Arsenal did something yesterday that perked me up about our prospects this season, they won in the face of two setbacks. The sort of setbacks that would have thrown us in seasons past, but didn’t against a tough Stoke side.
First setback, we lost our superstar defensive signing from the summer to a hamstring injury. Mustafi limped off on 25minutes, and instead of things going to absolute shite, we rolled on the best right back in the Premier League and pushed Gabriel into the middle. So comfortable. Finally, we have a squad with quality all over.
The second thing we reacted to was a penalty against us, when Xhaka kind of raised an elbow to Joe Allen and definitely wiped him out. Part of me was furious that he’d made another thoughtless decision that could have cost us big, but part of me secretly loved the fact we have a mean player in the middle of the park again. Charlie Allen, freshly 31 years old, looking like he’s been eating glass and snorting battery acid for the last 9 years, sent Cech to the right as he slotted simply down the middle.
We didn’t roll over, we put our heads down, continued to dominate possession and managed to pull one back just before half time. Our 14 pass move ended with Bellerin receiving the ball out wide, cutting his cross dangerously into the box with Theo on hand to deftly knock it inside near post . A beauty of a goal.
We started the second half with much promise, the impressive Oxlade Chamberlain floated an Ozil-eque Hollywood pass over the Stoke defence where, errr, Ozil was on hand to cushion his header over Grant who’d found himself in no-man’s land. A lovely assist for Chamberlain who is growing in confidence. He still needs to find more influence on the pitch, his 16 passes (out of 23 attempted) feels poor, but he made 3 out of 3 take on attempts and some of his passes were pretty tight.
Our third goal came when Iwobi had found his way onto the pitch, Sanchez had been fouled at the edge of the box, the ball spilled loose and the terrible referee waved play on, #Iwobes picked up the ball and casually swept it under the keeper to bury the game. Extra benefit is I think Sanchez landed the assist!
Wenger took his Chilean off on 75mins, which was lovely. Amusing that his reaction to the sub was like he’d been handed a bolt gun and told he’d have to take one of his dogs behind a shed and do the business. Gotta love his passion, I just hope his body is in iron mode this season.
We snatched the 3 points and it was easy. Totally comfortable. A breeze.
The great start to the weekend only intensified as Manchester City were absolutely spanked by Leicester City. Pep G really is having a tough time of it. Too many people crowing like this is Tony Pulis trying to prove a point at a big club. Pep will get it right at some point, we just have to make sure we’re racking up the points whilst he’s not. If we can break through the next two games with 4 points or so, we’re in serious contention for the new year.
Things to think about:
The Crowd: I always said I’d never be this guy, but fu*k me, listening to Arsenal on TV sometimes is painful because it’s so damn quiet. I really didn’t feel we were in any danger at any point yesterday, yet we’re 2-1 up and the fans are jumping on the backs of players misplacing passes. I get that it’s cold, I get that it’s a massive commitment, but come on… surely we shouldn’t be having a pop at players who are playing in committed fashion?
I hope the next manager we bring in is a touchline warrior. Our fan base, me included, could do with a bit of a gee up when we’re not on good form. If any club needs a standing section, it’s ours. It’s a bit stagnant in the stands and part of that is down to steward oppression, part of that is down the lack of young blood in the ground, part of that is feeling like y0u’re being interfered with by the club at summer camp every time you spunk out £4.80 for a beer that takes 14minutes and an argument about correct change to receive. I feel your pain… but the fans are so important and it’d be nice if we sounded better.
He’s a player this year. I think he benefits from having a pace monster with good delivery on his outside, there was one point where Gabriel tried to latch onto a Sanchez pass but didn’t have the legs. Bellerin gives Theo an extra lift and his stats showed it. 6 attempts on goal, 3 on target and a goal. 16 of 18 passes complete in the final 1/3. 4 of 7 take ons successful. A good day’s work. I’m really enjoying who he’s become this year. A total asset. Seems like his fantastic attitude is finally being rewarded as he’s added a bit more discipline to his game and a bit more grit.
Xhaka continued to be an all action hero. 3 tackles, 8 ball recoveries, 2 take ons and 77 passes. Coquelin also had a good game. He’s not the player Xhaka is and he could never replicate Santi, but he had a very good game. I think top of the shopping list is a world-class B2B player who can sit alongside Xhaka. But look, right now, our midfield is in pretty good shape. Ramsey isn’t getting a look in and we’re not crying out for him. My how the times have turned. If I’d told you Rambo and Wilshere would be out of the fold 3 years ago, you’d have laughed at me. Just goes to show you what focus and a bit of luck can do.
On to the Everton and Manchester City. Good time to be playing both. Let’s see what Arsenal are made of!