Ahhh it feels good to be blogging again after that atrocious two weeks of international football. Thank God we’re back to the real stuff. The winning of football matches continues and even though the last two have been stressful, winning week in week out for the last six weeks has felt damn good. One thing that has become clear over the past month however is that we are far from perfect. The Chelsea performance was perfection, the Burnley & Swansea ones not so, and while we’ve won all three it’s not something that we should get completely carried away with. This basically means to not believe the words of AFTV and take them for what they are, for entertainment and that’s about it. I’ll come on to why I think this is a little later on.
In terms of the game this weekend we started perfectly. On the front foot, controlling proceedings, taking the lead, doubling that lead. It looked rosy, felt comfortable and I thought that we’d be in for a stress free afternoon of football. How wrong I was. Some overly complacent play from Granit Xhaka gave Sigurdsson a half chance, which he burried with ease past a static Cech. Hard to lay blame to the keeper here as it all happened so quickly, but really, really poor from Xhaka. The game then turned from pure dominance to slight nervousness and Swansea in truth had several good chances to equalise. One of which came just before the half time whistle. Alexis Sanchez had the ball on the half way line and had two options for out balls wide and backwards. Basically to our full backs to just slow the game down a little, however he held onto the ball a little too long as he likes to do and ended up squandering possession when he really didn’t need to. It meant Swansea had a man over in a counter attack and caused Monreal to commit a foul to snuff out the immediate danger. A free kick from a dangerous position along with a free header that resulted from it, thankfully it was a tame effort. Now I know Alexis has travelled a heck of a lot over the last week or so, but he does have a tendency to overplay and hang on to the ball for a second or two longer than he needs to. This happened a couple of times against Swansea and has been something that he’s done before this season, and the reason that it hasn’t proved to be too costly for us this season is that he is playing higher up the pitch and not directly covering anybody as he’s had to do over the last two seasons on the left or right wing. The second half looked to begin with us back in control again with chances being created and it finally told when Alexis delivered a peach of a cross for Ozil to volley home, quite fabulously. A lovely birthday present for him indeed. 3-1 and I began to relax again. We still looked in control but then once again gave the ball away just inside their half and they broke away. It wasn’t a typical counter attacking goal but one filled with defensive errors. Monreal was beaten far too easily and Barrow (who tormented him all game long) was allowed to cross , in a play where Mustafi lost his man who ran across him and finished with ease. 3-2 and the nerves were back. What then followed was both ridiculous but also a baptism of sorts. Xhaka made a quite cynical foul after we lost possession high up the pitch again and he prevented a 4v2 counter attack. In years gone by as well as in the season so far this year we have seen plenty of similar situations, where the offending man has received a yellow card or less. Thankfully we held on even though both Swansea and ourselves had chances to add to the goals for what was a very sweet 3 points. What was odd to hear in the post match interviews from Arsene Wenger was that we would not be appealing the red card. It didn’t make any sense to me. Did he know something we didn’t? There wasn’t even really a proper mention on MOTD as Gary Lineker said “probably could have done with a yellow” or something to that effect. What became apparent on Sunday, however, was The Ox confirming that when players have no intention of getting the ball and just make a cynical foul then a straight red would be shown. It’s a great decision by the powers above as it will stop the shithousers of the league from earning a wage for putting a blocker on football.
As a short term annoyance I was enraged, simply because nothing before this has been treated with the same effect, however in the long term this will be something that helps Arsenal. It’s a key tactic that the likes of Leicester and Sp*rs produced last season, whereby they fouled high up the pitch, where it didn’t matter and were happy to cede yellow cards for it, however this year it’s clearly different. Leicester are already feeling the pinch for their ‘creative’ defending in the box, however Sp*rs are yet to be reprimanded for their actions. Watford are 1st place in the most fouls committed table, Sp*rs lay in 2nd place. They are continuing with their theme of the high press and intensity alongside clearly managed fouling so with what has just happened this weekend it will be interesting as to how their tactics are curbed over the next couple of weeks and season for that matter. For those that are interested we lay in 17th on that chart and the full data can be seen here.
In terms of us as a team we look like we need to balance the team somewhat in order to keep teams at bay as well as maintain the attacking verve that we seem to have found again this season. The midfield partnership of Ramsey and Xhaka is the one people keep calling for to maintain balance to the midfield, however with Xhaka’s suspension we may be waiting to see that for a few weeks. It does however make Arsene Wenger’s selection process a little easier in the short term. Xhaka can probably play the full 90 in our midweek Champions League game with Coquelin being restored come the weekend. Ramsey may well find himself back in vs Boro (if only from the bench) and potentially the League Cup along with Elneny. With Xhaka missing for the League ties we will likely see some midfield rotation over the next few weeks. A good thing really as that’s where we are yet to find out best combination. Along with this conundrum a slight worry has also developed on our left hand side. Monreal hasn’t quite looked himself this season, however he hasn’t had the effervescent Alexis backing him up with his tracking and had instead has a relatively lukewarm Alex Iwobi in front of him. I say lukewarm simply because as good as he is going forward, he does need to work on his defensive game. A decision that Wenger needs to think about. With Oxlade Chamberlain chomping at the bit but not quite inspiring confidence we don’t have the wealth of options we would like. Again one to keep an eye on as I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts.
In any case, we took 3 points. City dropped points. Sp*rs dropped points. Football is back. Work to be done, yes, but this feels good for now.
Have a great week folks.
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