It was a sloppy Arsenal performance yesterday, defensively speaking, but make no mistakes, it was another crucial win in the quest for a first title since 2004.
Crucial Win (City and Spurs were likely to drop points)
Any one with a fairly good knowledge of the EPL would have known that despite the hype surrounding Mancity, for their hitherto invincible form and undoubted world-class players, and Spurs, for their unbeaten record, yesterday’s fixtures for both teams could easily see them drop points.
Everton have shown this season that they would be very hard opponents for any one. They have a top-class coach in Ronald Koeman who is capable of coaching any of the elite teams, including Arsenal. They have lost just once in 8 games and conceded just 6 (including the one against City).
Also, in 11 meetings between Koeman and Wenger, our manager has won only 2, drawn 5 and lost the other 4. So, it was no major surprise to see Everton leaving Etihad with a point.
Similarly, Westbrom under Tony Pulis have a very sound defensive record and Spurs while unbeaten have been more defensively solid than free-scoring. So, a low-scoring draw was always likely.
United visit Liverpool on Monday, and that means that at least one of our major rivals and potential tile contenders would drop points. From our POV, a draw would be the best outcome. Next to that is a United loss (I don’t fancy anything Mourinho).
In the light of all these, yesterday’s win, which also takes us joint-top with City and above Spurs, is our must crucial yet this season and it would have been disastrous to have dropped points.
Arsenal sloppy but not lacking commitment
If you consider that we allowed a relegation-threatened Swansea, who had a manager taking charge of his first-ever EPL game, back into the game on not one but two occasions and even finished the game with 10 men, it would be easy to conclude that the boys lacked commitment.
However, the evidence on show was that of a sloppy Arsenal display in parts rather than a lack of commitment from the boys. To hold on to a narrow 1-goal lead with a man down for the last 20 minutes of a game in the increasingly competitive premiership takes lots of commitment – albeit we should never have been in that situation.
30 – Arsenal are the only team to have won (30) more Premier League games than they’ve lost (26) when having a player sent off. Adversity.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 15, 2016
Walcott worked tirelessly from start to finish, underlined by his two goals and the missed chance in stoppage-time where he showed determination and stamina to keep up with Oxlade-Chamberlain who squared the ball to him.
Koscielny (what a man and a player) made countless blocks, tackles and interceptions throughout the game. Bellerin attacked and defended, as usual, with equal commitment. Alexis, despite playing in South America on Wednesday, was the usual menace to Swansea’s backline.
Overall, what we learnt from yesterday is, no matter how easy a game seems in the EPL you should never take your eyes off the ball for a moment. A goal from a set-piece or the kind of gift to Sigurdson by Xhaka is all it takes for the opponent to gain confidence. We might not get away with another sloppy Arsenal defensive display.
God bless you that you have the kind of diabolical refereeing (by Dowd) that we had in the 4-4 draw with Newcastle in 2011, then you are in serious trouble, and yesterday’s win could have easily been a draw or a loss.
Reality Check for Xhaka
Granit Xhaka would have learnt two things yesterday:
One, that no team in the EPL gives up without a fight, no matter the opponent or situation. Watford showed that earlier in the season.
Secondly, that you don’t mess about when you have a sharp-shooter like Sigurdsson anywhere near the box-18. The man is probably the best long-range shooter and one of the best set-piece specialists in the league.
As for the red card, I won’t blame him at all. He did the selfless and sensible that a player should do when an opponent is breaking through on goal, your team has just one-goal lead, and you are not on a yellow. Ref Moss was just an ass. We see that kind of professional trip – not knee-high, studs-showing or two-footed – in every game, and normally, it should be just yellow.
In any case, it’s good that Xhaka learns all these lessons about the EPL early on and in a game that ended well eventually. He’s come into the team at a time where we’d won 6 and lost just 1 out of 9 in all competitions, so he could be forgiven for thinking that the EPL was easy and Arsenal infallible.
Is Bellerin EPL’s best right-back (Or Europe’s)
The first thing I did after yesterday’s match was buy Hector into my Fantasy Premier League team. Silly me, I knew all along that Arsenal would keep clean sheets (Cech had the most last season) and that he would provide many assists, but I was just being ‘a Wenger’, lol – Bellerin costs £6.5.
But, seriously, the guy is such a talent. Just like Ashley Cole, he is very skillful, pacy and energetic enough to be an asset at both ends of the pitch. A lot of credit to Arsene for knowing the type of wingers that could be converted to full-backs with great success. He did same with Lauren, and when it works, as with Bellerin, you have an effective winger and defender in one package.
I can’t think of any other elite right-back in the league much less one that is better, and with his impressive assists stats and number of clean sheets, it’s only a question of time before he’s Europe’s best.
A special gift from the birthday boy
Yesterday’s volley by Ozil again proved that we now have some genuine world-class technicians – the types we had in abundance during the Invincibles era (Bergkamp, Pires and Henry).
The normal thing is for a birthday celebrant to receive gifts, but Ozil doesn’t do ‘normals’, and that’s why he chose to give us a special gift on his birthday – what a volley!