Well, this last week has been so much better than the previous, hasn’t it? Two wins, two clean sheets and some very commanding and entertaining football played in the process. Oh, and we’ve moved into third, leapfrogging Manchester City.
I was a bit surprised by team selection, however it proved highly efficient as the game set into a certain pattern. It was also partly down to players going down with flu, like Ozil did, for instance. Mustafi’s and Ramsey’s omissions were also noticeable (they might also be telling in case with the latter), however Gabriel and Elneny did reasonably well. No complaints here.
Let’s look at the overall picture and the individuals which shaped the game.
We have found a very nice rhythm to our passing early on and it became the overriding theme of the game. We passed the ball quickly and smoothly, with no one slowing the process down.
It was particularly impressive in the face of Palace’s unrelenting pressing game. We were always one step ahead, getting out of tight, and potentially dangerous, pressing traps with crisp and graceful exchanges. Or by means of able dribbling from our full-backs.
Maybe it’s down to Palace just experiencing a managerial shake-up and enjoying less solidity in their defensive approach, maybe their pressing left gaps. Or maybe we were just really very good at thinking on our feet.
Olivier Giroud didn’t do much apart from the goal, but my God, what a goal that was. Yes, you don’t pull these shots off every time, however that’s what makes them so valuable. When it does happen, it’s a joy to watch.
The best way to go about describing that goal is by using Arsene Wenger’s words:
“He transformed that goal into art – because of the surprise, because of the beauty of the movement and because of the efficiency. That will be remembered as the Giroud goal that nobody will forget”.
It was Ollie’s 6th goal in 4 league starts. Just goes to show he can be equally efficient from the bench and from the starting minutes. Even if Alexis returns as a lone striker against Bournemouth, no one will be able to say Giroud didn’t grab his chance. He will make Arsene’s decision very, very hard indeed.
Iwobi at ten
In Ozil’s absence there were three alternatives: Alexis Sanchez (originally listed as a ten), Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi. Wenger went for the young Nigerian, who is closest to Mesut in style and this choice paid off big time.
Iwobi was neat with his passing (52/58 in 77 minutes on the pitch – 90%), created five open play chances (Ozil created seven against West Brom) and showed a willingness to surge into box. His determination resulted in another goal for the young prodigy, while his all-round positive influence and forward-thinking nature demonstrated we have a versatile and valuable footballer on our hands once again.
Petr Cech to the rescue
Our goalie didn’t have much to go against West Brom – and until 60th minute he also had nothing to do yesterday. However he was called into action three times during that one minute and he can proudly say he fully deserved the clean sheet.
It was a shaky moment in the game, maybe we put our foot of the gas a bit following the second goal. Cech weathered the storm when it was needed most and for that he has my gratitude. Job well done.
Time to trial Ramsey?
In the couple of games Xhaka played together with Elneny our engine room looked very lively. I think today was a kind of rehearsal for what is to come next.
Thing is, Elneny is going away to AFCON at least till the end of January, leaving Arsene with just four three central midfielders to juggle: Coquelin, Xhaka and Ramsey. Coquelin and Xhaka has proved to be a capable pairing, but one can say it’s a bit on the cautious side, cause neither player contributes much in terms of assists and goals. Ramsey certainly has both in him, while also enjoying a fruitful understanding with Mesut Ozil.
The trio of him, Xhaka and the German maestro can potentially be devastating. I’ll be very interested to see how these three dovetail in the near future.
The last word
The victory is another step on our road to recovery. As mentioned, it elevates us to 3rd, three points behind Liverpool, and one above City and Tottenham. Consecutive clean sheets are also important for the team’s confidence.
Our squad looked a bit thin on the ground, however, and that’s a concern. I’m not sure much will change in the next 48 hours, but I’m hopeful, especially on the basis of what I’ve seen yesterday, that we have enough dry powder to blow Bournemouth apart.
After that, I expect a slew of players back for our next league game. Welbeck, Walcott and Gibbs can’t be too far away, neither should Ozil and I’m even half-hopeful for a Mertesacker return in the near future.
In the meantime, bask in the glory of a win against a Sam Allardyce side, watch that Giroud goal on repeat and don’t forget to enjoy the festivities. I’ll most likely be back here to review the Bournemouth game.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.