It’s fair to say that the main requirement of yesterday was delivered: a better first half and progression to the next round of the League Cup. The former was important so as to avoid our lacklustre first half performances becoming “a thing”. We’d not exactly clicked in the first 45 this season, save for a 15 minute spell at Chelski away in August, so showing that we could perform either side of halftime was a decent ‘tick’. Regardless of the opposition.
The latter was important because progressing to the next round not only affords is more hope to try to win a trophy, but it also enables us to give more minutes to rotated and younger players in the season. That’s important because it’s a long season and the more those fringe players can get match fitness through minutes on the pitch, the better we’ll all be.
So we see our boys in the hat for the next round courtesy of a 3-1 win against the Bees of Brentford. And for the first half we performed as you’d hope an Arsenal team to perform at home: we were comfortable, controlled in possession, never looked massively under threat and a Leno mistake in the first couple of minutes aside, our German ‘keeper had very little to do and we controlled possession.
What helped was going a goal ahead within the first five minutes and it was a decent header from Welbeck too. We talked quite a bit about him last night on the A Little Bit Arsenal show on LoveSport and it’s fair to say he’s delivering this season. He’s been limited to cameos and starts in the ‘lesser’ competitions and he’s delivered; four goals and some decent ones too, but the second yesterday was a peach of a goal and one that Wenger himself would have been proud to watch. A chip from Leno to Lichtsteiner, a decent pass to Mkhitaryan who checked inside and fed Iwobi, who fed Monreal, who slid the ball in to Welbeck for a tap in. It’s was a beautifully worked goal and the types of goal that ten years ago we saw on a regular basis.
This is a new era and a new style but it’s pleasing to see that the technical ability of these players can still shine through at times.
And at 2-0 it felt like the game should become dead and buried as the halftime whistle went. But Arsenal are Arsenal and we love giving teams hope. Quite why Guendouzi decided to give away a silly free kick just outside the D is beyond me, but even when the ball was struck, you can question both ‘keeper and wall. Smith-Rowe – who looked good for his start yesterday and fashioned a good chance and running with the ball at feet – isn’t the tallest lads in the wall and the ball sailed over his head. It’s a small thing, but why do teams do that? Why do they put smaller players in a wall? It’s a bit weird because it just gives the opposition player more probability of lifting the ball over and back down to hit the target.
Which of course the Brentford player Judge duly did. But even where he placed it probably leaves a question or two on Leno. His dive was another weird one to watch too. He dived across but didn’t seem to extend his arm to try to get to the ball. Had he done so I suspect he might have been in with a chance of saving it but he just sort of, well, didn’t.
With only a one goal difference between the two sides Brentford took the impetus and started to put us under pressure and it made for uncomfortable viewing. We began being sloppy and careless at the back and it really is amazing how a goal against us could suck the confidence and life out of the team.
You could tell we were on the ropes a bit because of the substitutions that Emery made; if we’d have been three up with 25 to go I suspect the likes of Nketiah would have been given some minutes, but instead it was Torreira, Ramsey and Lacazette who all came on.
And the latter continued his rich vein of form by sealing the tie with a goal that I was mightily impressed with I have to say. The headed ball back from a Brentford defender saw Laca up against a player who must have been a good four or five inches taller than him. Yet the Frenchman rose high and did enough to put the first challenge off, followed by winning the second aerial challenge, then striding forward and finishing smartly to ensure we get to go again in this competition.
I’m starting to really love the Frenchman’s tenacity. He’s a really dogged fighter and as a fan that’s pleasing to see. At a time when we’re not always clicking during games and with a direct and rugged team like Watford coming up on Saturday, it’s good to know you’ve got a centre forward who’s happy to do some of the dirty work too.
That’s six on the bounce now and a win against Watford at the weekend surely will give the players a little more swagger back. We’re in a good place right now and the most important thing is to keep that momentum going. Watford are no mugs and it’ll be a tough game but with us in this kind of form, we have to fancy our chances.
Catch you sexy bitches tomorrow.