Well I must say I thoroughly enjoyed parts of yesterday’s game. I say ‘parts’ because the ridiculous nature of the games being played at 6pm in away ties means that I was just finishing work as the match kicks off. I can also assure you that attempting to watch the game whilst hurtling along a tube line as you go in and out of signal is not the most fun experience.
Still, in between the intolerable buffering I experienced, there was the odd moment of clarity in which I was able to watch the first goal and marvel at the build up between Wilshere, Giroud and then eventually Theo to top it off. I tell you, for that 10 second play it felt like 2012 again with those three all working in harmony together.
But it’s 2017 and all three are now part of the second string playing in midweek games and I’ve got to be honest, I’m kind of ok with that, for now anyway. They are all experienced enough to put on a good display in an away game like this and by playing as regularly as they all seem to be doing at the moment it is giving them all much needed match fitness and game time for them to be ready in the event that one of the current ‘weekend’ players gets injured.
I must admit to being a little bit apprehensive that Arsène was going to play more first teamers than we needed to, so when I saw the line up, I was delighted. It is feasible to assume that none of the players who played last night will play on Sunday and that means that those that did play will be fresh and ready for a weekend of action in which fatigue should play no part.
Which is just as well given that the team has to play three games in a week.
The game itself felt like the fun old days of the Carling Cup and when your team scores four goals away from home you’ve got to be happy. The first goal mentioned above was well worked, the second and third goals came in quick succession and some awful goalkeeping for Theo’s second, whilst the fourth – a penalty to help Ollie G reach his tonne, was a nice little cherry on top.
Yesterday evening felt more like it was about the attacking side of our game than the defensive, which I guess serves to explain why all the talk post match and this morning is about the forwards and attacking players. Wilshere looked grand. He stroked the ball around like a man who’s vision is a few notches above his teammates and this performance will have done him the world of good. There will come a time – assuming his body can hold out – where people will be starting to ask questions about a regular place in the team for Jacky boy, because he gives us something in this team that nobody else does. Not even Ramsey or Xhaka.
Ollie G linked up well with him and the revised formation with Theo alongside him seemed to work well. The neat interplay between the attacking players had BATE all over the place and whilst of course we need to appreciate the calibre of opponents, this felt like the kind of performance everyone needed, because it put the fun back in Arsenal.
Midfield had Elneny and Joe Willock dictating play and both were assured – if not spectacular – enough. Elneny gave you what you expect which is a guy who will run all day, but never find a killer pass, or blunderbuss his way through an opponent.
I also thought it was an improved performance from Nelson too. Possibly that’s because he was able to do most of his good work in the final third though, because defensively we didn’t exactly look rock solid as a unit. It looked steady enough at times, but when you’re conceding two goals like we did and probably should have conceded at least one more, questions are always going to be asked.
But that just feels like nit-picking after a decent game away from home from the team. Arsène has every right to feel pleased this morning, as much as we all have every right to feel relieved, because when Sunday midday comes there can be no excuses for sluggishness. We need the weekend team to perform like the weekday XI did so we can go into the next interlull with a bit of a run being developed.
It’s good to have a Friday in which we can feel overly positive about Arsenal. I like it.
We probably have some sort of press conference coming up today too, so hopefully we’ll get an Arsène Wenger in fine form.
Catch you tomorrow.