We were well rubbish yesterday, weren’t we? I mean, we played a team who were so overawed by the occasion, they tried to camouflage themselves with the pitch by wearing green. I can’t believe we only scored six goals yesterday…
What a result. Six goals, a hat trick for Mesut, a team that is positively purring right now. I think it was James from Gunnerblog who tweeted last night that watching Arsenal is good fun at the moment. How right that man is. We haven’t seen a proper thrashing in quite some time, so to get it whilst we’re in the midst of this great run of form is a delight, and long may it continue (although we know it will end eventually).
Here’s the thing though: I didn’t think that our build up play was ‘amazing’ yesterday. I really didn’t. I think we’ve had better overall performances in other games this season and in the first half it certainly felt like we weren’t clicking as well as we could do. But the difference at the moment? We’re clinical. We’re getting chances and scoring goals. That’s what happened last night. When we had those chances, we took them, and some of the finishes were sublime.
Let’s take Alexis’ first, for example, as demonstration of just how good he is. Watch the goal again. He springs the offside track, the defender gets back but not quite quickly enough so he has to dive in, Alexis checks, looks up, then executes a perfect chip over the ‘keeper. It was a sublime finish, but when you watch it again, watch how he looks up just before he strikes it. When it’s slowed down it all seems obvious, but let’s bear in mind that all of this happens in the space of about two seconds. His vision and touch are practically one movement. He is a world class player and showed it last night.
But last night didn’t belong to him, however good he was, because it was Özil’s hat-trick which stole the show, and rightly so, because it was his first career trio and that match ball was stuck to him on the final whistle. The touch for the first was sensational. The finish for the second looked scuffed, but if he does a couple more of those this season, you have to start wondering if he means it. He’s that good. And the third strike may have the ‘keeper looking a little sheepish, but it was still a very good strike and Özil deserves it.
The evolution of his game this season – as a further forward playing midfielder – is an example of how we’ve changed our style with Alexis up top. It’s now working. Very well indeed. When Alexis drifts, Özil pushes forward and is being rewarded with goals. Sign him up please Arsène. Do whatever it takes.
Yesterday’s game was good for all the players. Ospina made a few decent saves, Mustafi and Koscielny improved in the game (I thought they let the Ludogorets forwards have a little too much licence in the first half), Hector was his usual hustle and bustle and Gibbs made it look like we weren’t missing Monreal. Whether he’s done enough to warrant a place in the side for the weekend I’m not sure, but perhaps Arsène is keen to give him a run out, so maybe he will get a little more game time.
In midfield we had the man of the match. When you’ve got a team that have six goals, it’s often hard to look beyond the forward line for a man of the match award, but Coquelin was superb. He pressed hard and high and won countless interceptions. It’s like he knows that Xhaka’s red card is his little window of opportunity to shine and so is making the most of it now. He was everywhere and will certainly start at the weekend. It will be interesting to see how he gets on, because Middlesbrough won’t be like Ludogorets I don’t think, they won’t come to play football on the deck.
I was pleased to see the Ox get a goal too actually. He’s an extreme confidence player and so far this season it’s looked like his head has been dropping when he makes the odd stray pass. But yesterday evening I thought he was up for it from the first whistle. He was looking to take on people, he wanted to show the full back down the wing, he got himself a very composed finish in the second half and I think his overall performance will have been great for him psychologically. He even had a hand in Özil’s second, playing a great ball to set Lucas off, who delivered the perfect cross for Özil to bag his second. Again, like Gibbs, I’m not sure that Arsène will give The Ox the nod for the weekend, but at least he’s done his chances no harm at all.
How about that prospect, eh? Having more than 11 players in form at the moment. I’ll buy that for a dollar.
We even had enough depth to make a number of subs and give players a rest earlier on in the game. Santi came off after 58 minutes, so he should be good for the weekend if expect. Elneny came on and had a tidy performance. Walcott too got off with plenty of time left and despite his visible frustration at coming off, Alexis will know deep down that it was the right thing to do.
Yesterday was an example of everything going right for us. It won’t always be like that. So at times like this you need to bask in the glory of a thumping victory and just be happy.
Right, I’m off, in to the Big Smoke for another day. You have a great one.