It was coming for a while. We beat the Mancs already at Old Trafford this year, but the press wanted to focus on our lack of wins against them in the PL prior to our game today. In the last twelve months we beat all fellow top clubs including Man City and the Chavs, but it appears still fashionable to portray us as too weak to beat our fellow title contenders. A shift is taken place (which coincides with our ability to finally hold on to our top players and add quality sensibly…rocket science hey?), and I guess today’s empathic victory over our modern history bitterest rivals will go some way to shut the red tops up for a while.
74 seconds of Gunners’ blitz, leading to two very fine team goals finished by Sanchez and Ozil, and the job was more than half done, with not even double figures on the clock. How often have we seen Arsenal play tentatively against the Mancs over the last few years: not knowing whether to go full on attack or whether to sit back and stay compact, inviting pressure on to us and handing the initiative to them? Not so today. Arsenal came out of the blocks as if they had not been fed for days. The Gunners smelled blood on the Mancs and never gave them a chance to get into the game, even though Arsenal only had 38% on average for the whole match. Although 2-0 was great, we all knew we needed a third to really feel relaxed about this game. And we got it 12 minutes later from another blitz attack, finished empathically by our red hot Chilean.
Eight positives from VICTORY
- Possession where it does not hurt versus having the ball in the final third and being super-efficient: is this the new Arsenal?! How the roles of both teams have changed! Arsenal played like Red Nose’s MU and Van Gaal’s ensemble played like Arsenal from a few seasons ago. With Walcott in attack and Sanchez playing in effect as another free striker, we have bags of speed and penetration, and we play effectively 4-4-2. With Sanchez getting back a lot and helping out defence we are often in a 4-5-1 formation too; and to some extent we can say we play 4-3-3 with Ozil joining Alexis and Theo in attack continuously. It is all very fluid. We now invite the competition on to us much more, with the aim to do quick turnarounds and blisteringly fast counterattacks. Today it proved deadly and the Mancs had no answer whatsoever. Well done, Arsene.Twenty minutes of deadly football were followed by 70 minutes of composure and calm, which is, even though less exciting, equally important. It shows how mature this team has become: what a contrast with the previous eras!
- The supporters were great today. They really were behind the team and turned the Emirates into our true home on the day: just what the boys needed and deserved.
- The wall of CoCa. Coq and Cazorla were awesome today. They helped each other and especially the Spaniard impressed with his all-round midfield play. Both were at the basis of the first two goals. Le Coq won the ball back from the Mancs not far from the D with a strong physical interception from what looked like a fizzled out attack: the turnaround was instant and deadly as a result, with Ramsey finding Ozil and the German passing precisely to Sanchez, who fooled de Gea rather easily, but the execution of his side-heel was exquisite. The second one was started by Santi, with a quick forward pass to Ozil, who found Theo and then the Englishman found Ozil who slotted away very coolly. But there was a lot more to both players than initiating attacks. With their slick passing and energy as well as their excellent reading of the game, they outclassed the MU midfield. It should be said that they did not do this on their own, as Ramsey did a lot of very important running and linking up with his fellow midfielders. In fact, the whole team helped with dominating the midfield but at the base of it all was the wall of CoCa.
- Theo was awesome. He was ‘present!’ in this game throughout. He had two assists today and they were both a result of him playing as a team striker. His first assist for Ozil was unselfish and very well executed; the second was created with him playing with his back towards the goal whilst moving the ball swiftly on to the free Sanchez. The latter still had a lot to do, but Theo’s quick thinking and acting were key. Theo no football brain….. another red top cliché ready for the bin.
- Ozil is in his element. Counterattacking football with quick turnovers and fast and willing runners suits him best it seems. Ozil always plays well, always, but not many seem to see what he adds to the team, on and OFF the ball. Expect the critics to become more and more silent if we continue to play this sort of football going forward, and his magic finds willing, quality outlets like it did today.
- The Cech-factor. Petr was a force today. His safe just before the break from Martial’s attempt, who fouled the BFG to create his free shot on goal, was crucial but it is his persona, positioning and zen-like calm which settles the team down and puts doubt in the opposition’s attackers, that makes such a difference. What a signing!
- The CB-duo of Mert and Gabriel, supported by the full backs, were great today. The BFG was calm and positioned himself well throughout the game and Gabriel was pretty solid too. Bellerin did great and his biggest compliment on the day was the withdrawal of Depay, who had been firmly in the Spaniard’s pocket, at half time. Monreal was great too, as he always is. What a committed professional and what a great passion he has when he plays: one of my favourite Gunners in the whole squad.
- The mini-hulk is back and angrier than ever. Six goals in three games is powerful stuff. It has taken a while and some were starting to say that Alexis was maybe ‘found-out’ by the opposition, but our mini-hulk is made of stern stuff and has such a love for the game and scoring goals. If he plays well the whole team tend to play well, with the Olympiacos game as a rare exception. Let’s hope he continuous this form for the remainder of the season – it could make all the difference.
It is early days but being second with now just two points behind MC, after we played MU, the Chavs and Liverpool already this season, is promising stuff. Watford away is up next. Bring it on!