I had a race against time to get down for the match, after spending Christmas up north with The Managements family, so didn’t manage a pre-game blog. But it’s always a worthwhile journey when Arsenal win, so I’m glad I got up early and I’m even more glad we won, after the poor performance on Boxing Day.
Thankfully, given the fact that we only played Southampton a few days ago, the bad taste it left in my mouth has been rinsed out. Thanks in the main to Mesut Özil. The stand out performer for Arsenal on the night and a man whose importance to the team is now more obvious than its ever been. I’m not really a stats man, but his nine chances created, one assist and one sumptuous goal tells enough of the story about how he played yesterday. He pulled the strings, he saw passes that nobody else sees and but for some wayward finishing yesterday, he’d probably already be on the verge of hitting Thierry’s 20 assists in a season tally.
As it is, he’ll just have to be satisfied with knowing that at the halfway stage in the season, he’s racked up 16 and has another 19 games to get at least five more assists. I’m sure everyone’s ok with that. If he keeps creating the chances, Walcott, Giroud and Alexis certainly will be!
The game itself started with us being a little cagey I thought. We conceded quite a bit of possession to Bournemouth in the first third of the match I thought, but thankfully they never really looked to have the cutting edge in our defensive third of the pitch. A couple of times I saw Bournemouth players get to the byline and just run the ball out of play, which whilst giving relief to us in Block 5, also gave an indication of the limited quality of our opponents. You could tell that we were the technically superior team, because after a good opening spell for Bournemouth, they still hadn’t really tested Cech, yet it was us that created the first chance that should have been a goal. Mesut Özil’s (who else?) flick over the top should have been put away by Theo, but his missing of the ball brought an audible grown from everyone around me. I thought at the time ‘no matter. As long as they are huffing and puffing and not getting anywhere in our defensive area of the pitch, we’ll get more chances’ and sure enough we did.
Weirdly though, the best chances we got seemed to come from corners and set pieces, with the first goal typifying that. An unmarked Gabriel inside the six yard box couldn’t have asked for any more than the ball he received and he duly obliged the taker (again, obviously Özil) by nodding us in front.
I don’t know if everyone else could see the same as me, but as soon as the goal went in all of the players looked a little taller, were suddenly popping the ball around a little more crisply and we created a handful of more chances in the last ten minutes of the half. We can even all laugh – with the benefit of hindsight – Big Per’s miss of the season after a header from a corner was tipped on to the post, only for the big German to head wide from a yard out. It was harder to miss than score, so Kudos to our giant centre half!
Bournemouth steadied themselves in the second and had one or two half chances, but the quality of Arsenal shone through with Özil’s goal, which had shades of Wilshere’s one against Norwich a few years back. The one-two with Giroud was awesome and his nutmegging of Boruc was the icing on the cake.
We should have have more, in truth, through the Ox hitting the post, Walcott dragging wide and in the dying embers having a touch too heavy to allow Boruc to close the angle on him. But three points are three points and if Moneychester City avoid defeat tonight against Leicester, then we’ll remain top going in to the new year.
On an individual performance basis, there were some positives and some less-so-positive, I thought. It’s hard to be too discouraging after the team has won the game to send us top, but I thought Giroud looked a bit leggy and Theo was a bit wasteful in front of goal. Perhaps there was an element of fatigue for both and so it’s difficult to be too disparaging, but hopefully we’ll see better performances when Newcastle visit on 2nd January.
I thought Chambers performed well given he’s had so little game time this season and he is clearly not a defensive midfielder. What I mean when I say that, is that he just doesn’t look to have the level of composure we need on the ball. What has been great about Coquelin and before that, Arteta, is that you know that when both receive the ball, they have it under control and manage to release it without much trouble. It takes a bit of relief from the back four and keeps us ticking over. Perhaps with Coquelin he had the benefit of Santi beside him to always release it to, but Chambers looked once or twice like he might get himself in a bit of a pickle. Thankfully he didn’t though and so hopefully this game will help grow his confidence, especially if Flamini is out for any extended period of time, as we’ll need him in that holding position.
So overall it’s hard not to be satisfied with the way the team has bounced back after the thrashing at St Mary’s. The players can now recharge for five days and be ready for the visit of Newcastle.