I don’t know about you folks, but I thorough;y enjoyed watching yesterday’s game against Bournemouth, pretty much from start to finish.
Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous and much like the crowd and its hushed tones up until the second goal went in I was feeling like we could easily eff it all up, but in the main I really enjoyed watching that game. That’s because of the way Arsenal responded from the shocking performance at Anfield. The players genuinely did respond and you could see that in every single one of them and their performances.
Of course it always helps when there’s an early goal to settle the nerves and when Sead Kolasinac exchanged a one-two to get himself in behind the Bournemouth right back, even at that stage I knew that something would come of the chance. The Bosnian is already proving to be quite an astute signing and his ability to pick out a good ball when in the final third is something i think we’re going to see lot more of. And so it was that Danny Welbeck nodded in the first goal off his shoulder, with the most Welbeckian of finishes. To call it unorthodox would be an understatement and given that he seems to have problems with finishing most of the time, I started to wonder if he should be throwing anything other than his head or feet at the balls from now on, because he seems to have more joy with other parts of his body or mis-hitting it more than anything else.
To be fair to him though, in the second half he surprised us all again with a quite majestic finish to slot ball in to the far right corner with his left foot and once again confuse everyone by looking like one of the world’s deadliest finishers with that strike. Dare I say it, almost Henryesque sort of finish and once again I find myself saying something we’ve all thought: if you could do that every week Danny boy, you’d be an England regular and a £100million striker.
But this wasn’t just the Danny Welbeck show, because there were good performances all over the pitch, including Mersut Ozil who dictated the flow of the game and showed some great vision not with the ball but without. He must have driven in behind the Bournemouth defenders at least five times during the game and was a constant threat, giving them something to think about, as well as most of the other offensive Arsenal players yesterday. So we had Ozil on one side popping up and causing problems, Welbeck’s goals and closing down on the other side – which also nearly led to a goal but certainly led to a flat ball – as well as Lacazette looking busy and bright through the middle. He too closed down the Bournemouth defence and that’s something i’ll come to in a minute, but his finish was an example of somebody who is a natural born killer in front of goal. A touch to get the ball out from his feet and then a perfectly weighted finish in an area that Begovic could get nowhere near.
I think he’s going to prove very valuable for us and I certainly think he might prove valuable in the bigger games too when you don’t get many chances. If he gets just one or two big chances in a game, I think he’s going to take them; you only have to look at the big chance Welbeck missed at 0-0 against Liverpool to know how goals can change the complexion of games and so I hope that Lacazette is given his chance next weekend.
Midfield worked well too and I thought Xhaka was able to dictate the game, as well as Ramsey who, for two of our big chances and the third goal, didn’t do that most Ramsey of things and have a shot from outside of the box but instead faked to shoot and slid the ball to Danny who was in a better position. Maybe this is Rambo realising that he rarely scores wonder strikes any more and so sometimes there’s a better option than taking the glory oneself? We can only hope.
There will be sterner tests than Bournemouth though, who we must admit are abject, but what I am really praying we start to see more of that we saw yesterday, is the pressing without the ball. That was what impressed me and more of that will see us win more football matches. The players hunted for it. They closed down space with whichever Bournemouth players had the ball and it’s no coincidence that the third goal was entirely made because of that desire to win the ball back quickly and higher up the pitch. If we win the ball higher up the pitch against Cologne and Chelski, like we did yesterday, I think we win both of those games. It’s about that drive and determination to catch teams on the back foot. I don’t like mentioning them in my blog but that’s what those Tiny Totts are expert at – winning the ball back quicker. We know that we’re rubbish in the defensive transition from when a move breaks down, but if the team work hard to win the ball back as soon as they’ve lost it in the final third, that is a massive marker to lay down.
That’s what we’ve got to see from now on. This game can’t just be a one-off. We can’t go back to giving teams more space and we certainly can’t be having the kind of lazy tracking and pressing that we had at Anfield. Yes Bournemouth were poor yesterday, but our industry and effort without the ball made Bournemouth look poor. As good old Benjy said to me from inside the stadium (I wasn’t there because I’m doing the Great North Run today) we look like we had a better balance about us. We looked like all of the pieces were in the right place and it’s crazy that it seems like when you play all of those players in their natural positions it works. Maybe we could try that for the rest of the season, Arsene?
Right, that’s it from me for one day, as I’ve got some prep for a crazy half marathon.
catch y’all later.