Three big, fat, juicy away-points fought for with blood, sweat and tears; and they were well deserved in the end. The boys did us proud today and showed us all their bounce-back-ability. Clearly, we are missing sharpness upfront, and once this comes our way we will put these sorts of games to bed after 20 minutes. At times, our combination football was breath-taking, literally and figuratively. I love our ability to create chances, both when the opponent park their bus and when we turn them over in our own half. There is a good balance to the team in this respect, but we just need to add that little bit of composure to our final ball and chance-conversion. It will come but in the meantime we need to grind results out, and that we did all right!
Some will point out that we were lucky, and yes we were. Le Coq could have received a double-yellow red card and Wickham was unlucky not to score at the start of the second half – did the presence of Cech win us a few points today?
With Cazorla playing next to Francis, and the FB bombing forwards so aggressively, there is a lot of pressure on the Frenchman to keep things tight; and his game is all about having presence, for which he needs to be physical in a composed way. Like many other players, Le Coq is still searching for the right balance and he will have learned a great deal from this game. We will need him to be at his best against Pool in eight days, and luckily the referee, Lee Mason, realised that the fouls he made were, in total, not worthy of a sending off (and I agree with Wenger that his only yellow card was a bit harsh in the first place).
Giroud and Sanchez (with a deflected goal from a daredevil header) made the difference in attack, and let this be the first game of many in which our deadly duo collectively find the net and win the game for us.
And our defensive play…. Needs to tighten up rapidly…
Eight observations from the game:
- Monreal has been the player of the season so far for me. He has hit the ground running and offers a brilliant balance between defensive and attacking duties, which is so vitally important in the system that we play. He is always available as an outlet and does not waste any time in going forward and offer added thrust and healthy defensive aggression to the team. His final ball is pretty good too, although there is still room for improvement. But his drive and composure on the left flank add a lot to our team right now.
- Ozil had a great game. He offered the much needed composure but his fellow attackers were not always on the same page. I reckon Mesut is becoming a little bit more extrovert and, as such, appears to be more ‘in the game’.. there were it really matters. If he continues like this he might get the armband soon. I would be all for it.
- Sanchez – the Chilean mini-hulk – is back! He is still missing sharpness and on another day he would have scored a brace or a hat-trick for us. But his drive and thrust were welcome additions to our attack and the rest will follow. Let him get cool against the Pool. 🙂
- The triangle of Cech-Koz-BFG and square of Koz-BFG-Coq-Carzola are not working yet. The way these work separately, and in conjunction, is of vital importance to the solidity of our defensive performances. We conceded three goals out of as many attempts on goal, if I am correct, and they are all related to not playing as a tight, ‘in-tune’ unit, which is a worry at the moment. Ward’s daisy cutter was very well executed and I reckon Cech was not at fault this time, but we gave this opportunity away too easily. There was no support from the second deeper midfielder and Koz was left exposed; and something similar happened for the second Hammers goal. I hope we can find our defensive solidity before we meet the Scousers on the 24th!
- The crowd – home and away – were great. What an atmosphere, with great responses to all the key events of the game by both sets of fans. An advert for the game.
- Arteta brought the much needed composure at the end of the game. He read the play very well and made some important interceptions, helping us see out the game.
- Ollie is on the score-sheet with a well-taken goal. It was a great ball from Ozil from the left wing – good proof that our system does not necessarily need a proper winger anymore – but OG had a lot to do with the ball slightly behind him. Dare I say it: Bergkamp would have been proud of such a finish! Ollie worked hard and his presence and link up play in the middle was key to us creating so many opportunities.
- The Ox added fresh legs and was a constant menace to the CP defence, and with a bit more luck could have been on the score sheet.
So fine fellow Gooners, plenty of positives from a game in which we started off with some scintillating football and finished with grit and determination. That is the old and more contemporary Arsenal in one for you! Bring on Pool. 🙂