexis. Instead, we contained their defenders attempting to pass out of the back (as one should try to do!), and left them only poor options for passes. They gratefully (?) took them and then passed badly as well. We did not press and take the ball too much, instead simply upping the interception count for our players.
To me that is mild pressure or containment and the interceptions led to many opportunities and first half dominance, and much; but not all of our goals came off the resulting defensive pressure we put them under.
Overall, let’s avoid discussion of pressing and taking the ball to revert to the subtler ideas around applying pressure, both with and without the ball.
- Speed and Position Matters: Because all that pressure came in part from two things. One, getting to the player in a flash and shutting down passing angles quickly when the ball turned over. OG, Alexis and Ozil were all good at this. Second, and equally, how you do it, and the position you take, matters.
The second is more important, IMO. The position to intercept matters a lot. The position to close out angles matters even more, and, finally, the position to keep team shape and not over chase the ball (into pressing and disruptive football) matters most when you do get the ball. You have got to have all three of these latter things all together to make it work. Ozil in particular did this really, really well, and it led to his apparent greater impact defensively.
- Ozil Matters: This type of game suits him to a “T”. His positioning and off the ball running are his major strengths defensively. This approach in the first half made him look all the more a hero defensively, when, to my eye he did little different than other games.
It especially allowed the first all important goal, where Ozil dropped back, some cutting off a pass, took a quick outlet form the poor longer ball, swept it to AR and the rest was easy enough. Lazy isn’t lazy when it leaves you in the right position with the passing skills to make that beauty cross field ball. Is it?
The team playing well in all the positioning allowed Ozil to shine and show that he can matter a lot. He also created the second goal, and scored it when he took the free kick…
- Coquelin Matters: Everyone here knows, I like Ozil and I like distributors even more, see above; but, Coquelin was positioned and running everywhere perfectly to break up so many Liverpool adventures forward. Sliding to deflect passes, interceptions, forcing balls wide from positioning that would have preferred to be straighter to better utilise their speed up front. With and without the ball, he was a force. A very fit AR or Schneiderlin besides him is a very intriguing rock to posit against teams next season (or later this one!)
Coaching / Arsene Matters: I say this with one example, or two. Beyond all the tactical bits and changes, of a team coming healthy and together, has anyone noticed how good and solid Monreal has become, especially going forward? I think that is a result of great coaching and the self-belief of a great coach to stick with players and develop them.
I think it bodes very well for the future when one considers Gabriel, Bellerin, Gnabry and Chambers… Think on that!!
7. Thinking Matters: Where this is about keepers. Ospina starts and Szcz isn’t on the bench. Ospina is not the stronger keeper physically or in pure natural skills. But, generally, he is thinking. Equally, when we talk of Szcz, and we know some here are rather not his fans (JB!? 🙂 we don’t talk about a lack of physical skills and promise.
However, when one sees that choice vs Liverpool, you know that AW is saying, “I may lose if Ospina isn’t good enough (eg the almost save on the penalty), but I know that I wont get beat when I don’t deserve to be because of ‘brain farts’ from the keeper”.
This raises very interesting questions that will matter after the season!
- Selection, and not Money, Matters: Not just in the game but in the TW, as noted just above. Look at Spurs and Liverpool just now. Both had 80-100M paydays for player sales. Critical losses yes, but spent on what? Of all Liverpool’s purchases, only Mignolet paid off yesterday, and he was just not enough. Balotelli wasn’t even there, and onward. Same for Spurs on a day when they were not looking flash (the day after this game), all their purchases with their Bale Windfall, have not replaced Bale…
In contrast, Ospina, Alexis, Ozil, added to OG, Gabriel, and Chambers (tho not in this game). All our major purchases of recent times see game time and see good outcomes. Only Podolski seems destined to not make it. Selection matters! … And not money as we did not spend nearly so much over those many years, or per year, to get them…
Revenge and/or Closure Matters: It matters because we can cleanse the demons of last year’s games vs top teams. It matters, because strikers are form and confidence players, and Alexis scoring shows that he and OG might hit form together with Ozil and others in a solidifying team. These are all critical things.
Especially, as think about how Arsenal are heading towards Man United and Chelsea down the road in a final seven games, as well as critical FA Cup games.
Even more when you consider we are now a solid 2nd …. Even if 1st is likely a bridge too far, one can always remember that…
10. Miracles Matter: even if one shouldn’t expect them, they occasionally matter, and we can always hope going forward for the type that would bring Chelsea back to us!
So, that’s my take. What matters to you??