Not many supporters turned up for a dead rubber on a deepest, darkest Spursday in December. Those that did make the effort will have left the home of football with big smiles on their faces. A king was reborn, as Jack mastered Bate all over the pitch with breath-taking vision and razor-sharp passing for 90+ minutes. He was not one but two levels above all other players on the pitch, except for maybe Coquelin and Debuchy who also had a good game in their positions.
It is hard to tell why Wenger went for 4-3-3; whether it was to make the best from the players available or whether it was to avoid another early deadly onslaught like the one the team suffered against the Mancs, is hard to tell. And it was clear that BATE’s tactics were to replicate what MU did over the weekend. They pressed us high and aggressively at the start, but we were so much more compact and disciplined and so dealt with the pressure much better.
Playing four at the back and two defensive-minded, but quite all-round central midfielders, in Elneny and Coquelin, made us compact and solid throughout the game. Up-front we had the solid but rusty Giroud, surrounded by two frantic, energetic ‘wingers’ Theo and Welbeck. At the back, we played Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Holding and Debuchy, and all together that is not a bad set of 10 players.
The eleventh player needed to be the creative hub, the brain of the team. Jack set the tempo in attack by making himself constantly available and demanding the ball. His omnipresence, forward movement and direct passing was of Ozilesque, Cescesque, yes even Bergkampesque, beauty. He saw the next pass quicker than anybody else time and again, and boy did he deliver the ball beautifully well at many an occasion. At times, it looked like he was playing snooker with his left foot, so sharp were his balls over the ground and over the top. It has been a while since I saw a midfielder play that well for us, other than Mesut of course.
He could not have done this on his own, of course. The team worked very hard and kept a very high tempo, whilst remaining compact as much as possible. That tempo created space and options for Jack and it also created total mayhem in the BATE defence. Welbeck and Theo were well up for this and kept running at the defence, with our without the ball, which made a real difference. Our play forced mistakes by the BATE defenders, leading to giving away a penalty, a deflected ball in the box that Debuchy put away with deadly venom, and an own goal. Our attackers, especially Welbeck and Giroud, lacked composure, but it was the tempo played by the team and relentless whipping forward of the ball with breath-taking passes by Super Jack (and occasionally Coquelin), that forced the game our way.
Jack himself scored a beauty of a goal and Elneny, from a wonderfully worked Wilshere assist within the box, also produced a beauty late on. The boys were up for this and treated those that bothered to come to a game – and a ‘re-birth’ – they will not quickly forget. Consider me very jealous!