I must admit to you that I thoroughly enjoyed that Arsenal game against Newcastle. If you’re going to write a script on the perfect match before a big European Cup Semi Final game to prepare, that one yesterday was almost a perfect situation.
- Resting key players: Check
- Getting minutes for returning players: Check
- Feeble opposition: Check
- Goals for your main striker to help his confidence after a spell out: Check
- Impressive performance from some players to give the manager something to think about on Thursday: Check
It was exactly the tonic for the team and whilst the three points itself do little for our season (moving us from 11th to ninth in the league) the importance that a victory can do for the morale of the squad as they prepare and train this week will certainly have some value I think.
I was impressed by the performance of Bellerin on that right hand side. It was he and Luiz who combined excellently inside the first five minutes for our first goal and Bellerin’s run was a reminder of the player who he has been for us. His future may well be elsewhere in the summer but his performance today showed that he can still add some value to this Arsenal team and I think Arteta should be thinking seriously about whether he should start Bellerin on Thursday. That is especially the case now as Luiz went off with an injured hamstring. Personally I would be looking at Bellerin and Chambers as that right side combination and I thought Chambers coped well enough and there was one instance in which Saint-Maximin got away from him but he recovered to keep pace with him. Holding has been fine this season but he doesn’t have that same pace and that’s why I think with Luiz probably done for the season I would be looking at Chambers as the other option.
And on the other side of the defence there will obviously need to be the question as to who plays in at left back. Xhaka did quite well given he was yellow carded early on but we all want to see him in the middle of the park with Partey on Thursday. If he doesn’t then you are probably looking at Elneny in the middle and whilst the Egyptian isn’t without his flaws, his first Premier League goal yesterday will have done him the world of good and the finish was superb too from Bellerin’s cut back. I though Elneny and Ceballos coped well with what was an admittedly poor Newcastle team who seemed to sit off and look like they were going to try and spring counters off us, but never really did. So we ended up with plenty of the ball and pretty much dominated from start to finish. On our left hand side Martinelli was imperious; his energy and running was a thorn in Murphy’s side all day and he beat his man time and time again thorughout the game. A performance like that should have him front and centre of the managers’ thinking but whilst I doubt he’ll get a start on Thursday, knowing you have a guy like this available to call on should you need it, is very valuable indeed.
It was Martinelli who made Auba’s goal too and for about the 512th time in the game he beat Murphy with ease and put in a sumptuous cross that all Auba had to do was steer home. It was exactly the type of goal Auba loves and seeing him get 80-odd minutes under his belt yesterday will allay a lot of fears many of us have. You could tell he wasn’t 100% fit but his movement was still good and he picked up the perfect position for his goal and our second of the game.
We saw out the match and it was as routine a win as you are going to get in the Premier League. After the game Arteta spoke about how Laca and Tierney haven’t even trained with the team yet so are unlikely to be ready for Thursday, which is why seeing both Aubameyang and Martinelli put that kind of a performance in warms the cockles of ones heart. Both will be needed on Thursday and so those minutes yesterday were vital for our hopes of progressing against Villareal.
There’s not really a lot more to say about this one yesterday. We did what was needed, there were minutes for the like of Odegaard who I thought looked a little bit sharper and that will only help us for Thursday. Arteta has options in the attacking positions and let’s face it, we’re going to need that, because we need goals on Thursday. Plenty of goals.
Right, that’s me done for today. It’s a bank holiday in the UK so I’m off to do some DIY. Standard.