Sorry for the late post, I had a client dinner last night then spent the night listening to a girlfriend coughing on the hour, every hour, for the whole night. In sickness and in health has its limits… she may have thought being sent home at 335am was harsh, but the reality is, I need to write for my internet friends and that’s what’s important.
The good news is I get to write about a positive result.
Was it a ‘performance’? Not really. But it was certainly a drastic improvement on last week’s abysmal first leg.
The manager made a wise decision allowing his players to jet off to wherever the fuck they wanted to over the weekend. The mental and physical recharge paid dividends. The players turned up. The intensity was where it should have been from the off. The team pressed, hustled and harried BATE from the off. The early goal came from Auba cutting the ball into the box, forcing an own goal.
The second two goals came from set pieces, the first from a powerful header from Mustafi, the second landed from Sokratis who played a second-half cameo and bullied his way to the third goal.
My main gripe is the same as always, we’re extremely dull moving the ball forward, we’re all about the cutbacks into the box, and we’re not particularly good at it. The movement in the box is poor, the crossing is drab and it just feels like we’re seeking to perfect a very boring approach to football. There’s not a lot of combination play, we’re averse to playing through the middle and we’re quite one-dimensional.
However, the run out was easy, there were lots of positives.
Matteo G was excellent again. He keeps the midfield ticking, always looking to make positive moves, driving the team on and operating as a sort of metronome for out player.
Mesut Ozil dropped an Ozil-ish performance. He had the most touches in the attacking third, he created a chance, and he looked mostly interested. Say what you want about him, but we are a more dangerous unit with him in the side. His movement, deft touches and the fear he sparks all helped us look a little more fluid in attack.
Will he make the starting 11 at the weekend? Who knows. But Southampton feels like a good rehabilitation game. They likely won’t cause as many issues at The Emirates, but they will be organised at the back. That said, it might be a game for Ramsey because of his energy. Either way, it’s clear that we’re a more interesting side when one of those two start. Iwobes had this to say on the subject.
“We know what Mesut is like because we see him in training every day. He’s world class. We scored three goals as a result of him playing. I know if I make a run he has the vision to find me. Hopefully, he can keep on playing.”
Say what you will about the Nigerian, this sort of comment is exactly how players think. They don’t care about salary, they don’t care about body language, they care about going to war with the best soldiers on the frontline. Maybe a war analogy isn’t helpful, but he’s certainly the type of in-game secret weapon that can make things happen. We know what Ozil can be, it’s down to the manager to make it work… even if it means swallowing a bit of pride.
Also, if the alternative is ‘put it all through Kola’, the battle equivalent of a bow and arrow versus an ICBM, then I’ll take Mesut or Ramsey and worry about upgrading in the close season. I guess maybe that’s half of the problem, if there’s a one-dimensional system of chance creation, it greatly reduces the impact you can have with a player who is there to offer up unpredictability with his movement and vision.
Additional pieces of positive news: We kept a clean sheet. Unreal scenes.
Sokratis is back in the mixer, so hopefully we won’t have to rely on Mustafi too often (though I fear he’s preferred to Kos).
We drew Rennes in the next round. No joke people, I’ve followed them fairly extensively this season. They’re a really fun side, they are bold moving forward, they boast a lot of powerful fast players who can cause problems and they have Hatem Ben Arfa, a talent who can do some serious damage when he’s focused. The counter-attacking French team will come with a plan and they’ll want to show off Ligue 1 as a real player. Ultimately, we’ll have too much quality for them, but at least it’ll be a fun game and we’ll get to see Sarr in the flesh.
Finally, pass the fucking sick bucket on the Alex Hleb love-in. A great player, helped us get to the Champions League final, but he ditched us at the first chance and took his services to Barca. I’m not bothered about it, but I think Arsenal fans are getting a bit embarrassing when we’re slobbering over a player who binned us off in his prime.
Right, that’s me done. See you in the comments. x