Well lads and lasses, I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely no idea what to make of yesterday’s game. I don’t know if I should be a little worried about the way in which we handed Swansea a few lifelines, or happy about the fact that at times we were breathtaking and ultimately picked up the three points that I think were deserved against a Swansea side who have caused us plenty of headaches in the past.
Yesterday’s game was bizarre. It had a bit of everything. There were some great passing moves, some good goals, a poor refereeing performance, defensive lapses in concentration, the works. But ultimately, we picked up three points and have moved level on points with City, so we have to be pleased with that.
Arsène’s unchanged side from Burnley ensured an element of consistency about the team set up, despite my thinking that he might rest Alexis, and Arsenal started very brightly. We dominated possession of the ball, we pinned Swansea back in their own defensive third and we were winning the ball higher up the pitch. That aggression in winning the ball came from all corners of the pitch and it didn’t take long for us to fashion a chance, with Mustafi hitting the top of the bar from a corner.
Swansea had rarely ventured in to our half by the time Theo notched up his goal tally for the season – save for a Leroy Fer ball over the top – and when he scored about six or seven minutes later, I thought that we could see a battering.
But Xhaka, oh Xhaka, what were you thinking mate? Cruising at 2-0, his lapses of concentration made us all jittery, when really we should have gone in at halftime feeling like this could be a mauling. I think it’s fair to say that Granit will want to forget yesterday’s game. I actually thought he’d played well if you remove the two key moments of the game which involved him. He won tackles, his distribution was good, plus I saw plenty of Artetaesque dropping deep and receiving the ball from Cech so we didn’t lose possession by playing long. Of course the only proble is the two big incidents in the game led to life being made a little harder than it should of.
The first incident – the mistake leading to the goal – was silly. The second incident – the trip leading to his sending off – was harsh and an example of Jon Moss’ desire to see Swansea get something from the game. Moss had given us nothing all afternoon. There were a few highly fouls he allowed Swansea to get away with, but also a foul by Amat in which as Theo was about to get goal side of him, he looked at the striker and pushed his hand into Theo’s eyes. I
Think Theo was in and the debate was whether it was a yellow card or a red for me. Jon Moss gave nothing. Five minutes later, Neil Taylor pushes Theo when he rose for a header, yet again Moss gave nothing. In the second half Xhaka did what everyone knows as a ‘good hello’ to give away. Barrow was breaking and in the Swansea half, with a couple of players over the other side of the field and therefore able to ensure he wasn’t the last man, Xhaka did no more than trip Barrow. Moss was itching to give the red. It was a poor decision from a poor ref. Thankfully we weren’t ultimately punished with it by the concession of all three points.
I hope Moss watches that game again and realises what an absolute fool he was to give a red instead of a yellow. I disagree with Arsène, because it wasn’t even a ‘dark yellow’.
That of course meant 20 minutes of us all ageing rapidly, as Arsenal hung on for the win and there were some scary moments, but even with a man less we still fashioned chances with Walcott hitting the post.
So ultimately we can be happy with the win. When you concede two goals you’re always going to look at the defensive set up, but I actually thought three of our back four played quite well, with the exception of Monreal who was tormented by Barrow all afternoon. I wonder if Gibbs derserves a shot now you know. Nacho hasn’t had the best of starts to the season compared to the previous 18 months, so perhaps freshening it up might be something for the manager to consider? He’s not been terrible, but teams are isolating him and it’s causing us problems as they start to target him. I don’t know if Gibbs will be miles better, but he does have a bit more pace, so perhaps that can act as a recovery mechanism?
In midfield I thought we controlled the play for the most part, whilst in attack Theo looked good again and grabbed a brace. I thought Alexis tired towards the end, but that’s to be expected, and Iwobi had one of the games you get when you’re a 20-year-old. It happens.
So in the main, we have to be happy that we got the goals – Mesut’s particularly was a great finish after a superb ball from Alexis – and secured the three points. Sometimes you just get these weird games, so we need to just consign it to history and look forward to the game in midweek against Ludogorets.
Our form is good, we have a number of home games coming up, so the opportunity is still with us to create great momentum ahead of a tricky November.
Catch you tomorrow.