So it turns out that football matches can, in fact, BE LOTS OF FUN!
Who’d have thunk it, eh?
Well, I say ‘fun’, but in reality – as is the case with this Arsenal team – we still managed to make a little chunk of the game difficult for ourselves in the second half, but let’s not dwell on that too much. You really are sucking the enjoyment out of life if you’re going to focus on a 20 minute window of a 90 minute game when your team has just won 4-0.
It was our first game I four at home and whilst we are all familiar with the other away grounds in the division, there was a comfort to watching us at The Emirates and when I settled down to watch us stroke the ball around in red and white on our carpet of a pitch, I certainly felt more at ease that’s for sure. I think some of that was probably down to the fact that in the first half we played rather well. Of course you can caveat it by accepting that Norwich really aren’t that good and are almost certainly going down this season, but you still have to deliver the right level of performance in the Premier League and we got that from the players in the first half yesterday.
As expected it was a slightly rotated team and I thought it was interesting that with Pepe out and Nelson in, Hector seemed to get more licence to roam forward and get beyond his teammate on that right hand side. Throughout the game he was allowed to get in behind and it felt a little more like the ‘old’ Bellerin that used to rampage down our right. We haven’t seen a lot of that of late but having him put in a better performance is something I’m sure we’re all happier to see.
First half goals are also something we’re all happy to see and may I say a sincere ‘thank ye kindly’ to Tim Krul for obliging on the first one yesterday. Jake Humphrey in the BT Sport studio said what a nice man he is when you meet him. Well I haven’t met him, but what I have seen is a game playing (remember on the penalties and the one at Norwich?), the time wasting (remember when he took the piss when he was at Newcastle and they played at The Emirates about five years ago?), all adds up and makes me thoroughly delighted that he completely fluffed his clearance and gifted Auba his 50th goal for the club.
I said it after his first game and here I am saying it again: what a Rolls Royce of a striker he is. 50 goals in something like 77 or 78 games. That’s a phenomenal record and one that we simply won’t be able to replace when he (probably) leaves at the end of the season. But I’m just embracing what we have now and what he is, is a player who is right on course for the golden boot. For the second season running. At an underperforming, mid table, Arsenal It really is quite remarkable.
What’s more remarkable though, is that we didn’t give ourselves any troubles in that first half. I thought we moved the ball quicker, there was a purpose and incision about our play, but also we got a second goal in the second half that really felt like the Arteta of old. Luiz with a sumptuous long-range pass, Tierney with a good touch, Auba with a great run and fabulous flick, followed by Xhaka with a deft finish through Krul to double our lead. It feels like the end goal of what Arteta is trying to achieve at The Arsenal, albeit that we haven’t seen enough of it for many a year.
So we go in at half time – also thanks in part to a good save at the end from Emi Martinez – and I am wondering what sort of Arsenal we’d get in the second. And this is the one part of today’s blog where i’m going to be a bit ‘neggy’. Because what we got was a lethargic Arsenal who didn’t close down and press the spaces when Norwich players had the ball. Norwich made a couple of changes and shifted around where players like Cantwell were stationed, and it was almost as if the Arsenal players weren’t clever enough to recognise where those players were now occupying space in the zones on the pitch. So we had 20 minutes of a frustrating watch as Norwich managed to find space to pass the ball around where in the first half they had none. We were fortunate that they are so bad going forward, because I think a better team with better players, would have punished us.
But this is the nature of the Premier League and when you don’t take your chances you get punished. I don’t think Auba was quite expecting a second gift as he got though. That’s 51 for the lad then, and I couldn’t be happier for him, but also us because it turned the final part of the game into an exhibition match as we controlled possession and even got a fourth through a wonderful finish from Cedric. If you can get us two or three of those a season Cedric my old mukka, then i’d be very happy with that.
I’m also happy with the fact that we confirmed the Saka deal at the club and the player has committed his immediate future to the club. It’s apparently only a four year deal, which raises a few eyebrows as we’ll probably need to start thinking about a new deal at the end of next season if he kicks on as much as we all hope, but that’s a worry for another day in the future. For now we can be happy we’ve secured a precocious young talent who is doing big things at the club right now.
Three wins on the trot means we now go into our ‘death run’ with at least a little bit of confidence. Wolves away on Saturday evening will be very difficult and if I’m honest I’m not exactly mega confident with the back line we have, but at least those players know the taste of winning again and that’s important.
More thoughts tomorrow.