A win to set the week off is always a good thing. A win with a clean sheet is also very delightful. A win I. Which your star striker bags a brace is also something to savour.
So on a relatively balmy night in North London yesterday evening, I’m pleased that it’s just what was delivered by the Arsenal players, albeit with a couple of hairy moments.
Pre-game pint talk consisted of discussions as to how Elneny had made it in to the starting XI, but now with the benefit of hindsight, it must be said that Wenger got his selection right. The theory behind the decision was clearly that Ramsey should be given licence to roam across the field in a more advanced position, whilst Elneny would cover space potentially left behind by the Welshman’s absence and Xhaka’s immobility. And I must say I think it worked.
The Egyptian was all over the pitch covering space and certainly looked like one of the better players in red and white. His lung-busting action allowed Ramsey to influence the game further up the pitch and between the Welshman and the Egyptian it felt like it was going to be a tough call for man-of-the-match.
Except it was neither. That accolade has to go to Monreal who, as my pre match conpanions and I all agreed, has been one of the revelations so far this season. Nacho was winning headers, covering ground, showing composure and even displayed one of the hallmarks of the great defenders, was able to sniff out an issue and rectify, clearing one ball off the line acrobatically.
This weekend just gone saw pretty much all of the top clubs pick up points. We couldn’t afford to drop. And we didn’t. We started okayish, dominated possession and looked like we wanted to work the ball. Bellerin is looking better with each passing game and his cross saw Ramsey just flick the ball over the bar. On the other side Kolasinac looked more solid than a solid rock surrounded in concrete, buried deep underground and protected by 12 security guards.
We had a few scary moments as Arsenal always do, and most definitely should have conceded a penalty but for the ineptness of Bobby Madeley, but as soon as that first goal went in it seemed to steady us for 10 to 15 minutes and I thought apart from a little spell before halftime we looked comfortable thereafter.
The first goal was lovely to see. It was a good free kick from Alexis that hit the bar but the loveliness was not in that strike, but the follow up from Lacazette. In football it’s often so easy to overlook that movement off the ball and positioning can make a situation look easy. Big Per has been using his great positioning for years to be an effective defender without any hint of pace. But it was positioning up the other end of the field that saw Lacazette first to the rebound and he had a simple header over Foster to claim another goal. True poachers stuff and let’s hope this is just the start.
What I like about Lacazette is that he’s starting to feel very ‘Wrighty’. Not just in some of the poachers goals like that, but in other ways too, because Wrighty had a finish on him from outside of the box like Lacazette does. Wrighty would also come alive in the final third. Sometimes when we had the ball in defence or even midfield, Wrighty could look disinterested, but when it came in to his ‘zone’ in the final third, he’d be lightning quick with where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do. That’s what Lacazette feels like to me. Long may it continue.
West Brom created chances and they had a few moments – hitting the post and the penalty shout – but it’s hard to argue that in the main Arsenal didn’t deserve their win. And one poor decision doesn’t counter another. So despite the fact the Baggies didn’t get a penalty there can be few who can’t argue that the push by Nyom inside the box on Ramsey wasn’t a foul. Up stepped Lacazette and I have to say it’s been a while since we had a penalty taker who looked so composed with his finish from the spot. No wonder Arsène admitted afterwards that he’s the designated penalty taker.
A quick word on Alexis now. I’m starting to wonder you know. He was pretty shoddy all night and his decision making leaves a lot to be desired at times. Perhaps this is just my self-defence mechanism kicking in as I start the process of divorcing myself from support of him as we get closer to next summer, but I’m starting to wonder if the individualistic nature of the game is actually a hindrance to our play at times. Sure, when he produces moments of sublime skill or goals it’s amazing, but on nights like last night where all he had was that free kick off the bar, he seems more of a hindrance.
He holds on to the ball too long. By picking it up and checking his run he stops the waves of red shirts who are forward running, because they have to stop, turn and come back in to onside positions. So to me at times it felt like he was actually making our game worse by slowing it down.
There’s no doubt he’s our best player and gives us something different. But when RvP left we all wondered how the team would cope and what happened was that we were able to spread responsibility a bit. Who knows what life might be like for some other players if we stopped the reliance on Alexis’ individuality?
Just a thought at this stage. Maybe more development in it over the The coming months. But until then let’s be happy with a winning start to the week.