In anticipation of a match report by David the Pool supporter, here are my quick observations of a pulsating full-of-life game that will be remembered for a long time:
- Tactically, technically and in terms of fitness, we matched the Pool team yesterday. After losing out against Citeh and the Chavs at the start of the season – not deservedly so against the latter – Unai has made progress with Arsenal in all the above mentioned aspects. We did not sit back and absorb pressure, but we also did not commit too many players forward; there was a good balance and it was telling to see that Van Dijk was Pool’s best attacker..
- Key to all this was the DM-pivot formed by a match made in heaven, Xhaka-Torreira. They bossed the midfield for large parts of the game and found that perfect balance between protecting the defence and supporting the attack. Torreira was MOTM but it could also have been given to Xhaka. In fact, I would give it both of them as they get the best out of each other and together they are three men on the pitch..
- Holding and Mustafi had a good to very good game. They clearly struggled with containing the aerial threat of Van Dijk and we got away with things a few times, but other than that they combined high energy performances with relatively cool heads. The same cannot be said about the goalkeeper who clearly is all about energy and presence but does not always make the best decisions in the heat of the fight. I don’t blame him for the goal as it looked he would have pushed the ball out into safety had it not been for Holding’s heel being in the way, but some of his decisions to come out and leave his goal empty behind him were not too clever. Still, Leno had more than a decent game given that he is new to these sort of PL encounters..
- Emery’s subs were very good again yesterday. Welbz, Rambo and Iwobi brought renewed energy and penetration to our attack and that proved vital to claim a point and we could have had all three of them with a bit more quality in our finishing (shame the last chance fell to Bells’ poor left foot). I would have liked Unai to have started with Welbz or Iwobi and bring on Auba for the last thirty minutes, but, in hindsight, his strategy worked very well and we finished the game as strong as we started it..
- We got lucky with the Pool ‘offsite goal’ but we were also unlucky that Mkhi, who is lacking a bit in sharpness in front of goal at the moment, did not score from his free header early on. The home of football’s woodwork was also kind to us and it just shows you that however good tactics, the players etc are, luck always plays a role in football (and in life); that’s why for example the Chinese cherish it so much! I think it would be hard to argue for anyone that a draw was not a fair result on the night..
- Mkhi, Ozil, Laca and Auba all gave their all to keep the Pool defenders busy and never let them settle down and this was vital for the outcome of the game. Unai really has got this team working hard and for each other and that is great to see..
- The home fans were terrific and really, really stood behind the team, and this was also vital for the outcome of the game: Arsenal Have their Supporters Back!..
- The last observation goes to the fabulous Iwobi and Laca. The Nigerian produced two moments of attacking genius that led to the goal and could have led to us winning the match at the end. He found Laca in space and he found Mesut in space when there was very little of it available. For this you need a cool head and good overview and lots of feeling in your head, and this is so much harder to have in a top game when the pressure is on late on. Alex Iwobi – you rock! And then there is the hard working Laca who could still find a Bergkampesque moment of stillness to produce that goal! Love that man.