Howdy there fellow Arsenal fan and welcome to Sunday, a day made infinitely more enjoyable as a result of Arsenal managing to dispatch Everton at Goodison Park yesterday.
Boy, doesn’t it feel good to see The Arsenal play well, score goals and look like a team with purpose, eh? Marvellous stuff. All week I’ve been apprehensive about this game, about the possibility of another implosion, about the spiral of negativity that could result in us dropping more points, out of the title race, being chastised by everyone and looking like we could do with somebody ending our season now. But I was wrong. And I’m delighted to admit that.
The first half that we all witnessed must have been one of the best first halves of football we’ve had all season. Arsène named practically the same side that started in Barcelona and whilst I was happy when I heard the team news before the game, I was also intrigued to see how much fatigue had set in amongst those players, having played just over 60 hours earlier. But any fear of a Champions League hangover were quickly dispensed, as we started brightly and got a lovely early goal on seven minutes through Danny Welbeck, who jinked his way past Joel to slot in what you’d describe as an archetypal ‘Arsenal’ goal. It had good build up, excellent interchanges of possession amongst Arsenal players and fantastic movement from Welbeck.
Ahh movement. Mobility. Two things we’ve been sorely missing of late that we had in abundance in both Barcelona and Liverpool yesterday. On Wednesday night it was hard to see the wood from the trees because of the fact we were up against Barcelona, but the team set up and dynamism about it were there for all to see in yesterday’s lunchtime kick off. The introduction of Iwobi and Welbeck has added a dynamism to the team that has been sorely lacking and whilst we have to admit that Everton were poor, it was because Arsenal were so good that they didn’t get the chance to settle, never really getting a foothold in the game.
Iwobi scored a fine counter attacking goal, but it was his retention of the ball that impressed me the most. He’s strong. He has a somewhat languid style about him but he manages to keep hold of the ball and yesterday did well releasing it at the same time. He still lost possession a few times, but as a young player that is always going to happen, so as a fan you learn to accept it. The key, however, is that you have to make the most of the build up play where you do have a better control of the ball. I thought he did that well. With him, Welbeck and Alexis operating as a front three, we get so much more fluidity in our front three. We have three players who run the channels, but are also good with the ball at their feet. It’s a formula that works.
All over the pitch we had good performances. At the back every ball slung in was delt with by Ospina, Koscielny and Gabriel and the two full backs were able to find space time and time again on our flanks to overload Baines and Coleman. Such was the strength of the performance, that Roberto Martinez was forced into a tactical change at half time, moving to a back three with wing-backs. It didn’t really work. Arsenal continued to overrun Everton on the flanks and in the middle of the park both Elneny and Coquelin showed that the partnership they have just forged is much more balanced than any we’ve had so far to date in 2016.
We looked like a team with purpose yesterday. We looked like a side challenging for the title. I spoke to Ben after the game and whilst both of us were pleased to get the result, Ben particularly was frustrated that we hadn’t found this level of balance in the team even a few weeks earlier. We could still be in a title race, we both mused, if we had.
We still are in a title race, I suppose, but Leicester are keeping us at arms length and we’re running out of games. But I’m not going to dwell on that right now. At the moment we need to look at the positives and that is that we go in to an international break having won a tricky away game. We have three more away matches and five home games and if we can get some revenge against Watford in two weeks time, we can perhaps look at the possibility of the improbably and unlikely actually happening.
For now I shall leave you with positive thoughts and a swing in your step. For we won a game.