I sat in my car in beautiful Ardnamurchan, listening to Talksport with very limited reception. Every twenty seconds the sound would disappear for ten seconds or so, but it was a joy to listen to the radio nevertheless, with the odd golden eagle flying over and sensing that our boys were putting up a fight against the Chavs from the first whistle. All I wanted to know is that we started with fight and intensity, and the boys fought for ninety minutes alright!
Eight Observations/Discussion Starters:
- Wenger showed the rest of the world that we do not need an old-fashioned DM to beat a top team. Rambo and Xhaka played as a tandem and both Kolasinac and Bellerin helped them to make the midfield solid. It is all about playing as a team with intensity, rather than outsource defending to one or two classical DMs.
- On Sunday, everybody defended and we attacked as a team. Welbeck and Iwobi fought for the team and helped to keep it tight and intense until they were substituted. Clearly, it came at a cost in attacking terms, as Sanchez and Ozil have the maturity and magic to score a goal, but in terms of team cohesion Welbeck and Iwobi were good alternatives.
- The return of Mustafi has been very good. He is not our best defender but he adds bite and energy and combines very well with Koz and Nacho. Two games two clean sheets; it is something to build on.
- Rambo is growing into a man. The Liverpool humiliation may have done Aaron good. He is now at an age when he cannot look around himself for inspiration anymore; he should be the leader who makes things happen. And that is what he did on Sunday, coming very close to score the winner and influence the game all over the pitch.
- Kolasinac is adding steal to the team. Those who want a typical beast of a DM in the team should want him to play next to Xhaka or Rambo. But I like him on the left. He combines power and speed with a fine first touch and good close ball control, and his final ball into the box is simply superb. With Koz and Hector on the right and Nacho and Kolasinac on the left we have some very strong wings. IF Hector would improve his final ball into the box, and he looked a lot better re this on Sunday, we can boost very strong wings indeed;
- Lacazette is playing in isolation. Alex is very mobile and does not need much to hit the target, but the team is still learning to play attacking football with him. Neither Welbeck nor Iwobi have developed a bond within as yet. I reckon he needs somebody like Ozil, Welbeck or Iwobi, say in a 3-5-2, to play closer to him as to get the full value from him. I would also like to see Giroud-Lacazette to start a few game together this season.
- How strong is Wenger!?! Whether you want him gone or not, you have to admire how quickly he turned things round with the team, in terms of structure, tactics and belief. We were closer to winning on Sunday than the hosts, but the most important thing was that we improved our team defending from a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Pool to a hard-fought for 0-0 against the Champions. Many pundits predicted us to lose badly; Wenger stood up against all of them.
- Alexis is nowhere near 100%. Welbeck’s injury was a blow, as bringing on Alexis for Lacazette seemed a very good move. With Danny gone and Giroud replacing him, we became less mobile and effectively had to change our style of attacking play. And, as I have said before, Giroud and Sanchez just do not go well together. Alexis is still growing into the season and we need him to get sharper soon to win us games when we need it most.