I don’t know if I’ve ever been as tardy as today with my daily blog writing, but with it almost hitting the 3pm mark, it feels like a new record. An unwanted record of course. A bit like our away form at Old Trafford is turning out to be and once again, for the umpteenth time, we failed to pick up a win against a United side that must have been one of the worst we’ve come across. Certainly in my living memory.
Jose can complain all he likes about injuries, but his expensively assembled squad still cost a heck of a lot more than ours on the pitch yesterday and what we were treated to – or more likely ‘subjected to’ – was a home team who were more interested in the dark arts of rotational fouling than the carefully constructed complexities of a top flight football team.
From the very soft dive that gave United their equaliser, through to the Fellaini hair pull on Guendouzi in the second half, United were an image of their manager; a snide, snarling, little entity who are the epitome of the ugly football with which Mourinho brings.
I was nervous beforehand because I thought that they would turn up, turn it on, then do what they always do to us and find a way to beat us. And for the first ten minutes that’s what they did. There seem to be a bit of intensity about United in the first few minutes but once we got in to our passing stride, I thought we looked composed and controlled in possession.
Don’t get me wrong, we were hardly dynamic, but we looked like we had a gear to go up on where as United looked like this was all they had. And it wasn’t all that I have to say. Kolasinac was having a whale of a time getting forward on the left hand side and Dalot looked every bit the raw teenager each time the Bosnian broke in behind. But perhaps telling of the quality on the night I don’t remember too many balls being cut back or floated across to an Arsenal player.
And that’s a frustration because in the cold like of day today it feels very much like we had two points dropped against a distinctly average United side. We looked sluggish though. Perhaps you can put that down to the intensity of the North London Derby on Sunday but there wasn’t that same dynamism in the first half and even in the second half when we were slightly on top against the home side, it just felt like perhaps a little bit more had been used up from the tank.
Xhaka was out through suspension and Guendouzi came in and grew in to the game, deputising well for the Swiss international but its only when players like Xhaka don’t play, that you realise just how important he is for us. His vision and eye for a pass from deep is important and his absence was definitely felt I think.
But that was also the same from Ramsey when he went off. I mentioned Kolasinac and his runs in behind yesterday and it feels like Ramsey is the type of player who really could have made the most of late running in to the box with a player like Kola cutting the ball back. The injuries to Ramsey and Holding definitely had an effect on the team last night and undoubtedly also hampered what Emery wanted to do in terms of tactical subs. Holding’s looks a painful one and Emery didn’t look to happy when talking about it after the game. It’ll be a real blow for a player who had found his form and has been playing well this season.
We’ll miss him, but the return of Koscielny and Monreal will soften the blow and as we approach the Huddersfield game on Saturday you just wonder whether Nacho will be fast tracked back in to the team.
That could be as either a third centre half or a left back because let’s be honest here, Kolasinac’s real strength is in going forward and certainly not in his defending, which he showed yesterday with another brain fart moment for United’s undeserved equaliser. I mean honestly, when are we going to be able to skank United like they seem to perennially do to us, eh?
Still, I’m choosing to look at the positives right now, which is that we’re still on this undefeated run, we’ve got what you would hope are ‘winnable’ games between now and Christmas, so there’s a real opportunity to keep the momentum and the confidence going.
We probably could have done without the injuries at this early stage of the busy festive season but hey, this was always going to happen to us, because we always get injury crises at The Arsenal. We just need to hope that the players that come in step up and that now includes the returning Koscielny and Monreal.
We also have to hope that Iwobi and Mkhitaryan find some form because aside from Mkhi’s assist for the Lacazette goal I thought both were poor last night. After a resurgence at the beginning of the season we all thought Iwobi was getting back on track but again we saw a pretty turgid display from a player that seems to either blow hot or cold. For the last few games he’s been icy and we don’t have a glut of wide players to call on so having him find some sort of form would be really handy right about now.
The same for Mkhi too. Yes he got an assist, but I thought he was poor overall, misplacing the first four of six touches he had when on the pitch. He looks like a haunted figure at times and it’s such a shame because he was such a quality player back in the day. That day being of course the day before Jose told him he would be his manager from now on.
If you’d have told me we’d take four points from these two fixtures last Saturday I’d have said “thanks a bunch” and taken it all day long, which is why when I think back to the frustration of not getting the monkey off our back at Old Trafford, I’m not overly stressed about it. We went to United, were the better team, having been inevitably fatigued from the intensity of Sunday’s win and so I think the players can be pleased with that.
But football is a never ending cycle and the next game is never far away at this time of the year. In two days time from now we’ll be up against Huddersfield and whilst we can all be pleased with the weeks work so far we can’t stop to pay ourselves on the back just yet. The team simply must deliver three points on Saturday and if they do we can see it’s a good weeks work.
Emery will need to work our who has enough left in the tank to get that job done but what we’re learning about these Arsenal players each week is that he has a plan for each of them, each game, and we are trusting his process.
Onwards and upwards folks. Up the Arsenal.