Happy Mother’s Day everyone! Its Alex here, celebrating and honouring my mother by writing about Arsenal (it’s what she’d want).
We are now only 6 points off top (Chelsea of course have two games in hand) and 1 point off second (a more viable option) with 9 games to go. How this happened I have no clue as I stopped looking at the league table months ago.
In the space of a few short weeks, my post-Monaco melancholia has been replaced by ridiculous, unbridled optimism. Hey look lads, if we can score 3 at Monaco the treble might even be on. Clearly the victory at Old Trafford helped, however a confident and classy performance yesterday against West Ham has also released dangerous levels of endorphins into my brain. It’s going to really hurt when we do eventually bottle it and scrape fourth after being dumped out of the FA cup by Bradford. Only joking (Think Positive).
It seems the manager is starting to recognise the benefits of rotation as Theo came in for the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain but also Ramsey and Giroud replaced Cazorla and Welbz.
Things started very well indeed after Theo was put in by a gorgeous flick from Giroud. He waited too long to shoot and was brought down by the West Ham defender. It should have been a penalty. I’m not sure why no one, including Theo, bothered appealing as it was pretty stonewall. Walcott was then played through again a few minutes later by Ramsey however he dithered and shot straight at the keeper. While his movement to get into those positions was fantastic, and something no one else in the team can offer, he should have tested the keeper more than he did on both occasions.
Theo was involved again a few minutes later after some good work down the right saw him beat his man and play in Ramsey who flicked it to Ozil. Unfortunately his shot was also straight at the keeper and Walcott couldn’t connect with the rebound.
It was starting to feel like it might be “one of those days” where we’d fanny around a lot but not actually score. Thankfuckfully the team put paid to this assertion by stringing together some classic Wengerball with a touch of the podolskis about the finish. This was flagged by others on twitter yesterday, but if anyone wants to understand just why Mesut Ozil is so damn good, watch what he does in the build-up to this goal. He encourages the pass to Ramsey, knowing Ramsey will play it to him, and then does a great one two with Giroud to create the space. Its sexy, hipster football at its absolute best.
After this goal, we reverted to type and seemed determined to walk the ball into the net. The moment that typified this was when Ozil was played through by Welbz. Despite only having the keeper to beat, he opted to chip the ball to Walcott who was unmarked at the back post. It would have been genius had his pass been more accurate. Unfortunately Theo could only head it to Ramsey who shot wide. It was deeply frustrating as at 1-0 you felt there was every chance West Ham could score some jammy equaliser.
We needn’t have worried however as we were able to double our lead in the last 10 minutes. The second involved more fantastic play from Giroud who let the ball run for Ramsey (when do you ever see that work) who then one-two’d it with Oli and slammed it in the net. West Ham were cut open like a knife through a bodyshop candle that’s been left on the radidator by mistake (mother’s day reference).
Not content with scoring two absolute gems, the third involved even more intricate flicks, passes and generally poncery. After some good work by Danny Welbz on the left, Santi played a one-two with that man Giroud again and then drilled it across the box where Flamini was (for once) in the right place to slot it home. If anyone wants to know what pretentious football looks like, that flick from Giroud pretty much sums it up. Like bringing a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to Kerry Katona’s Christmas party, it explains exactly why so many teams want to break our players’ legs
So what have we learned…
Games like yesterday remind you what a great manager Arsene was/is/can be. His style of football when done right is simply a joy to behold. It’s just a shame that it occurs with less and less frequency these days.
Nonetheless I also have to give him credit for his substitutions and rotation in recent games. He has wisely rested Cazorla and Giroud in the last two games and brought Sanchez off first yesterday. He also seems to be a bit more decisive with his substitutions. While Theo actually played well yesterday, he had a bit of a mare in the second half and Arsene pulled him out of the fray quite quickly, rather than leaving him on the pitch to work out his issues as is his usual wont.
Theo or Danny
As I have just said, I thought Theo played alright yesterday. He gets a lot of grief in the ground for not appearing to want the ball and for drifting inside. However on watching the highlights back, it was great to see how much of our play came through him. Considering he hasn’t played for a while this is pretty impressive. Having said that, Danny’s cameo appearance yesterday was phenomenal. He was a constant outlet for through balls and seems determined to follow up on his Old Trafford performance with more goals. I had had my doubts about him but he’s clearly got the fire back in his belly. Who’s name would be first on the team sheet? Probably Danny at the moment as he just seems a bit more confident.
In the ground I thought Ozil or Giroud. Match of the Day thought Ramsey. The guy next to me thought Coquelin. Nacho and Laurent were also very solid. You know it’s been a good day when half your team could be man of the match. On reflection, you just have to give it to the big man. He did everything very well and worked extremely hard for the team.
It’s the hope that kills. As I said at the start, we are only 6 points off first with 9 games to go. Now it would take some monumental implosion from Chelsea for this to happen but a guy can dream. Looking at our upcoming fixtures we have…
Bradford or Reading (FA Cup)
Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty tough set of fixtures. If we did manage to win our remaining games you’d have to say we’d deserve to be champions. So there you go lads. Just win every game. Pretty simple really.
Chelsea still have to play United, ourselves and Liverpool so there are potential banana skins for them. Perhaps it’s best just to focus on reaching second, which would be a massive improvement for us.
Ospina – 7 – rarely tested but dealt with most things fairly well
Chambers – 7 – Solid, some good forward runs. Maybe needs to work on his crossing
Mertseacker – 7 – As reliable, and as fast, as a Skoda Octavia
Koscielny – 8 – His pace really is quite useful at times
Coquelin – 8.5 – Batman
Ramsey – 9 – Superman
Alexis – 7 – Trying to do too much but even on an off day he’s still fucking fantastic
Ozil – 9 – The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Paul Scholes he didn’t exist
Walcott – 7.5 – Some good runs still got his rusty shooting boots on
Giroud – 9.5 – A goal, an assist, a pre-assist, some outrageous flicks and working his hole off for the team
Welbz – 8 – not bad for a substitute
Cazorla – 7.5 – An assist in 15 minutes
Flamini – 7.5 – A goal in 5 minutes
Right that’s your lot from me. You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel
Enjoy your Sunday x