Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re never going to win, are you?
Yesterday I witnessed an Arsenal team absolutely dismantle Stoke City, yet when the Match of the Day team had their attempt at ‘analysis’, it seemed like they were giving a little more of a dig than praise for the performance. The fact that we’d had 29 attempts at goal by the time the final whistle had gone was seen as more of an example as to why Arsenal are going to struggle up front this season.
Eh? My rose-tinted specs must clearly be on their highest hue, because what I saw yesterday, was great stuff. But for a goalkeeping wonder-show by Jack Butland, we’d have got in to double figures. When you see a performance like his yesterday, sometimes you just have to accept that there is a player that is ‘in the zone’. Thankfully though, we still won the game 2-0.
Perhaps it was the fact that we had to wait until the 85th minute for Giroud to nod home the second goal that secured the points, but much like the Newcastle game, when you re-watch the whole match you can see that we were in control from the first to the last minute and Stoke never looked like scoring.
The pre-match chitter-chatter was all around another Arsène Wenger shuffle of his team, as he made a few selection decisions that surprised many of us in the pub, me especially. I’d wrongly assumed that Gabriel would make way for Big Per and that Giroud would take his place in the first XI to spearhead the attack. After all, Stoke would sit deep and we would probably need somebody who could hold up the ball better in tight spaces and set other players up for more chances around him.
Boy, did I get that wrong, because it was Theo who was preferred against a makeshift Stoke team. The first 15 minutes so often sets the tone for the game and as I took my seat in block five I said to Tom, my companion for the day, that a quick start will have the crowd behind them and we can put this current barren and unwanted goalscoring record to bed. Whilst we didn’t get the early goal we wanted, there was enough in those opening exchanges to certainly put my mind at ease that it would come, as we twice struck the post, witnesses the first of a string of good saves from Butland and saw a Theo header just fly over the top of the bar.
The goal was coming and we only had to wait half an hour before a superb Coquelin tackle broke down a bout of Stoke possession, followed by a pinpoint Özil ball to a grateful Theo, whose first touch was superb and second was a great finish. It was masterful from two of our best players on the day – Coquelin and Özil – and shows exactly what at do is all about; runs in behind defenders and finishing.
I have to say I was surprised that Walcott was able to make any of those runs, but he did a few throughout the day and whilst he should have perhaps scored more, at least he was on hand to take at least one of his chances. Perhaps too, we should give a little bit of credit where it is due to Wenger, because I didn’t see that attack working yesterday. But with a makeshift defence Stoke were clearly vulnerable and ultimately we took advantage.
It was also good to see the players playing to Walcott’s strength by attempting to play balls in behind the Stoke defence rather than up to him with his back to goal. The team adapted well to the different style like when we play Giroud up top and we got the desired effect.
Yes, it wasn’t the perfect display, because that would have seen us score eight goals. But it was a good and fluid performance from back to front. The two centre halves looked solid and Gabriel even had time for a cheeky elbow on Arnautavic, the full backs were once again excellent and both got beyond the halfway line well enough. Bellerin particularly was effective, which is useful when Ramsey comes in field, because it allows us to still spread the play when we need to. Coquelin and Cazorla had good games and Özil had another good performance with a decent assist. Ramsey did ok but was quiet, much like Theo (goal aside), who missed a couple of chances in both halves. Alexis hit the post and I’m sure the goals will start to come for him.
I’m also pleased for Giroud. After the week he’s had, plus the fact he missed another really good chance before he scored, the goal he got will have been so important. He’s a massive confidence player and not starting today, I did wonder what it would do for his confidence, but he responded in the right way. He even looked a little subdued in his celebration. Relief rather than jubilation, perhaps?
All in all we’re in decent shape for Olympiakos on Wednesday, who Le Boss will probably do a little bit of shuffling for, as well as Chelski next Saturday lunchtime. If we can finally break our league hoodoo against the Oil Whores, that will be massive, but for now I’m just basking in the post match glow of a good performance and three points. Catch y’all tomorrow.