WWWWWWWWW: Fulham v Arsenal 1-5 – our ninth win in a row.
Well that was some second half of football at Craven Cottage. Our boys worked their socks off and then in the end they got very generously rewarded: five top-draw goals to the good guys.
Eight observations from an uplifting – We Have Our Arsenal Back! – game:
- Nine wins in a row is a surprise to me. We rode our luck at times but every team needs a dollop of luck in almost every game to win it. I don’t think we are there yet and are very likely to have some bad results coming up sooner or later, but there are some structural elements to give us hope for a more sustained run of victories. Some of these will be discussed below. What I really like is how Emery seems to focus on the latter part of the game; if you think about it makes sense. Every game takes 90 minutes at least, and if you’d involve your strongest weapons in the last thirty minutes or so, you are more likely to get the goals to win the match. Why start with the strongest team if you can finish with your strongest team when the opponent’s defensive legs are heavy and holes appear everywhere?
- Yes why not start with your hardest workers and runners to weaken the walls of the castle and knacker your opponents out, for then to bring on the heavy weapons – the Aubas, Ozils, Rambos, Mkhis – to benefit from all that hard work done by the likes of Welbeck, Iwobi, Laca, Bellerin and Nachos? It is too early to call this a trend but I reckon Emery could well be doing this on purpose and a vast majority of our goals have been scored in the second half this season… at the business end. Soon it will be seen as an honour to start on the bench and come on in the second half to finish opponents off.
- The other thing that Emery is doing definitely on purpose is to open us up and make us seemingly vulnerable. He is saying to the opponent: look we are playing it out from the back, don’t you want come and get the ball of us? The start of Arsenal games are not for the blood-pressure sufferers, that’s for sure. We play the sort of football Manure used to play under RedNose: absorb pressure and pounce on the counter or rebound. Rather than controlling the game in the opponents’ half, suffocating them by passing the ball round seemingly forever and until a crack is found in the wall, we invite pressure in our own half and with that create space in the opponents’ half. Every opponent until now has fallen for it, and although we still need to play the ball out of the back with more conviction – Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding and Nacho all had some Halloween passes on Sunday – it is working a treat for us. Every game we are doing the rebounds and counterattacks better and better and Fulham will not be the last team to get five past them this season, I reckon.
- Absolutely key is the magic partnership between Torreira and Xhaka. They formed a wall in front of the defence and hardly anything got through them. And for the last few season we haven’t had such protection for our CBs. But these guys also can turn defence into attack in no time: Xhaka with his crisp passing and Torreira with his bursts forward and he is a good passer of the ball too. What they both have in common is tidiness and organisational skills. They anticipate danger and deal with it. They also like defending and yet they love to be starters of attacks too. Xhaka had to work hard against Fulham and his attacking contributions were relatively limited, but Torreira was everywhere and truly knackered at the end. We need a like for like replacement on the bench and hopefully Maitland-Niles will be back soon.
- Lacazette, what can I say? Love that guy. How many times did he break up an attack of the opponent in our own half? Yes the goals had venom and precision but even more to like were his work rate, all over the pitch involvement and passing ability. Credit should also go to hard runner, Welbeck. He had the assist for Laca’s second and never stopped giving the Cottagers’ defenders something to worry about and act on. He is nowhere near as clinical as Laca and Auba but still an important squad player, and he is staying fit at the moment which is a real bonus for him and us.
- Holding and Mustafi, with Sokratis eagerly waiting on the bench, fought for their starting places on Sunday. Mustafi was calmer, less of a chancer, and as a result made less mistakes. Holding is by nature calm and more composed and together they were well matched v Fulham. I worried about this combination at the back but they did very well in the end. The full backs were also effective on Sunday: Bells and Nacho both had an assist and these were mirror-images of each other. They played the ball into the available attacker with speed, Auba and Laca, then they controlled the ball, turned around their axis and banged it in the right-bottom corner of the keeper. Is this straight from the training ground? Four goals were scored in that corner which makes me also wonder whether Emery and his team of coaches had identified that area as a weakness of the Fulham goalie…
- How important is Iwobi at the moment? He had a rusty first ten minutes but after that he did not stop with his penetrating runs and crisp forward passing. He is so effective now: the most improved player under Emery?!
- The final observation goes to THAT team goal, wonderfully finished off with a Bergkampesque heel-pullback by Aaron. Seventeenho was right when he said the best moment of quality was Mkhi’s razor-sharp pre-assist pass to Auba. But Rambo’s drive to connect with defence and then be the link in that attack all over the pitch deserves the highest praise: he started it, continued it and finished it off in style.