For the first time since the opening game of the season, I genuinely enjoyed watching the entirety of an Arsenal match. In fact, I didn’t want it to finish and I can’t remember the last time that I felt that way. Even our recent win over Chelsea had some nervous moments, such as them being awarded a late penalty, which had they scored, would have given us five minutes to hold on to our one goal lead.
However, we looked comfortable throughout against West Brom, who had conceded five goals in two of their previous three home games and you could see why. Regardless of the standard of our opponent, our first two goals were magnificent. Individual brilliance from Tierney, who was a constant attacking threat, and a superb team effort finished off by the once again, impressive Saka. Whose understanding with Smith Rowe is telepathic.
Our third and fourth goals came as a result of some good work and width, provided by Saka and Tierney. Both close range finishes from the in form Lacazette, who has scored five in his last four games. Since joining us, Alexandre obviously hasn’t found the back of the net as consistently as we had all hoped following his goal scoring exploits at Lyon. He is now only three goals short of his final league tally from last season for example.
Although Lacazette hasn’t hit the heights expected, he has often offered some form of compensation with his excellent link up play and all round game. Unfortunately, this had been missing for some time but in his recent performances, he’s rediscovered his form and has a new found energy too. His work rate has been excellent and he appears to be enjoying his football again. I attribute this to the feel good factor generated by Saka and Smith Rowe, who are evidently happy to be linking up together again at senior level.
Smith Rowe’s inclusion in the side, following Willian’s enforced absence, has been a main talking point amongst supporters. Very little it seems, has been said about Mari replacing Gabriel. Another change forced upon Arteta but one of equal significance. Gabriel will be a good player and made a very positive start to his Arsenal career, however, his form had deteriorated. In truth, it had started to mirror that of those around him and I consider it to have been a blessing for him to be taken out of the firing line through no choice of Mikel’s.
Leno has been getting the credit for our two consecutive clean sheets, despite having very little to do in both games. Bizarre when you consider that Mari has come into the side and looked very calm and assured. This has had a positive impact on those alongside him in our defence. I’ve been critical of some of Holding’s performances in the past but he’s looked far better with Mari by his side.
It’s no coincidence that we have kept two clean sheets in our last three games since Mari’s inclusion. Albeit they have come against an average Brighton team and a very poor West Brom one. Tougher tests will of course follow and it will be interesting to see which duo gets selected as our first choice central defensive partnership once Gabriel returns to the fold. Is it possible that two left footed centre backs could play together the way two right footed ones often do?
It’s been a good week or so for us and the confidence levels amongst our players are growing by the game. As is the support for Arteta, who is slowing losing the grey and disheveled appearance he’d understandably developed whilst the pressure mounted on him and his team to deliver results in recent months. Three wins in a row have also seen an unsurprising return of the Arteta can do no wrong posts on social media. Posted by supporters wanting to score points off those who have been critical of Mikel.
Ironically, a lot of those criticisms have now been proved as justifiable. Many fans wanted Arteta to give Smith Rowe some game time ahead of Willian, to play Lacazette centrally instead of Aubameyang and to freshen up the team in general by dropping players who aren’t performing well. We will never know if Mikel would have dropped the likes of Willian and Gabriel had the decision not been taken out of his hands. I suspect he wouldn’t have. You do have to credit the manager for Saka’s superb performances on the right though. A position not many would have played him in, only a few months ago.
He’s not the first manager to inadvertently be given a helping hand by illness, injuries and suspensions. In this instance, ones that may have saved his job. He won’t be the last one either and all that matters now, is how Mikel manages the team moving forwards and that he demonstrates that he’s learned from his mistakes. With the transfer window now open, let’s hope the recruitment team have acquired knowledge from theirs too…
Passionate Gooner born in 1984. I often get called negative but personally, I prefer the term honest and honesty is something that I pride myself on. I joined the Gunners Town team after penning several ‘Dear Arsene Wenger’ letters on my Facebook profile, several years ago, and sharing them in Arsenal supporter groups. These were met with praise and the encouragement to start writing my own blog, from fellow Arsenal supporters, who felt my words summed up their own feelings perfectly. So here I am…..