Ospina gives Cavani Nightmares, Alexis our new CF, Mustafi Class: PSG – Arsenal Review and Positives

A vital away draw against the group favourites in a hot and sweaty Paris after conceding a goal within the first minute: our boys did us proud.

Yes we were lucky at times but we should not underestimate the sequence of events in this game: there was plenty of adversity to overcome and to do so is the making of champions. How many times did we see the likes of the Chavs and MU grind out a result with big dollops of luck over the last ten years and eventually win the league or CL? It requires backbone and Arsenal have it.

Although I would not have started with Coq and Santi in the double DM pivot necessarily, I can see why Wenger went for the same duo from the Saints game. Francis offers defensive solidity and Santi is good when under pressure at the back. But more about that later. With Theo out injured and Perez needing a bit of time to get used to the way Arsenal play, Wenger had to fall back on Ox and Iwobi to play on the flanks. Regular readers on BK know my views on the Ox as well as Iwobi.  I reckon the former is not going to make it and the latter should be given more chances to shine. And as soon as Perez is fully integrated in the team I reckon the time for the Ox is up, but that is for a future post.

The obvious issue for Arsenal at the moment is the solidity of the back four. In the last two games we have given away a large of number of half and full-fat chances and that is an area of concern. A logical one, though. Mustafi looks already at home and is the sort of modern CB we have all been craving for. But it takes time before he and the other quality defenders and goalkeeper will gel into a solid and controlled defensive unit. And if we then concede a goal in the first minute, against a team that was still looking for its seasonal mojo and then gets the perfect lift/gift for crowd and players, you know it will be a difficult game for our team. I feared the worst initially.

You can blame Wenger for choosing a first eleven you do not agree with, and I have some sympathy with that, but the bigger picture is that we conceded a rotten early goal which gave the Parisian Oilers a great boost of confidence at the Parc des Princes, and we played a CB pairing with just 90 minutes between them. After the goal we were put under a lot of pressure and our DM pivot was pushed right back, divorcing the attackers from the much needed link-up play, who were struggling to get their game going on their own against a number of strong PSG central midfielders and defenders.

It was a typical game in which we needed a mobile, continuously running B2B midfielder and that, my dear friends, Cazorla is not. And that is also why le Coq is often seen up front, lately.

You could see the effect of Wenger’s team talk in the second half. We dared to push up more and our midfield started to link up with our attack better. We started to play better even though it did not lead to many chances for us and PSG were given some very oohlalah opportunities to score the all important second goal. Rather than going for the cheap, guttural ‘Alexis is not a CF’ I would like to focus on the lack of cohesion and understanding by the mid-wingers of how to play with Sanchez and, to some extent, by Ozil. Many reckon that Mesut deserves a better CF than Ollie, but I reckon the Frenchman is the perfect link-up player for all his magic to come to fruition. Mesut and Alexis also have a good understanding, so I don’t think it will take long for both to adjust to the Chilean’s new role.

Whether you like it or not, Alexis is our new main CF for the season. And just like getting used to playing with Mustafi at the back, the team will also have to work hard to get the best out of what Alexis has to bring, which is a hell of a lot. When the midfield did not come to support the attack, Alexis did well to go and do the link up himself. That then means that one of the midwingers needs to utilise the space made available up-front. Ox does not get this and Iwobi is slowly improving re this. On top of this, they need to learn to balance attacking with supporting their full backs… a work in progress (especially given Aurier’s freedom on our left).

Luckily, the midfield pushed up to take the game to PSG in the second half, and we played much better then. And it is fair to say we played better again when Ollie arrived, as the team could fall back to their old system of attacking our opponents. When we scored the goal there were four Arsenal players in the box. Mesut put a good, fast ball into the box and the first touch of Iwobi was pretty perfect; he then unleashed a well executed shot but it was at the right height for the keeper who still saved well. Luckily, the rebound fell to Alexis who finished like a proper CF: a well placed and venomous shot beyond the reach of the goalie.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against PSG

Both teams had chances to win the game after that and PSG deserved it more than us to be fair, but we showed resilience and fighting spirit to hold out and a very valuable point was brought back to the home of football. And with a draw in the other group game, it has been a pretty perfect start for us in this year’s CL campaign.

Eight positives:

  1. Ospina, our uncontested MOTM, was sublime. He has great presence and energy and Cavani will be having repeated nightmares of him this Autumn. 🙂
  2. Mustafi’s passing and positional play. Only his second game and he looks class – just needs to be integrated into the defensive unit, which takes time.
  3. Alexis’ goal: great finish at a crucial point in the game.
  4. Iwobi’s attacking play: great first touch in congested area for his shot on target that led to Alexis’ goal and could have won it for us later on. He still has a lot to learn but you can see he is destined for greatness if he can continue his progress.
  5. Koz: battered and bruised on Saturday, but no stopping him on Tuesday. What a spirit! Violently happy, Koz we love you (yes from the Bjork song).
  6. Bellerin: nobody attacks us these days from the left a lot. Why is that? Only 20 years old and such an established Gunner already. WOW.
  7. Wenger: for turning the game round with his team talk at half time. Not by taking out players and blaming them, but by talking to all his players and making them play better. A typical ‘McGregor Y-manager’.
  8. Coquelin and Santi: for playing two games in three days and being able to adjust and turn round the game in the second half.

Next up in the CL are two home games and let’s hope we will play with the same fighting spirit and be a bit more ‘gelled’ by then.

By TotalArsenal.

Cech/Koz/Coq/Santi ALL MOTM; Mustafi at Home; Perez Promising: Review and 8 Positives

Three very welcome points is very important, of course. And there is no doubt that we needed a dollop of red and white luck to get them against a resilient and good footballing Southampton.

Arsene made three changes from our win against the Hornets and it is fair to say we did not start brightly. The team lacked energy and drive, despite playing three fast players up front with the Ox, Perez and TheO, and playing two play makers in Santi and Mesut. The latter two started very quietly and the former three hardly had any of the ball in the first part of the first half. The Saints looked calm and in control, playing some easy on the eye football with plenty of penetration and danger up-front – just like they did against the Mancs a few weeks ago. Especially Tadic, Redmond and Rodriguez, supported deeper by the excellent ex-Chav Romeu, were very comfortable on the ball and we did not make it hard enough for them.

They scored from a well taken free-kick that needed a big dollop of luck though, as Cech scored his second career own goal with his back pushing the ball over the line. You would have expected Arsenal to up the tempo after the goal but we still lacked collective drive, with Santi being pushed back too much and the four of Ozil, Ox, Theo and Perez not involved in the game enough.

The game needed something special and it came from one of the two Arsenal birthday boys: King Koz.

Our CB scored a brilliant overhead kick that will have ha the approval of Zlatan, no doubt. We did not do enough until then to deserve the equaliser but Laurent has a knack of scoring very important goals, as he did four times last season.

That goal gave us back our mojo, at least in terms of playing football in the Saints’ half rather than ours. All of a sudden the Saints were happy to park the buss and we could push forward both Mustafi and the energetic Coquelin to help the attackers. Yet we missed sharpness, movement and creativity, and this especially from Ozil and our mid-wingers. We also missed the goal threat of Giroud and/or Alexis up-front which made the team look like it was missing its normal focussed and aggressive identity.

For some reason, the combination of players in our starting eleven did not work well yesterday. Was it perhaps too much to ask of Perez to start with the Ox next to him rather than Alexis or Giroud? Theo and Ox are the sort of players who have good moments in a game but do not add enough to the team to be picked together in the starting eleven imo. One of them is more than enough, and then I still think Iwobi, or indeed my personal favourite Joel Campbell (now out on loan unfortunately), would serve the team better on many occasions.

The second half started not much better. Tempo too low, movement too predictable, Ozil not involved enough, and Perez struggling to translate his presence in the box into clear cut chances and a goal. Luckily, Santi was getting into the grove now, working hard to get the team going by finding gaps and getting as close as possible to the Saints’ D’.

It was clear though that we needed to bring on Giroud and Alexis to lift the game and get that extra bit of quality into the box, even though we started to play a lot better from around the 55th minute. Perez worked hard and you can see how he could fit into the team, it will take a bit of time though.

As soon as we brought on the Frenchman and Chilean we looked sharper, but we also gave a way a couple of quite big chances that could have cost us dearly. And that tells you all about the risks and opportunities associated with substitutions, and why Wenger often waits longer with them than most of us want him.

Luckily, we got the penalty and Santi was cool enough to convert it.

Eight positives:

  1. Mustafi settled in quickly and looked solid and composed. Really good to see him drive forward regularly as well. Need to see him more games but that was pretty impressive in front of the home crowd;
  2. Birthday boy Koz had an outstanding performance and scored a superb goal – so happy he is still a Gooner and let’s hope he will be signed up to end his career at THOF;
  3. Le Coq had his pecker up and was awesome throughout the game, both in defence and supporting the attack. Xhaka will have been rested for Tuesday’s game no doubt – and I expect us to play Perez, Theo and Alexis up front for that one so Xhaka can help us beat the Parisian Oilers on the break – but yesterday we needed the steel and defensive discipline of Francis Coquelin. And boy did he deliver;
  4. Santi moving forward in the second half made a big difference in terms of our attacking intent. Ozil was not at his very best today and he needed Santi to add creativity. On top of all his fine passes and crosses, he produced a calm and venomous penalty that left the time wasting Foster picking the ball out of the net. 🙂
  5. The spine of Cech, Koz(Mustafi), Coq, Santi, and eventually Giroud, held strong and delivered a performance worthy of the Arsenal. Cech, Koz, Coq and Santi were altogether my men of the match. And Ozil and Alexis added the necessary quality to get us over the line, even though the former did not have his best day ever;
  6. The full backs were driven once again and added a lot of width to the team, but both still need to improve their final ball into the box. Good to see them both taking chances themselves as well, and especially Bellerin was pretty close to scoring a Theo-esque diagonal daisy-cutter;
  7. Cech’s presence saved us at least two points today, making Shane Long rush and waste his two good opportunities in the second half;
  8. Perez’s movement and hunger and sheer guts to take on the CF role at the home of football was awesome. I liked his energy and willingness to run and run and get into any available spaces. I rate this Saints’ team highly and reckon they will finish in the top 7-10 this season once they get going. Especially defensively, they are very good and made it hard for our attackers. So not an easy start for Lucas, but more is surely to come.

Up next are the Parisian Oilers. Let’s load the Canon. 😉

By TotalArsenal.

Alexis out-stings the Hornets, Xhaka and Ozil pure Class, Holding Firm: 8 Positives

Watford 1 – 3 Arsenal

We desperately needed a win more than anything else today. But we also needed to play some very good football the Arsenal way’ to get the supporters properly excited again… and luckily we got both against the Hornets. On top of that we had verbal confirmation that two new players, Mustafi and Lucas Perez, will be added to the squad, so every reason for us Gooners to be happy. And if not you may want to give the Samaritans a call… 🙂

It was of course a game of two halves, to use the nr.1 cliché in football. Arsenal were full of life and brutally lethal in the first the half and we saw out the second half with a few bumps but nothing too drastic. It would have been great if the boys had continued in the second half with the same intent and tempo of the first half, but it was also important to not get more injuries. Therefore, taking the foot of the gas and making some timely tactical changes and substitutions in the second half, was just what the doctor ordered.

Eight positives from a vital win:

  1. Alexis was superb especially in the first half. I love the ‘second’, alternative away shirt the boys wore today and especially Sanchez looked like the mini-hulk in it. Our Chilean firecracker was unstoppable through his movement and aggression all over the pitch. Two assists and a goal are a fantastic return for his efforts but it was also his overall team play that impressed me a lot. Supported by Theo and the less effective Ox on the wings, he offered great movement and availability to which the Watford defenders had very little answer. We will need more end product from the Ox and Theo going forward as Wenger is playing Alexis not like a typical super CF but more of a mixture between Giroud and say Aguero – a combination between hold up play and speedy penetration. The signing of Perez makes a lot of sense therefore, as he will add goals (and assists) on a regular basis, which is needed to make the system a success;
  2. Mesut Ozil scored! He also had the ‘assist’ for the penalty given early in the first half: a superb ball aimed at the space in front of Alexis from which he surely would head the ball home. Alexis was hacked down before he could score and the referee awarded the penalty after some initial confusion on the pitch. Santi took it well and that was a relief to us all. We need more goals from midfield this season and Mesut made a Lampardesque run into the box to head home with venom and precision. Great stuff and let’s hope there will regular goals to come from our midfielders this season.
  3. Xhaka carved the hornets nest open without mercy. I reckon Wenger is building a team that can add a few dimensions to their football. As per my first ‘positive’, we need goals from a number of attackers rather than rely too much on the one super CF. But we also need key passes and assists from a number of players, and playing Xhaka, Cazorla AND Mesut clearly gave us that. Xhaka did this regularly from deep, allowing us to attack with speed and precision and not give the Watford defence a lot of time to regroup. Some of Granit’s through-balls and diagonal thunderbolts were sublime today, getting the balls into the pockets like the best snooker player…
  4. Arsenal played a very attack minded formation today. I cannot remember the last time we played with so many quality, attack-focussed players: Xhaka sat deep but was constantly feeding our attackers; Santi sat also deep(er) but was mainly focussed on attacking Watford, and then there were the foursome of Ozil, Ox, Theo and Alexis attacking relentlessly, whilst being supported from behind by the Spaniard and Swiss geniuses! On top of this the full backs, especially Bellerin, kept bombing forward to support the attack. As a result, we saw an awesome black and yellow attacking machine, especially in the first half. Theo played with aggression and intent and produced a peach of an assist for Alexis’ goal – the all important second goal for us.
  5. Good substitutions. Of course such an attacking formation only works well if the tempo is high and we manage to keep our opponents hemmed in in their own half. In the second half we dropped the tempo and discipline a bit and gradually we allowed them back into the game. We sat too deep and allowed them to have players in and around the box and this led to a number of half-chances for the Hornets. They scored a typical ‘lucky pinball goal’ for which I cannot blame the defence too much. But after that we allowed them more chances and looked a bit vulnerable at times. Luckily, Wenger had good options on the bench and gradually both Jack and Elneny were able to bring a bit more calm and control back in to our play. It was really good to see Jack back on the pitch and let’s hope we will gradually see more and more of him. Elneny was great – what a player!
  6. Cech was solid. He made some good instinctive saves and oozed confidence and calm in our defence. Nothing more to say about him.
  7. Holding and Koz had another good game and could have had a clean sheet if a little bit more lucky. Our young England CB looked in control throughout the game and his height and strength were great assets today. Wenger will have to decide whether to keep playing him for a while and then introduce Mustafi gradually or to establish the French-German CB pair asap. I am really pleased for Holding and I hope he will get twenty of game time this season.
  8. The final ‘positive’ is for Wenger. He has had to work hard to get the signings he wanted and he has succeeded. There was also a lot of pressure on him to win this away game and he delivered in style. I have said before that we should make the first proper analysis of our chances to win the league after ten games, and I now believe we have everything in place, bar a lot of bad luck on the injury front, to fight for three points in every game and push upwards in the table. Let’s see where we are in a few months time.

Happy Interdull! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Holding Surprises, Sanchez the Team Player, Wingers on Fire: 5 Positives

Arsenal 3 -4  Liverpool

A bonker’s game with a bitter aftertaste, but the positives are sweeter than our senses allow us to register. 

Well that was some game of football and what a shame we did not at least take a point from it. First half was Arsenal’s and the key thing to take is that we dominated Pool for 46 minutes, and mostly in their own half. With a sumptuous free-kick Pool managed to equalise before half time and that made all the difference. At half time, the Arsenal players will have felt very badly done to: how could they be level after such a strong showing? The focus will have been on regaining a lead as soon as possible and for that all players have to push up… and for this we paid… 😦

On the other hand, the Pool players will have been feeling very high on getting away with a bad performance and the joy of such a fine free-kick going in at an away ground. Klopp then said to his attackers that they have to force themselves closer to Arsenal’s ‘D area’ and get in  between the CBs and the wall of CoqElneny. He also will have told them to target Arsenal’s left flank as much as possible…. and as we know, it worked a treat for them. Bang Bang BANG, three goals in quick succession and we all felt sucker punched in our reproductive area. Everything that could go right for Pool went right and sometimes this happens in football (we had it against MU at home last season).

It was a clever tactical adjustment by Klopp and he deserves credit for it. It also exposed a weakness we were aware of: a young CB pairing of Holding and Chambers would not have the experience to deal well with the initial blow, something that would not have happened with Koz and/or the BFG in defence.

However, credit to the team for fighting hard and getting two goals back, and with a bit more luck we would have gotten what we deserved.. a draw. At the start of the season it is quite normal that a game goes out of control, especially with a makeshift central defence. Of course it is very attractive to come up with all sorts of ‘I told you so’s’ and ‘we should have done this or that’ but it is just the opening game of the PL for us and things went off the scale after the break. I have seen enough – especially based on our firs half – to believe we will have a very good chance to win the league this year. I predict two clean sheets in our two coming games in August, and plenty of goals.

Five Positives from the game:

  1. Holding and Bellerin held their side of defence really well and had a good connection. I don’t believe our loss was all down to Chambers and Monreal failing the left side of defence, as all defenders have a duty to defend our  box when the ball gets played in, but it was quite obvious that we were porous from the left, and the Pool attackers, just like the MC attackers did last week, penetrated us there time and again. This needs immediate attention. But Holding was calm and classy throughout the game and as it stands it looks like Chambers is the one who will lose out when Koz returns.
  2. We scored three times, and could have had more. I am pleased to see our goals being scored by different players and that we did not just feed the ball to Sanchez time and again to produce them for us. Alexis worked hard and created space for us, just like Ollie so often does, and we found the net through Theo, Ox and Chambers. Many will miss the importance of Alexis’ selfless team play yesterday, but Wenger won’t.
  3. We are getting goals and assists from our ‘mid-wingers’. This is the one position where I felt we needed to improve the squad, but with goals from Theo and Ox from the wing and a peach of an assist by Iwobi, we had a very nice return for those positions.
  4. The wall of Elneny and Coquelin did very well, especially in the first half- my favourite match reviewer on the ‘ArsenalArsenal’ blog called them ‘the dogs of war’ which is exactly what they were. I feel that they were also at fault for Pool breaching our defence so devastatingly in the second half, so a bit more work needs to be done. But I loved the way they bossed the midfield in the first half and supported the attack in putting pressure on Pool’s defence. Le Coq’s tackle that led to the first goal was a pure delight.
  5. We had a good bench, especially in midfield, and bringing on Santi and Ox made an immediate difference. With Mesut, Ollie and Koz joining the first team soon, we will be very strong in almost all areas… except the obvious one 😉

Not the start we wanted, but still some good positives to take from the game. Let’s hope we will get a good CB to strengthen our defence and/or that Wenger and Bould find a way to steady the ship this week.

All to play for.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Plan B Worked, A Midfield to win the title, El-Super-Neni, Iwobi ahead of Ox: 8 Friendly Observations

Arsenal 3 – 2 Man City:

A Friendly that provided hope for winning the title this season.

Eight Positives:

  1. We have a plan-B in attack, or will it even become plan-A this season? Alexis up-front with Rambo in the hole worked really well. We were sloppy with taking our chances in the first half but we created some excellent opportunities and that is all I am asking for in a friendly: the rest will come. In fact, it came in the second half any way but the first half was also promising even though we did not manage to score then. Alexis, supported by Rambo, Ox and Iwobi put good pressure on the MC defence and this derailed them considerably, leading to a number of good chances. Alexis played for the team and crowned his performance with a fine assist whilst also hitting the woodwork with a fine free-kick. If teams come to dominate us in our own half, playing Rambo in the hole and Alexis up top could work a treat time and again.
  2. We won the battle in midfield and were able to keep them from dominating us in our own half. In fact, we often dominated them in their half, especially in the second half. It was weird to see Xhaka play so high up the pitch, as I expected him to sit deeper. But with Le Coq also playing, it made sense for Xhaka to play in the b2b role. I am not sure whether combining Coq and Xhaka is the way forward, but early days of course. Citeh made a large number of fouls and put their foot in once or twice, but our boys offered good physicality back and we were not outmuscled: this provides hope for the coming season as a forceful and skilful midfield is key to success. And our midfield is better than ever now (well almost 🙂 ).
  3. Theo had a good second half after not playing in the first half. A good assist for our first goal and a brilliant pre-assist and goal for the all important second goal will have done him a world of good. It is just one game but don’t be surprise if he scores the winner this Sunday.
  4. Elneny formed a better balance with le Coq than Xhaka did, and his presence, interventions and near-perfect passing made all the difference for us. For a long time in the second half we were in total control and our Egyptian master of efficiency was the key driver in midfield for this. We have to play him as much as possible going forward: he is that important.
  5. Iwobi shows again that he is ahead of the Ox. The younger Alex took his half chance with focus and maturity, whereas AOC took his half chance and one big chance with naivety. The problem is the Ox has played 100 or so PL games and should know better. We needed composure to level the game and Iwobi took his goal with real concentration. It reminded me a bit of Henry, as in you know what Iwobi was going to do but he still managed to beat the keeper. That is class.
  6. I love Campbell’s work rate and team play and reckon he has made huge progress since a year ago. This is a player who could easily play himself into the first team ahead of Ox, Theo and even Iwobi. Iwobi and Joel’s performances are putting Wenger under pressure in terms of buying another (mid)winger. Let’s see what will happen.
  7. Our CB pairing did not look good yesterday, and then poor Gabriel gets horribly injured as well. We conceded two bad goals and I reckon Gabriel was just overcompensating for the lack of organisation and control in our defence. His injury did not come as a big surprise to me. Wenger will need to be decisive now: either get a PL capable CB asap or move either Debuchy, Monreal, le Coq or Chambers next to Koz (who needs to return asap of course). We need a consistent and steady partnership around which we can build the defence.
  8. He scores when he is on: Akpom has impressed us all with his positioning and timing and has scored three times in a row now. I love his physical presence and economic use of his energy: he is not lazy neither does he run at 100 miles per hour all the time, but he serves the team well with his runs, link up play and positioning; and Chuba brings home the bacon time and again. I would love us to keep Akpom in the squad this season and give him a good chance to shine.

I like our energy, maturity, midfield dominance and creativity in attack, and if we can quickly sort our CB issues, we have a very good chance to win the title this year. Adding another quality attacker may help as well. 😉

By TotalArsenal.

Holding & Akpom Give Arsene Headache, Ox Draws Goat’s Blood, Debuchy Fights for Survival: 8 Friendly Observations

Chivas de Guadalajara v Arsenal Pre-season Friendly: 1 – 3

Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Iwobi; Walcott

Subs: Martinez, Debuchy, Bielik, Gibbs, Zelalem, Elneny, Campbell, Willock, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom

Rob Holding celebrates scoring

It is hard to review a match watched between 2 and 4am on a small Ipad screen, but let’s try to analyse the game and see whether we can pull some more conclusions.

Here are my eight observations:

  1. Holding continues to look very promising. Part of me thinks he is too young to play a big part in the coming season, and another part feels he is the Max Verstappen of our team: level headed, confident, fearless and very, very talented. He will be 21 next month so he is not that young anymore, and if he were to play with the likes of Cech, Koz and Nacho, who can guide and coach him, he could do really well from the start of his Arsenal career. Arsene says he wants to add experience in the CB position but young Rob will be adding a lot of food for thought for him at the moment. Holding did not have a perfect game but his composure, passing and drive are very exciting; and he scored a fine goal to get us in front early on  as well. Stuff of dreams right now and let’s hope he will keep it up.
  2. The return of Cazorla, combined with Xhaka and Coquelin behind him, was a joy to watch. He clearly was enjoying himself and produced some fine attacking passes. It was surprising to see Xhaka play quite high up the pitch regularly, and he also produced some excellent through-balls, especially to our full backs. At times I struggled to see whether it was Santi or Xhaka who produced the through-ball or classy forward pass, but it is really good to see that we had more than one creative provider on the pitch with the King of Assists still not in action.
  3. We are blessed with excellent goalkeepers. Cech is such a calming influence and his experience on and off the pitch is vital for us. But Ospina is not far behind and I hope Wenger can keep him motivated to stay at least another year. Ospina, just like Cech, may let in the odd stoppable goal, but his presence and professionalism have a calming impact on his fellow players and that goes a long way. Martinez also looked tidy in the second half.
  4. Ox scored a peach of a goal, the sort of cracker we know he is capable of. We have to see whether he can score regularly against tougher competition but this is a very promising start to the pre-season for AOC. At the moment, he is winning the battle for the other ‘midwing’ position – Alexis will of course take one as soon as he returns – from the likes of Iwobi and Campbell. The latter two looked a bit flat, or maybe I should say ‘ineffectual’, against Chivas. I remain skeptical about the Ox’s chances to claim a first team spot this season, but his attitude, directness and fitness levels have been impressive. Campbell and Iwobi have to raise their game.
  5. Theo positioned himself a lot better, just a shame his finishing was well below par once again. It must have been a dagger in the heart for him when Akpom scored so soon after he came on. Akpom did not necessarily impress that much either last night, but he did the thing that matters most in football and that is of course putting the leather over the line. I see Akpom as a traditional CF who looks more towards getting on the goal sheet than helping out the team constantly ala Giroud. But he has an eye for goal and the coolness to take his opportunities, which we cannot pooh-pooh…. another headache developing for Arsene: include in squad or send out on loan again? Theo, on the other hand, needs a goal, or at least an assist, very, very badly right now.
  6. I liked our aggression in midfield. Especially in the first half, there was a fierce and welcome battle in a congested midfield between the Chivas and Arsenal midfielders. Both Coq and Xhaka were strong and fought aggressively for midfield dominance. Francis and Granit were still a bit rusty and gave away too many free-kicks, but I really liked the physicality of their play. This is just what we will need in the PL to dominate teams in the midfield area. Add Elneny to the mix, who had another fine 45 minutes, and we have a really strong midfield that will provide the axis around which our game can flourish.
  7. Debuchy played with passion and aggression, which  brought us a goal and cost us a penalty. I don’t mind the latter. I want to see Matthieu give his all and fight for his position and that is exactly what he was doing yesterday. Good man. And the assist for Akpom’s goal was very good: well placed and kept on the ground to make it easy for the CF to finish. I want him to stay and fight with Bellerin for the FB position.
  8. Mesut was in da House. I know we are all desperately scanning the sport websites for news about new signings, but let’s also not forget the importance of keeping this continuously improving squad together. Seeing Mesut supporting the boys in the stands put a smile on my face. I want him to be well rested before he starts playing for us again, but I cannot wait to see him back and work alongside the likes of Xhaka, Elneny, Coquelin and Santi, to name but a few.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal with Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil

What are your observations?

By TotalArsenal. — Thanking The Mirror for pictures.