Arsenal put on a clinic on a Stoke-themed wet and windy afternoon at The Emirates. The 2-1 scoreline didn’t do justice to a punishing first-half. We hit the post twice, had some outrageous chances, and reduced the adventurism of Wolves most of the game giving them a meager 6 attempts at our goal.
Some folk will talk about the disappointment of not killing a game that was begging to be slaughtered, others might say the first half was a good indicator that the narrative of our ‘control phase’ being anti-attacking-fluidity, might need to be revisited.
The first half posession-wise was a hot butter knife on a Kerry Gold factory line. Wolves lined up to deep block us all afternoon, but we had other ideas. There was no hangover from midweek, we got back on the confidence juice and went into action with aggression, power, and precision. We were two goals up inside 12 minutes. The first showed that Bukayo Saka is serious about shifting up into 4th gear. He improvised a clever toe-poke through a crowd of players, both he and Jesus navigated between packs of 4, the Brazilian using his body weight before letting Tomi slide Saka back in for a low strike under the keeper. Sumptuous. A goal that ChatGPT would create if you asked it to show you modern Arsenal.
The second was just as delicious. Declan Rice pinged a switch to Saka. Saka beat his man and crossed to the back post finding Zinchenko. The Ukranian played a one/two with Jesus then dragged his cutback to Martin Odegaard who swept his trademark first-time shot past Jose Sa.
Arsenal has tagged itself back into the attacking fluency game with a bang. The 6-0 win in the week might have been against fumbling opposition, but the job it did for squad belief cannot be underestimated. Wolves have been taking praise all season for their resilience and some bad luck with poor calls. That wasn’t an easy afternoon and they’ve had all week to strategize against us. We battered them.
The intensity certainly dropped off in the second half, but we only let them back in on paper. It wasn’t like we were under assault. But it is worth pointing out that once again, the team was a victim of a Zinchenko late-game blackout moment. He gave the ball away in an unnecessary moment and we were killed by Cunha who hit a screamer past Raya. A man of Zini’s technical ability and experience shouldn’t be doing that. These moments tend to come late, which makes me wonder if it’s fitness-related. Whatever the cause, it does my head in, and I can’t imagine Arteta hasn’t noticed.
The only other minor complaint was seeing Eddie get one vs one and strike the post. It’s a marginal miss, but still a miss. Those moments in a Champions League quarter-final can really cost you. I want to see Eddie Gunnar Solskjaer out there and we’re not getting that regularly enough. Last season, we could blame the lack of minutes, you can’t this season.
3 points is really all that matters. We’re still top of the league, our goal difference is within 2 of Manchester City, and we look like we’ve found a new level in a month that can be crucial in the title race.
The week ahead is going to be critical – Luton Town on Tuesday followed by a monster game against title-challenging Aston Villa away from home. Unai Emery has to contend with Manchester City on Wednesday, so we’ll get a sneak peak for what he has planned for us. Our Luton away game, thankfully means the players will be back in bed nice and early so they can make that extra day count.
The Premier League worked some magic for us as well. Erik Ten Haag, who I was told was a messiah, crashed to Newcastle. The football is horrible, the signings have been attrocious, and for all the ‘look at how quickly he implemented an identity’ talk… I cannot see one. They’re in the top three for shots conceded. Their £85m summer signing Rasmus Hojland still hasn’t scored a Premier League goal. Rashford has gone from outrageously world class to uninterested. It is absolutely delicious.
Spurs plays Manchester City tomorrow… and Ange Impostercoglu is getting tetchy in the media.
Good times people. Good times.
Finally, let’s end on some transfer gossip. Word on the street is Newcastle want to move in on Aaron Ramsdale this January and after they lost Nick Pope to an injury, that might give them less time to flap around negotiating a tiny fee. I like that Newcastle want him because that means the fee will at least match what we paid for him and we’ll not see him go out on loan first. Interesting that Chelsea might also be in for Nick Pope as well, another odd move if you ask me for a club that like to play out of the back… or at least have the players to do it.
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