We’re right in the middle of an international break and I’m bloody bored. All of our players seem unscathed so far and that’s what we need to look out for in the main. City haven’t been as lucky in that Aguero and Silva look like they will miss the next 4-5 weeks. I’m not someone who likes an opposing team member losing their main men because it negates the quality of football on show and they are two of the best. It’s a shame but it will give the chasing pack a little window of opportunity to close the gap as I’m sure that they will drop a few points over the next month. That’s not to say the chasing pack won’t either but it’s an opportunity nonetheless. Back to the international football, it was good to see another couple of the home nations qualify for the Euros. Wales and Northern Ireland joined England and the Republic of Ireland have a chance as well so it could turn out to be a pretty enjoyable tournament. One that would give the home nations a 25% chance of bringing the Euro trophy to Britain at least (God that is so far fetched it’s ridiculous). Theo also continued his goalscoring form with another tidy finish v Estonia. He’s the type of player who lives and breathes from his individual contribution to a game so it’s good to see his impact is ever present. Elsewhere Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla also scored for Chile & Spain respectively.
The good form from our players continues and we will need that. Off the back of a royal spanking we delivered to Utd we need to reinforce it by winning away to Watford. Otherwise what’s the point in beating them? I really hope that we are able to use our performance and result last time out to put ourselves on a bit of a run. We’ll need some momentum, especially with having to cope with Bayern twice in the next 6 weeks.
The main topic I wanted to address in this post was that of our status vs Man Utd as the perfect counter attacking set up. This is wholly weak and completely incorrect analysis. If we look back at each of the three goals, not one of them was a counter attack. Remember the counter attack implies that it is on the reverse of the opposing teams advances at our defence only to be dispossessed and punished with numbers over. That is counter attacking football. Wenger didn’t abandon his principles of possession based incisive football for any of the goals. He changed that philosophy at half time as was required. For the goals them selves, the first one especially; we had the ball for a period of two minutes where Utd were frantically trying to shut us out but our incisive football as well as the whole team being fully on the front foot ensured we broke through on the right hand side. The move started deep from our half and we progressed forward in phases. Most definitely not a counter attack. The second may have seemed like a counter attack but again was not. Utd lumped the ball forward when pressed ever so slightly. We won the first header but Utd were still in shape with their back four as well as their midfield four. The only players you could say we’re ‘committed’ into their ‘attack’ were Rooney and Martial. It was a quite brilliant pass from Cazorla and a wonderful flick from Alexis Sanchez that made Utd’s defence look stationary. There after an Ozil through ball and a Walcott reverse resulted in a quite beautiful goal. The best of the three in my opinion. A brilliant team goal. Once again, in no way a counter attack. The third came from our own throw in, therefore took place once again when Utd were in their shape. No overly committed men, just a great turn and pass from Ramsey to give Walcott some space. Gary Neville put it perfectly when he said “every pass means something” and he was absolutely spot on. No dithering, no extra touches just perfectly weighted pass after perfectly weighted pass. Alexis Sanchez dribbled passed a couple of players before slamming home the third. He got a slightly lucky ricochet off Darmian but his sheer force of will ensured he had the ball and not the United defender before finishing with a bang. Finally and foremost not a counter attacking goal. Now the second half was different. That’s when we became more of a counter attacking team. We set up not to concede and expose space that United left behind. The possession stats at the end of the game falsified the notion that we played a counter attacking game from minute one. It was a really well managed game from Arsene Wenger and his troops and is deserving of the praise it’s been given. The caveat with this is that Utd haven’t looked fantastic and that we will have tougher tests to come – if we can perform in this way against City or Chelsea then we will have set a real marker down.
In other news we’ve been blessed with the presence of Jurgen Klopp in the Premier League. Liverpool fans have been rejoicing everywhere and are a little (over)excited but in my view they bloody well should be. It’s once again a reference to the change I referred to in my last post that will help the league in a positive way. As an Arsenal fan I do feel a slight tinge of jealousy in that he COULD have been a good replacement for Wenger in 18 months time. It’s one of those that I’m not 100% convinced by yet, as his game is a “press at all costs” philosophy, which is quite a change from our more measured approach. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the media and the demands of the job here in England. He’s started well with his first press conference by referring to himself as “the normal one”. You just know it’s going to be a brilliant recipe for fun where Klopp’s involved. They play Chelsea in 4-5 weeks time and that will be a highly entertaining game as he will have had a chance to figure out what he can and can’t do with the current krop (see what I did there!? See what every newspaper will do until he is inevitably moved on!?!?) of Liverpool players.
It’s beginning to line up to a great season of entertainment, let’s just hope we’re in the hunt for the big stuff and can pull it off come May.
Have a great week.