Yesterday’s win against United felt good, didn’t it? It had a performance that had us remembering that this collective of players are in fact capable of pulling off performances that can add a touch of sparkle to the weekend’s proceedings. Forget about the fact Mourinho had talked up his own teams failings, forget about his comments about rotation, the team he picked yesterday still had the requisite ability to cause Arsenal plenty of problems. Mata, Rooney, Martial, Mhkitaryan, Smalling, Jones and Darmian have all played their part in United’s season and although Maureen pointed towards eight players being rotated, there’s a few in there that you’d still expect to see in the first team.
Perhaps the psychology of Mourinho in tellin his players they were tired and unlikely to win had an impact, but I’d like to think that it was the impetus of the Arsenal players that was the deciding factor between the two teams yesterday. I’m choosing to hope for that more than anything else because we have an FA Cup final on the horizon and what this team could do with more than anything else is a massive shot of confidence ahead of what will be playing the champions in the final.
To me that’s why I’m revelling in this victory more than anything else this morning, because it gives me hope that this Arsenal team can start to show some of its old self under Arsène. Gary Neville said on commentary that when Arsenal are playing well you see more of those little reverse passes, the balls cutting in behind defenders, the movement, etc. That’s what we got some glimpses of in the Emirates sunshine yesterday and that gives me hope that we can give Chelski a run for their money in a few weeks time. The trick will be to build on this victory though, which will come in two days away from home against Southampton. If we can overcome Southampton and Stoke away in the next week, then we can play the final two home games with hope that the team will have a bit more confidence come Cup Final day.
As for the match itself, Arsène made a few of the changes that we’d all cried out for. Out when Giroud and in came Welbeck to add more mobility and pace to our attack. Xhaka recovered from a knock to start alongside the excellent Aaron Ramsey, whilst Rob Holding was rightfully restored to the back three.
We started quite well I thought. United were set up in a way that allowed us to get in behind their back lines and Aaron Ramsey proved to be the master of that particular action, constantly getting in behind United’s defence, causing them all manner of problems. But for an excellent save from De Gea, Rambo would have put us ahead and as some fellow Gooners commented on Twitter, it felt very much like the 2013/14 vintage of Aaron Ramsey. Arsène had spoken to Thierry before the game about the change of formation being beneficial for someone like Ramsey but it was only yesterday that we actually saw that bear fruit. It’s almost like Ramsey hadn’t been told this and he had to watch the interview himself to say “wow, so I have more licence to run in behind now, then? Great!” The trick will be whether he can sustain both form and fitness to repeat these types of performances. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking the 2013/14 Ramsey was gone – dead and buried – but yesterday offered glimmered.
It wasn’t just Ramsey though. I thought a number of players played very well yesterday, including The Ox with another assist and superb cross for Welbeck’s header, and Koscielny, who was dominant against Martial et al. Granit Xhaka too was good; spraying the ball around and generally dictating play from the back. Holding grew as the game went on and Özil looked like he had the type of game he needs to build that fragile confidence of his.
There was still some scary moments, like Holding’s hospital ball to put Rooney in, but this was exactly the type of game Arsenal needed Against a United side who might have other fish to fry, but still represent a good performance.
The problem we’ve had of late, however, is that we haven’t built on any kind of good performance this season, which is why Wednesday is almost as important as Sunday. At home against a United side that were not as strong as they once were is one thing, but our horrendous away record against Southampton and Stoke could easily bring us down to earth with a bump. The team needs to find the strength to get going again just 76 hours after starting their last match and we need to see a response against a Southampton team who might not have anything to play for, but will surely cause us problems. I still don’t think we have enough to get top four and you’d think Liverpool will beat West Ham and Middlesbrough, who should be relegated by them, so the next few games have to be preparation for the cup final.
But for now, this Monday is one that we can enjoy, so let’s do just that.