Last nights victory against Huddersfield was delightful in many ways: we extended our winning streak at the Emirates, we scored five past an EPL opponent without conceding for the first time in a long while, we kept our third consecutive clean-sheet, and Ozil and Sanchez continue to show hunger and good form.
However, there were a number of negatives and issues of concern, apart from Lacazette’s injury – which the boss described as a groin and ruling him out of Man United match but should, hopefully, be short-term.
We are already into the very busy months of December through January and the last thing we need is injuries to key players especially. We have all seen how fluid our attack is when Ozil, Sanchez, and Lacazette play together; it’s, therefore, vital to have them all fit and playing, especially against the top-six teams.
Saying that, Giroud (whom I will come to shortly), as we saw again last night, is a more-than-capable replacement for Lacazette, but we don’t need just either, we need them both fit and firing.
We need to learn to retain focus and urgency when game seems easy
It’s easy to be all ecstatic after such a big win but, in truth, we were less than comfortable or assured for long periods of that game. For 65 minutes, the game looked more likely to be a 1-1 and not 2-0, never mind the eventual 5-0.
It’s not as if the final outcome flattered us, because when the second goal scored by Giroud went in, the third followed soon enough to totally knock-out any hope of a fight back from Huddersfield, and in the end we could even have scored a sixth goal.
However, 20 minutes into the game, about 15 minutes after we scored our early goal, we became very sloppy. We could not string enough quality passes together to create any meaningful chances never mind score.
Soon after, we started giving balls away in our defensive zone too, with Xhaka again being one of the main culprits. In fact, there was a period between the 30th and 38th minute where Huddersfield should certainly have equalized if they had a little more quality upfront.
This tendency for us to relax and lose our urgency when the game seems easy is one big issue that Wenger has to address.
This is one thing you can’t accuse Manchester City of – that a game is easy is an opportunity for them to record an emphatic win, send a strong message to the rest of the league, and further increase their confidence. In deed, when a game seems easy for City, you will see the team and individual players trying to set all sorts of goal-scoring records.
As Wenger himself says, confidence flies away quickly with one bad performance or accidental negative result yet takes so long to come back.
Giroud is a top player – and we are lucky to still have him
If we finish in the top-four this season and possibly win a trophy, it will be because of the quality of our bench as much as the starting-11.
Any team that has a player of Giroud’s calibre to call on from the bench should be finishing very high up in the league, top-three at worst.
Giroud is a top player and striker, he performs regularly for France as well as Arsenal. He has a good goal-scoring record, scores beautiful goals and, most crucially, he’s a game-changer.
Apart from his brace, what was most impressive about his performance yesterday was the way he improved our link-up play. He occupied about two Huddersfield defenders and presented an aerial threat, thereby freeing Ramsey and Ozil to pull the strings from attacking midfield.
Ramsey is crucial to the success of our 3-4-3 formation
Those clamouring for Wilshere’s inclusion from the start in EPL matches need to be a bit more realistic and less sentimental. Yes, Jack is a very talented player and it’s good to have him back fit and playing.
However, in our current set-up, Jack can only play in place of Ozil or Ramsey. And I don’t think even the biggest Jack Wilshere fans would want him benching an in-form and motivated Ozil. Ozil is simply our most creative player. If you’re thinking Xhaka – playing Wilshere, Ramsey, and Ozil will be too risky defensively.
That leaves us with Ramsey whom a lot of Arsenal fans under-appreciate. I wrote some weeks back about how an in-form Ramsey was the central figure the last time we sustained any title-challenge late into March, back in 2014, and whether he could replicate such form again this season.
In terms of his form and contributions to our recent excellent form, the answer so far is yes, even if no none seems able to match Manchester City’s consistency in terms of a title-challenge.
I believe Ramsey is our most dynamic and unpredictable attacking midfielder. He can do anything around the box 18. He’s not as good a dribbler as Wilshere but he dribbles too. Apart from that, he can shoot, make late runs into the box like Lampard, and he can play fast one-twos just like his assist for Lacazette.
Therefore, if we want our attack to be less-predictable and more difficult to contain, especially against teams that just sit in like Westbrom, then Ramsey must always play.
Who should start against United in place of the injured Lacazette, Giroud or Welbeck
Giroud would seem the obvious answer given his last night’s form, but I, personally, would opt for Welbeck.
We need his pace and tenacity to press United when they have the ball and to stretch their defence when we have the ball.
Who would you start you start of the two?
Share your thoughts in the comment below ⇓