If you’re going to describe the perfect start to a football match then you’d pretty much just re-run the opening 30 minutes of yesterday’s win against Crystal Palace. It was goals, goals, goals. And I loved it.
The nerves were there for all to see pre match and as I sunk a few pints round the corner of the ground with Dave the discussion was about how this team pick themselves up from what has been a difficult few weeks.
First and foremost we had to get the formation set up right and I’ll admit to being a little unsure when I saw a four at the back, with Jack, Elneny and Xhaka in midfield, Iwobi and Özil flanking Lacazette. I wasn’t too convinced that Elneny and Iwobi were the right choices so this morning I am a happy man to be holding my hands up and admitting I was wrong.
Yesterday it all clicked in that first half. Elneny played the role of Gilberto in winning the ball, distributing, sitting in front of the back four and being an option for players. Jack and Xhaka could then have more licence to move about the pitch with a little less pressure and both players put in good performances in midfield.
In front of them all three forward players also had games that were good in their own way. Iwobi got a goal that will give him some much needed confidence and I must say that I thought he was much less wasteful than he’s been all season. He seemed to be more intent on releasing the ball at the right time and you have to say “kudos” to the lad for not hiding and putting in a performance in which his best game is based: running at players, getting in behind on that left hand side then cutting the ball in, being there in the box to poach yourself a goal – this is all the stuff we’ve wanted to see from him but haven’t done very much at all. So I’m really pleased he’s got that confidence boost from yesterday.
And in that similar vein I’m also delighted that Lacazette was on the scoresheet. He needed that, that’s for sure but the goal he scored wasn’t just a relief for him, it was also a thing of beauty and the assist from Özil just shows the majesty of that guy.
He had a stormer yesterday. The flicks, the passing, the dictating of play, the control of the game, Özil was the maestro conduction the philharmonic yesterday. It looked effortless and you can understand why he was a bit cheesed off when he was subbed, because he was running the show, and was having a lovely old time.
Having the established back four certainly helped us and that two of our goals came from Monreal and Koscielny should probably not be underestimated. The assured nature of that back four built a confidence throughout the team and we have to hope that we don’t get another injury crisis like we had over Christmas and the beginning of January.
We were good, but we should probably also note that Palace were pretty poor, because Zaha didn’t really offer anything and I can’t remember a time when they really looked dangerous. Even their goal felt like we’d switched off a bit and had the scoreline not have been what it was I think we’d have seen an Arsenal team with their heads a little more screwed on. But hey, the game was over within 30 minutes, so who are we to complain?
A couple of final points from me on yesterday’s game. Firstly, given the precautionary measure taken for Monreal when he came off in the first half for Maitland-Niles, what on earth is the future for Kolasinac if we are going to move to a back four? Which you’d have to assume is in Wenger’s thinking more and more. Does the Bosnian even have a future long-term at the club? I hope so. I really do. I think he’s a good player and I think he just needs to work on the defensive side of his game, but I would have played him on the left when Monreal came off, because the game is done and Palace were offering nothing. So that could have been an opportunity to give him more confidence and minutes under his belt.
Secondly, can referees please start applying the same rules regardless of the scoreline? Lacazette was scythed down in the box in the dying embers of the game but because the match was effectively over, the referee decided that he wouldn’t rub more salt into the Palace wounds. I’m sorry but this isn’t boxing, he isn’t a person who can throw in a towel for a team and as a result he should be refereeing every minute identically. It’s a really annoying trait that I see in football matches and I’d really rather not see it again.
But hey, four goals, three points, one happy gooner. Catch you all tomorrow.