Özil stars, but plenty step up against Leicester
I could really get used to “second half Arsenal” you know. Like, really get used to them. I’m not too fussed about “first half Arsenal, if I’m honest; in fact I’d happily never see “first half Arsenal” ever again, thank you kindly.
That’s what we have to get used to though. I’m trying to reconcile in my own thoughts what is behind the difference in the two Arsenal teams that we seem to be seeing on a weekly basis these days.
Is it that Emery is getting his set up wrong from the start?
Is it that he’s the most Churchillian halftime speaker that ever existed?
Is it that there’s a deliberate ploy to make opponents think they’re in with a decent chance of turning us over if they press us high in the first half?
Is it all just a massive coincidence?
Whatever it is, when the end result is as we’ve seen it for the last ten games in a row, I’ll certainly not be complaining too much as long as Arsenal are picking up points and wins.
It’s weird though, because it feels like in each game we play we’re leaving ourselves too open at times and with every win like this I find myself saying “yeah, but we need to stop giving away these great chances”. Of course we do, but at some point we have to realise that this Arsenal team are playing a certain way and when you’ve won ten in a row it’s difficult to put down a streak like that to fortune and luck.
In fact it was the opposite of that for the first goal of the game; we were quite unlucky I thought and when Chilwell’s cross took a massive deflection off Bellerin to put Leicester up on 31 minutes, even I thought this might have been one of these games that wasn’t going to be our day.
Up until the goal it had been one of those games. We’d had more of the ball, popped it around ok in patches, but we never massively cut Leicester apart and it felt like it might be a frustrating evening at times. Emery named a similar side to the one that beat Fulham, except for enforced changes in Monreal coming out through injury, plus Welbeck coming off for Özil. Emery is a man who is balancing multiple competitions at the moment and so I suspect Welbeck has been earmarked for Thursday night away to Sporting, with Kolasinac and maybe a few others like even Aubameyang, so in hindsight I can understand why he decided to rotate his team a teeny bit.
One player who might’ve been a Thursday consideration – Alex Iwobi – is showing that actually his growing importance in this Arsenal team is becoming more and more obvious with each game. He looks stronger, fitter, more athletic and can also shrug off opponents more too. Around where I sit there are quite a few who have lamented Iwobi’s stagnation in the last year, but he looks a reformed man under Emery and from nowhere has become a real consideration for inclusion on a regular basis this season.
But we can say that about quite a few players at the moment and although there is still plenty to be improved upon with the team at the moment – think that first chance we gifted Leicester after about two minutes when Ihenacho was through on goal – we are seeing patches of a team that is playing with plenty of confidence and swagger at times.
But mainly in the second half.
Seriously, what is happening with Arsenal between the jest half and the second? What kind of elixir of footballing goodness is being handed to the players inside that dressing room? Where are those halftime oranges from? I’ll have an orchard full please.
But whilst the second half is what everyone will be talking about today, let’s also not forget the essential moment in Arsenal’s turnaround that happened in the first half, eh? Bellerin – as equally delightful going forward as he is terrifying in defence – with a fantastic run and ball in and the technique from Özil to guide the ball in with one foot was phenomenal. He’s such a special talent and when he puts in performances like that you can see why he’s viewed in such high esteem by some of us. It’s just a pleasure to watch.
The hope is that he’ll now build on this performance further and when you have somebody like Emery stating that he still wants to see more from Özil, we know we have a manager that will look to squeeze every last inch out of the talent at his disposal.
He’s also recognising how we can improve in game and taking actions to correct and that was on display last night. In that second half we started well but he wasn’t 100% happy do around the hour mark he switched things around by bringing off the ineffective Mkhitaryan and Lichsteiner for Guendouzi and Aubameyang and the impact was obvious.
Aubameyang is such a deadly and natural finisher. Because the goal was up my end in the north bank, I watched his run in to the box and whilst he makes it look easy for the tap in from Bellerin’s ball, the run itself is over about 15 yards and the pace just leaves Ndidi for dust to get in front of him and tap in. Surely there has to be a case for inclusion from the start in the league soon? Perhaps he is rotating as I’ve mentioned before and that’s why he had the Gabonese on from 60 minutes, but he’s in such a rich vein of form that leaving him out seems mad at the moment.
It is starting to feel like there’s genuine competition in this Arsenal team now. As opposed to last season where there was clearly an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team, this season that blurring of lines is resulting in players being more motivated and as such performing more. Welbeck, Iwobi, Guendouzi; all are players you’d probably call squad players at best but each appears to be stepping up to provide competition and I think that is also helping our team.
It’s ten wins now and on Thursday it’ll be a tough test in Portugal to make it 11, but if Arsenal can capture that second half form and replicate again, then you’d say we’re in with a good shout of extending the winning streak. I’d like to see it. The confidence and momentum it will bring will be massive.
Come on you reds.
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