That’s more like it Arsenal! Much more enjoyable an evening at The Emirates. And I’m thankful that given it’s the last time I rock up in North London for a whole month due to work comments, FA Cup weekends and a plethora of away games, I got to see Arsenal strong together two decent halves of football for once this season.
It started so well too. Mesut Özil – in after being rested for the Southampton game – got us off the mark in the opening few matches and for the first 20 minutes it felt like this might be a game in which we get ourselves out of sight by halftime.
And in a similar fashion to Sunday Arsenal looked so much more spritely from the off than we have done for large parts of this season.
Unai raised a few eyebrows in the pubs with another decision to play three at the back and whilst I wasn’t the biggest fan of that decision, it ultimately was proved right because we looked up for it whilst conversely, Bournemouth let us play and gave players like Özil and Mkhitaryan the kind of space they dream about all week.
And I thought Mkhitaryan was excellent in possession. He looked up for it last night and was central to the second goal not only in scoring it, but also in the interception, the pass to Özil who delightfully dropped the ball at perfect volley height, then the finish slammed in to the back of the net to make it 2-0 to The Arsenal.
And it felt like cruise control. For about two minutes. Guendouzi – who otherwise out in another decent display – dwelt on the ball too long and despite the fact it was probably a foul, he shouldn’t have been caught out the way he was on the edge of his box. But that’s the kind of mistake you get from a young player like the Frenchman and it is the price we have to pay for blooding someone so young.
Thankfully he didn’t look to dwell on it and I thought his performance mirrored that of the team as a whole and he was very good thereafter.
But that can be said for a lot of the players in red and white last night. Leno made a good save from Fraser in the first half and from the subsequent loose ball Koscielny made a brilliant block. I thought he, Sokratis and Monreal did ok in comparison to a lot of performances this season and whilst we still look so vulnerable defensively with balls in behind, Bournemouth didn’t trouble us as much as some teams.
I think the timing of the goals was crucial on that front. We scored early to settle the nerves. We got a second around the 30 minute mark and although we conceded shortly after, the quick goal in the first few minutes of the second half was crucial too. It settled the team and the fans and from then on in Bournemouth were forced to be more open and we profited.
Aruba’s goal was one I loved – the ball splitting defenders and a world class finisher getting in behind to round the ‘keeper and touch in. I love those goals. Then, the cherry on the cake being Lacazette’s excellent free kick gave the game a lovely gloss and yet more goals to add to the goal difference.
And that might prove vital. There are some big games coming up and United are on our tails. I’m not too convinced we’ll get anything away to Tottenham on Saturday and United will certainly beat Southampton, so we need to make sure that if it comes down to it our firepower is such that we have that auxiliary point if we need it.
But for now let’s just be pleased. That’s back-to-back good performances and although it’s probably not enough to cry “momentum” it’s given us a good enough boost ahead of a very big game on Saturday lunchtime.
Catch you guys tomorrow.