I’ll start off by saying this is the best I have seen Arsenal perform this season. We started the game full of beans, driven to score early and settle the nerves and, were it not for Pickford’s excellent form at the outset, we could have been out of sight by the time Rooney scored.
Instead … Rooney just scored when it was still 0-0. It was a gut-wrenching moment, that had a familiar “here we go again’ feeling, especially as it was followed by a limp period from us. Passes went astray, we couldn’t build from the back, the fear of our opposition seemed to be messing with our heads like it did at Vicarage Road last weekend.
But then we snapped into life. It was like someone flicked a switch. Xhaka’s long-range effort was parried again by Pickford, however Monreal’s poacher-like instincts that moment saw his smash home the rebound. The Spaniard demonstrated penalty box awareness rarely seen from a defender and his strike was instantaneous and with an air of finality to it. He just knew the ball was going in when he connected.
This simple, yet seemingly unreachable, action, sparked a revival in the Gunners’ hearts. That revival sank Ronald Koeman’s ship nice and proper long before the final whistle blew. It also threw up a plethora of heroes and villains in this act. Fortunately, we only had heroes on our side. The heroic trio that stood out consisted of…
The German provided a response we’ve been waiting for. He was simply majestic in this well-oiled Arsenal machine. Mesut created 8 chances (6 in the first half), got an assist for Lacazette’s goal and, most importantly, scored himself at a crucial time. Sometimes we can build the pressure steadily after the restart, create a flurry of chances and still come away with nothing. Ozil made sure it didn’t come to that.
The Chilean has cut a frustrating figure recently. He hasn’t been given much playing time, his only return before yesterday was a solitary assist against West Brom and his off-the-ball antics were thrown into sharp contrast.
His propensity to get dispossessed was also examined under the microscope. For a long time yesterday it looked like the Chilean still won’t get his goal, which was incredibly frustrating given Pickford’s early cockiness over Sanchez’ failed chip. But in the late stages Alexis just said “sod this short passing game”, drove at the Everton’s defense alone and guided a low fierce drive into the bottom corner.
It was a moment of sheer delight for me. Alexis is a player who works outside of a system, but if we can’t allow him the liberty of popping a shot in the last minute of a game where we are 4-2 up, why even bother fielding the Chilean? Sanchez is always going to be the player he is now: it’s time to accept it and be grateful for his goalscoring returns. Because when on form, Sanchez is devastating in the final ⅓.
The Frenchman is an unassuming figure in many ways. He is not animated like Sanchez, he doesn’t possess a model’s looks like Giroud and he doesn’t try mad long range efforts like Xhaka.
But he is effective. He is extremely good at so many things. Lacazette’s ball retention is wonderful, his low centre of gravity reminds me of Santi Cazorla’s and he makes those finishes look simple. They are anything but.
Take his goal yesterday. A cutback from Ozil and a run-of-the-mill finish, right? But how many times have we seen Ramsey, or Giroud, blast those over? Lacazette is, if I’m to borrow a phrase, a Monsieur Normal. He is what a number 9 should be, making those runs in-behind and finishing with coolness. He is also so much more, with an aforementioned tidiness on the ball, a desire to track back and an underrated passing ability.
He is a striker we’ve been waiting for since RvP left. He has finally arrived.
Some thoughts on the performance
We have seen a response that we wanted from the team. We have seen a degree of ruthlessness by going for more after it became clear we’ve won. We have demonstrated mettle by coming back from a goal down, which was scored against the run of play. On top of all that, we have played some technically gorgeous football.
It was exceptionally pleasing to see. I’ve stopped on just three players, but there so many more I wanted to praise. Monreal, who scored a colossal goal again; Mertesacker, whose calm presence knocked some sense into our defense; Wilshere who linked up with Ramsey minutes after coming on… I often feel Koscielny’s contribution goes unnoticed, just because he is unassuming, like Lacazette.
There were some hiccups along the way too, sure. I still maintain we need a younger goalie, I don’t think Xhaka’s good qualities compensate for his brainfarts at the moment, I’d like Ramsey to be
a little a lot less selfish…
But in the end I think going down on the team after such a performance is pickish. We got the job done in an emphatic fashion. The fact it is a Ronald Koeman’s side we just rolled over is a nice bonus. There are quite a few persons to dislike there, starting with the manager himself, all the way from an arrogant Pickford through a smarmy Calvert-Lewin to an eternally and thoroughly unlikeable Wayne Rooney. Thanks to our efforts all these guys entered relegation zone, while Koeman’s job is hanging by a thread. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsene cut that thread yesterday and Koeman really is getting sacked in the morning.
I realise I’m being petty, but not liking other teams and managers just goes with the territory, especially when and after you’ve just played them. Anyway, I’m exceptionally pleased we have found the resources for yesterday’s fightback, which sees us go level on points with 4th-placed Chelsea. On we go to Norwich in the League Cup.
And I’ll be back to cover the Swansea game. Have a cracking week, guys.
Credit to @TheArsenalLense for the edits
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.