Well, what a happy Monday we have here thanks to The Arsenal, eh?
Five goals away from home, nine wins on the bounce, six in the league, Auba and Laca both getting two, plus one of the contenders for goal of the season thanks in large part due to some excellent build up but also the most sublime of flicks by Rambo.
But let’s rewind right to the beginning of the day as surprises were sprung on us in the shape of the starting XI, where Özil was missing due to back spasms, Ramsey had to once again contend with a place on the bench, whilst Aubameyang still wasn’t 100% due to his recent illness which saw him miss the trip to Baku.
Personnel wasn’t the only surprise Unai delivered, with an old fashioned 4-4-2 rolled out from the start with Welbeck and Lacazette and dare I say it, against Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to deploy a back three with wing backs, it gave space and running time for players like Iwobi and Mkhitaryan (although the latter did play a little more centrally) to take advantage.
And in Iwobi we certainly saw that. From the first couple of minutes he was picking the ball up in space and running not at Christie the right wing-back, but at Odoi the right centre-back. And he was having joy.
In fact it was Iwobi who nutmegged a Fulham player on the left hand side before fizzing the ball in to the excellent Alexandre Lacazette to control and swivel to nestle the ball in the bottom left hand corner. The Nigerian is getting better and better with every game and his display yesterday demonstrates just how important it is to have wide players stretching opposition defences.
Most of our play in that first half was down the left hand side because of the joy Iwobi was getting and although Mkhi was drifting in field more, he still found time to support Hector occasionally on the right. And he could have scored from one effort on the edge of the box.
We were bossing things in that first half but Arsenal being Arsenal there was always going to be a brain-fart moment and that came in the shape of Monreal. He gave the ball away further up the pitch for Fulham to pinch back and then when a couple of exchanges of passes saw Schürrle lift the ball over Leno right on half time, my biggest worry was that we were going to be made to pay for missing so many chances in the first half.
But what I am still having to factor in to this Arsenal team is just how clinical we really are. Yesterday Fulham had a higher overall xG than us and had 21 attempts at goal. Plenty were outside of the box though but we only attempted seven. We scored five.
You et what you pay for and football is no different and Arsenal’s £100million outlay on strikers showed that xG team comparisons means naff all when you’ve got such clinical players as Auba and Laca on the pitch. Lacazette’s second goal was a classic example and his strength to shield the ball from the defender and then turn and finish showed just how deadly this guy is.
He was good for most of the game actually. I thought he started a bit slowly and was dispossessed a few times in the first 25 minutes, but from when he scored his first goal onwards he was superb. His strength given his size is great and he’s so much better at holding on to the ball than I thought. It’s a delight to see him in such form and that’s five for the season and six for Aubameyang in all competitions.
The contribution from Aubameyang was also fantastic and given this was a game in which he clearly wasn’t 100% for we were treated to just how clinical he is when given a central role and playing off the shoulder of the last defender. His finish for goal number five – ably assisted by the also excellent sub appearance of Aaron Ramsey – was classic Auba and my biggest hope from yesterday’s game is that Emery takes heed of the performance of a front two – even with Welbeck and Laca together – was brilliant and definitely something we should be replicating from now on.
Aubameyang’s first goal was also a peach of footballing technique and he swivelled and drilled in the same way Lacazette did. Those two are brilliant footballers and I – probably as much as you too – am desperate to see what they will do in a front two. It can only be good.
And speaking of good – nay, great/awesome/sexy – let’s have a moment to relive that third goal yesterday, eh? That was a real gem. We no longer have Wenger as manager but that was peak Wengerball, delivered in an Emery way and everything from Rambo’s initial flick in the bottom right hand corner of our half, to Bellerin’s flick into Aaron’s path, then the final backheel to put it in off the post, was sublime.
Can I also say how much I love a ball in off the inside of the post. I don’t know why, it just looks really good. And yesterday’s third goal was really, really, good.
That second half was a blueprint of how to get at teams in the bottom half of the table, especially away from home and whilst last season it was pretty much an unmitigated disaster away from home all season, this year is proving to be very different. Three wins away in a row shows this and you only have to look at the form of some players compared to last season to see that they are enjoying their football a little more and whilst it’s hardly been the most convincing all season, yesterday’s second half in particular felt to me like it was Emery’s ideal football approach coming to fruition.
We won’t get teams like Fulham every week and they played into our hands a little bit with their tactical approach, but it was nice to see us give somebody a spanking and it will do everyone at the club a world of good going into an international break.
Right, I’m offski, so enjoy a Monday after a heavy win with a big smile on your face.