Eight Positives from a potentially pivotal win.
I will need to watch the whole game again to do a proper tactical analysis. Such was the intensity of the battle with the Foxes, I was unable to analyse the match coolly at the end of it. So more tomorrow or Tuesday.
However, there are many initial positives I can think of:
- Energy and desire: the Gunners were up for this game and matched the Foxes’ intensity in every area of the pitch. Especially our spine is full of hard working, passionate players. You would expect this but it is not always a given (as sorry Man City demonstrated once more today) and it is what earned us at least two points today. Ozil, Rambo, Giroud, Koz, Sanchez and the full backs were our turbo engines today;
- Cech kept us from an early setback with a crucial stop from Vardy’s header at the start of the game – helped a bit by Bellerin who put the Foxes’ striker off by jumping into him. He oozed calm and control as always;
- Giroud was magnificent, with the only thing missing a goal or two. He gave the fine Leicester CBs constantly something to think about, linked up very well with his fellow attacking players and created space and chances for others. The Theo lay-off was clever and well-placed and his defensive interventions all over the pitch were exemplary. Is Aguero a better finisher than Ollie? Yes no doubt about it. But, as today’s key PL games showed once again, when the Argentine does not score Man City often drop points, whereas we will often win games even if Ollie does not hit the net. Giroud’s has so much to offer to the team and for me he was the MOTM.
- Super substitutions by Wenger. Theo had not scored for a while so it was not without risk to put him into the team after sixty minutes, but he made a difference straightaway with positive, confident attacking play that was crowned by a very fine, super important goal. But the stuff of dreams was surely bringing on Danny Welbeck with less than ten minutes to go and for him to score the winner in the very last minute of the game. It worked out well for Wenger and I wonder how often we will see all of Alexis, Theo, Giroud and Welbeck together on the pitch. It all proved too much for the sorry Foxes in the end.
- Alexis’ work rate. Our Chilean firecracker is still shedding the rust of two inactive winter months, but he worked his socks off and always gave the Foxes’ defence something to think about. On a better day he would have scored a hat-trick but he never allowed his head to drop and that goes a long way for me.
- Ozil’s free-kick for the winner. Mesut gave his all again: always looking to add attacking value to the team by effort and invention. When he had to take the last kick off the game, he knew it had to be perfect and it was. He has produced many assists but this one was worth six points.
- Le Coq’s empathy for Nacho after Vardy converted the penalty that the Spaniard had given away. It was a harsh penalty to concede as Vardy, who had had a bad first touch, ran into Nacho and his outstretched leg to earn a penalty. More about Atkinson and his bafflingly poor refereeing tomorrow, but the pen was given and converted and Monreal had the weight of the world on his shoulder. It was really nice to see Le Coq console Nacho-man as a stadium can be a very lonely place at such moments. A touch of class.
- Our ability to get behind the Foxes defence. We all know that Leicester are solid in the middle and very hard to penetrate. Kante, especially, is a very fine DM and Drinkwater is also pretty impressive. When a team is set up like the Foxes, it is so important to use the flanks and get in behind them, and we did this time and again. Our FBs, Nacho and Bellerin, were a constant threat and Ox and Alexis were able to take on players and create chaos and space in their defence. We played a high tempo as well and this enabled Ozil and Rambo to keep finding players on the flank who then got in behind to create chances for us. We had 24 shots (six on target) which is a good indication of how many chances we created, and I reckon the use of the flanks was key in this, as this heat map of Arsenal (on left, on the right is Leicester’s – source BBC) shows:
I am sure there are many more positives and I invite you to share them with us.