I hate trotting out footballing cliches but, as I made my way home with the old man yesterday from The Emirates, it was hard to describe yesterday’s win against Swansea as anything other than the proverbial ‘game of two halves’. The first was one of laboured, predictable passing that had the inevitable sucker-punch from pretty much Swansea’s only real attacking foray forward, the second was with an Arsenal team who had been given the rocket up the backsides and subsequently played with the kind of urgency that you’d expect from us at home.
For the third time this week we came from behind and whilst it’s a great feeling to ultimately overcome adversity, I wouldn’t mind a bit more of the stress-free stuff we all saw against Bournemouth at home over a month ago.
Perhaps it’s just the way we do things. Perhaps that’s just how we get motivated. Perhaps that’s how this team has to deliver. Perhaps there are a few ‘cajones’ after all. Well, we’ll find out next week away to City, but at least we’ve been given somewhat of a response since that Watford game.
Arsene started pretty much the exact team that we had all expected, which meant total rotation from midweek and in came everybody for the usual weekend fixture. Swansea did what you’d expect and sat men deep with an intention to hit us on the break. I feared that Swansea would do to us what they’ve done on plenty of occasions before but ion truth this isn’t the same sort of side. Those sides have been built on a passing game that wrestled the retention and possession stats from us and suffocated us on our own turf. This one was set up to be compact, hit on the break, take their chances and to be fair to them, when Clucas slotted past Cech on the angle, I wondered if this would be the archetypal Championship Manager simulation skanking that was such a fixture in my teenage years of playing the game.
It was poor from Cech I have to say. The threaded ball in to Clucas was alright, but it looked to me like a Petr `Cech from six or seven years ago would have scampered out and collected that ball. But he came, hesitated, then came again too late and we’re one down.
There wasn’t really much of a reaction in that first half and I have to admit to being rather worried when the halftime whistle went. We’d troubled Fabianski once with a good effort by Alexis, but that was pretty much the sum of our attacking in that first half and the fear was that we’d get more of the same frustration in the second.
But Arsenal came out early for kick off and the Arsenal players had a different look about them from the first touch of the second 45. There was more urgency, there were more ‘gamble’ balls in to zones which had higher risk/reward stakes and we started to see the forward players move more and force Swansea to lose their shape.
You can only really say this when it happens, but it felt like the goal was coming. We were getting closer, Fabianski seemed busier and when Kolasinac found himself with space after a deflected ball across the box, he swept home with remarkable accuracy I thought. A really composed finish from a left back who is fast becoming one of my favourite players.
I thought he was man of the match yesterday and not just because his goal and assist for Ramsey, but also because of his general all-round play. He loves getting forward but he also feels a very stable full back. He’s not the best defensively in the world, just stable, which when you are playing in the formation we’re playing in, it’s good enough. I think it also helps him that he has Monreal behind him. The Spaniard mops up any time the opposition get in behind on our left hand side and given that he’s been a left back for most of his career, it offers some comfort for Kolasinac that he can move forward with less risk to being exposed, i’d say.
We got the win and it was thanks to another goal from Ramsey and i’m starting to believe that if he can avoid injury, we’ll find him with 15 goals in all competitions before the end of the season. He’s already popping up in those spaces and yesterday’s goal was an archetypal Frank Lampard position from which he needs to be more often. A great pick out from Sead too by the way.
I thought the front three were better in the second half and certainly Ozil had more impact on the game, but Alexis was a little off. It’s a shame really because I was hoping to see more of the same stuff we had last weekend but in truth that was never going to happen against a team who just wanted to stick bodies on the edge of the box and be compact. Lacazette also found it tough going and never really had much of a sniff all afternoon. I suspect he’ll find more chances next weekend even, because City won’t sit as deep as Swabsea, so let’s just wait and see what he can produce.
Overall this looks like a routine win and on balance of play and with the benefit of our old friend hindsight you’d say it was, but it had a few elements which made it a little less comfortable than I’d have liked. I still don’t believe we’ll get anything from City next weekend so this result was important for us.
Catch you all in the morrow.