A nice quick one to ease you into a sweet Monday morning. Let’s play 5 things we loved about the Bournemouth game. Or maybe 5 things about the Bournemouth game.
Wenger followed through:
No, not in his pants, he followed through on his comments from the press conference on Xhaka. He realised that having a ball playing group of midfielders might be a good idea and it might free up our better players. He didn’t only elect to play Xhaka, who we suspected might land a game, he also played the quietly impressive Elneney.
The result? A much more free flowing style of football. A team that’s struggled to create chances managed 16 attempts on goal. Sure only three of them were on target, taking our shots on target to goals ratio to 100% over the last 4 games (I think), but whatever… we looked far more lively and Ozil and Sanchez certainly looked to have benefitted from the ability of both midfielders to distribute between the lines at pace.
Discipline was no better or worse
This idea that without Coquelin in the middle, the team somehow collapse into an explosion of party poppers and alcopops didn’t materialise. Sure, we didn’t look impressive at the back at times, but I’m not sure I’d put too much of that on the midfield. Debuchy going off after his 15minutes of game time felt discomforting because of it’s regularity, bringing on Gabriel didn’t fill me with joy (what about Rob Holding future king of England?)… but we dealt with it fairly well.
Point is, defensively, Xhaka is the business. He made 8 tackles out of 10 attempts, he made 3 interceptions as well as 14 ball recoveries. He also had a 90% pass completion rate. Hard to knock those numbers. Elneney was quieter on the defensive front, but he had 12 pass combinations with Xhaka, showing they have a good understanding, he sprayed the ball around well with a 91% pass completion rate and just to cap off how he clicked, he made the second most passes for Arsenal behind Xhaka.
When you have a base of midfield that can control the pace of the game, defend well and press like Elneney was well into the last 10minutes of the game, you know you have a very good options.
Xhaka and Ozil
The German took a bit longer to creep into the game than Sanchez, but when he did, he made some sublime contributions. He was involved in the Theo Walcott goal, shaking off two players, finding Monreal at the back post via a deflection allowing a volleyed cross onto the head of the Theo. A great combination of play there. Ozil and Sanchez carry our team with their stardust.
Sanchez is a never-ending bag of energy, I do worry about our over reliance on him, but more so, I worry that Wenger genuinely thinks he is invincible. Hopefully a week off now will be good for his December batteries. Ozil created 3 chances, not as many as Sanchez on 5, but at least he’s pushing those averages up. Keeping those guys fit is imperative to our season.
We’ve had 10 shots in November and scored 11 goals . That could read to you like super efficiency, or it could read like problem with our ability in front of goal. We’re not working keepers and there will come a point where that will be a major issue for us. Liverpool absolutely blitzed Sunderland at the weekend even though it took a while to break the keeper. We just haven’t been on fire like that this season. I don’t know how Wenger specifically addresses that, but we’re going to have to start getting more accurate in front of goal, because our conversion rate isn’t going to be the best in the league forever.
Hard to escape that Arsenal really aren’t peaking performance wise. Some will point to me being negative, but only the cry babies who can’t take a dose of reality with their cornflakes say that. Arsenal haven’t turned a great performance since Chelsea. We were pinned back by Bournemouth for chunks of the game and we’re not hitting the levels Liverpool or Chelsea are. It’s a marathon, not a race, but if you’re playing with a flat tire and a the hand brake on in November, can you win the marathon in May?
Could be great news, winning averagely is great, but only if we turn it up a notch and start bringing the style and panache Champions bring. My worry is that this cruddy play could easily turn into a dip. We’re scrapping through, it’ll either be vintage Mourinho, or it’s just a poor Arsenal that are getting lucky.
Arsenal have a notoriously flat crowd… but so do most Premier League clubs as the authorities have successfully beaten the joy out of the stadium experience. That’s why it was refreshing to see Klopp tell off the Kop for tutting a Henderson misplaced pass (you know he’s made almost 1100 passes this year, nearly double Ozil and about 40% more than our busiest passer Mustafi). The crowd lifted and Liverpool broke the deadlock. Conte was the same in the Chelsea game, trying to lift the home crowd to make sure his team pushed the win over the line.
I like it. Some don’t. But fans need to be more involved in the game. We are lazy when it comes to that, but it’s nice to see that coaches coming through see the advantage of the noise and really interesting that Klopp will rollock the home fans if they don’t follow orders!
RIGHT ME DONE OVER AND OUT BIG LOVE x