Man City 2 – 2 Arsenal:
Gunners dampen spirits of the blue side of (for once) sunny Manchester with a passionate and quality performance.
The boys did us proud today, especially given the fact that Mesut, our creative fourth dimension, stayed home with a light injury. Our draw today and a draw or win next week will see us at least finish third, and with the Spuddies losing today we could still claim second: how funny would that be?
It was a gamble by Wenger to play without a traditional DM but somehow it paid off. I don’t like to play without a handbrake and at times we looked all over the place, but, once we cancelled out Aguero’s fine goal with a classic Giroud header, we were a good match for the mercenaries of the Northern Oilers.
I think we saw today that Elneny is not a DM of the Coquelin variant: this does not come as a surprise to me but there is also still time for him to develop his defensive skills further. As a distributor of the ball and box to box midfielder, ideally supported by Coquelin in the DM pivot, he is simply brilliant. And against the stronger, attack-minded teams we really should play with a more solid DM-pivot for which the combo of Coq and Elneny seems ideal. I guess Wenger opted to attack Man City because he could afford it and it fits his preferred style of play.
Man City’s midfield was solid and hard as nails and especially Giroud was given a hard time by them as well as their CBs. Rambo, among others, impressed with putting in tackles and working his socks off, even though he left Elneny too often isolated in front of our defence. Elneny may not be a good tackler but he ran his socks off to fill gaps and anticipate danger, and that still made a big difference today.
I was relatively relaxed about our defence throughout the game and felt that Koz and Gabs did well, even though they also were at fault for the two goals we conceded. The first one was of course mainly Elneny’s fault, but we should also say that Aguero took his chance very well. The second one needed a stronger and decisive intervention by Bellerin – he should have taken one for the team – and Gabs should have put a stronger block in, and Petr should have done better; but, once again, we should also congratulate De Bruine for the way he took his chance and the precision of his placed shot. In the end, they just had three shots on target in 90 minutes of football, so well done to our back -five.
I loved the way we did not give up when they went 2-1 up but intensified our fight instead. A fine goal between Alexis and Giroud got us our second goal and the Nothern Oilers did not have enough in them to get a much needed third, even though they came close when Bony blasted against the bar.
It was sad to see Danny get injured and, judging from his body language, it is not looking too good for him. The good news is that Jack is back and fought like a lion for us, with some need passing and using his head well throughout the game.
The last word is of course for Giroud, but not before I need to acknowledge Alexis’ fine performance today. The Chilean played very disciplined and with full passion for the shirt. He helped out in defence and midfield constantly and scored a very important goal for us today. He also gave us some creative input, even though his final ball often missed precision. I hope we will see him again next season after taking a well needed summer rest.
Today’s match was a perfect demonstration what Ollie brings to this team. The Oilers wanted to dominate the central area between the boxes and Ollie had a battle on his hand, but he started to win the aerial contest gradually more and more, which made a big difference to the team in terms of reducing pressure and gaining/keeping possession of the ball. He was a threat and occupied players constantly which left space for others. He flicks became better the longer the game went on and his lay-off for Sanchez’s goals was exquisite. He may not be as lethal and technically brilliant as Aguero and, therefore, he will always have his detractors, but Wenger’s plan to play Alexis and Welbeck on each side of him, with all having a licence to roam, makes us very strong and unpredictable in attack and Ollie is pivotal, literally and figuratively, to this.
We now need to focus on finishing third and for that we need to win against Villa, which is not a given of course…. ask Ajax who played second from bottom, De Graafschap, in the Dutch league today and needed a win to claim their fifth title in six years, but failed. So let’s focus on that one and hope that Ozil is fully fit again then.