Howdy all and hope you’re in a fine mood on this fabulous Sunday?
I’m not going to mug you off here; I’m not going tell you that yesterday was the most rosiest of days for me as an Arsenal but, then again, I know you too feel the same – that was bloody uncomfortable at times to be honest. I don’t know whether that’s because it was my brothers birthday and I’d played golf in the morning, wanting the day to be even more perfect than it already was, but I settled in for an early evening of hopeful football delight and I just expected us to turn it on.
The reality was that we did struggle to break down a Fulham team with a controlled and discipline set up and one that was designed – almost successfully I might add – to break us down, be physical, then feed off scraps.
But when you’re playing against Arsenal then you’ll at least be treated to some form of hope and we delivered that today with some pretty sub-par defending from Gabriel. Up until that point we’d pretty much just owned most of the turf at the Emirates; Fulham’s plan was pretty much for them to be physical and utilise any set piece opportunity they could grab their hands on. From a home fans perspective it’s one of the most dangerous situations because you can sit there feeling pretty comfortable, expectant of the goal to come, the. Go get absolutely leathered in the nuts by a moment of mentalness.
People are talking up Mitrovic this season and for large chunks of the game yesterday he was a big physical presence, but I’m not going to have any of the media narrative about him being amazing yesterday because he was absolutely gifted his goal by Gabriel. Other than that we gave him little change but the numbers will tell you he breathed our defence and I guess that’s all there is to go on if you just look at the black and white on the cold day of a Sunday morn.
It was against the run of play, not what Fulham deserved though, so when Ødegaard deflected his goal on eight minutes later, I defy anyone to say it wasn’t deserved, because we shouldn’t have been behind in the first place. But we got ourselves back level and then it was about whether we had the resilience to go on and get the winner. And as we all know we eventually did, but we have to talk about the importance of this victory because coming from behind isn’t a regular characteristic of this Arsenal team; we saw it against Wolves last season but before that you had to go back another year or 18 months to see us come from behind to pick up all three points. But we did it, the points are now safe and the way the team rallied around Gabriel and the way the supporters in the stadium even upped the noise levels after we were behind, was great to see.
And much like in the Leicester game where Saliba atoned for his mistake in the Bournemouth match, Gabriel atoned for his header by being the match winner with his goal. That’s another new goal scorer to our list for this season – we are spreading them around and that’s great to see.
What was also great to see was Ødegaard running the game. He was by far our best player on the day and everything channeled through him. He covered ground, he made key passes, he looked sharp and determined and although his goal took a deflection, it was definite reward from a captains performance that he put in. Some corners of the internet were slightly concerned with him after the first couple of games, but he stepped up yesterday and showed us just how good he can be and just how much he can dictate games.
I’ll take more of those types of games from him that’s for sure. I love watching him play; he’s just so silky on the ball and in possession and when he dictates the play and gets as much time on the ball as we had yesterday, good things usually happen for us. He’s a monster for our team and I think he’s going to have a very good season for us.
We do perhaps need to touch on the fact that Saka looked a little out of sorts yesterday and I don’t think he had his best game in an Arsenal shirt, but I don’t think we should get too hung up on it or dwell on it too much. We do have to remember that he is still only 20, about to turn 21 in a week and for players of that age you always get patches of form. But because he’s been in the first team for the last two years, the expectations of us fans – to some small extent – is that he will put in blinders of performances each week. He won’t and he shouldn’t be expected to.
But what is good – for us and for him – is that there are other players in this team stepping up and doing the business. Yesterday we had Ødegaard, on Wednesday it might be somebody else, maybe even Saka himself. But the important thing is that we aren’t placing too much burden on Saka to be ‘the guy’ each time. He’s part of a balanced and cohesive unit and sometimes different parts of that unit shine brighter than others. That’s a great position to be in.
I haven’t even mentioned that we were missing Partey and Zinchenko, who both picked up knocks, but in stepped Elneny and Tierney and did ok. The drop from Zinchenko to Tierney wasn’t too much as Tierney is a quality player, albeit stylistically we shifted our approach as Tierney is a line running, kick-and-run type of player, but you can see the drop in quality between Partey and Elneny. The Egyptian didn’t really do anything wrong, he’s just a bit, well, ‘meh’. But it didn’t adversely affect us in the end and the team got the job done.
That’s four in four for the team, the only team in the league with a 100% record and the momentum continues going in to Wednesday nights game against Villa. Let’s see how the team does then but coming from behind is another milestone ticked off and that’s another positive for this young side and their belief.
Catch you all tomorrow.