Yesterday I had a lot of fun. Hella fun. And it all started with The Arsenal.
I’ve never got up at 6am, trudged across town, got to an Arsenal bar to watch the game at 7am before, but if the result could be the same as what we got yesterday at home to Forest, then I’d gladly go through that again and again, I can tell you that for free.
A shoutout to Mark and all the guys from the Bay Area Gooners – very hospitable people and made the experience in San Francisco all the better.
But The Arsenal played their part in yesterday’s great day too, because the players finally delivered the hammering that we’ve been after all season. So far we’ve played well, we’ve got results, but we haven’t really put a team massively to the sword in terms of the final score. There was Bournemouth and Brentford away, but personally I’ve never thought of a three goal margin as a hammering. I’ve always seen it as a comfortable win, but not a smash up. Five goals to nil, however, certainly is.
And whilst I am still not a fan of Tomiyasu at left back, when you produce a victory like that yesterday, you have to say the manager got it right. If I’m going to call it when it doesn’t work – like Leeds and Southampton – I have to be prepared to say he was right yesterday.
Now, of course, you could argue that the inclusion of Tomiyasu ahead of Tierney would have had little impact yesterday. That’s because what clicked was our attacking line. And certainly that’s a big shout, but I’m not minded to get too caught up on a day in which we restored our position at the top of the Premier League, added a decent chunk to our goal tally, plus got a new face on the scoresheet. Ahead of this game against Forest there had started to be the signs of some handwringing in the fan base over how the goals seemed to have dried up. We’d scored just two in our last three games in all competitions and Gabby Jesus suddenly wasn’t banging them in. So when those murmurs start to surface, what better way to answer them by bagging a hatful of goals?
And getting the first goal so early made a big difference in my opinion. Martinelli’s super run and stooped headed made – I think – Forest’s game plan switch within minutes of the game. They’ve not been conceding more than one goal in their last three or four games and they’ve tightened up at the back. I think their plan was to be resolute, right at the back, then in certain pockets press us and force turnovers. I think I noticed that in patches in that first half and there were a few instances in which they managed to get in to dangerous positions in our half, but often it felt like it was of our own doing (Gabriel passing to Lingard in his own box was a bit mental), so whilst there were tiny signs that tactically they could have potentially had something to us with, we dealt with it well.
In the first half it felt like it might be a frustrating afternoon though. Sure, we got the goal and sure, we also had most of the ball and created chances. But at halftime it had a slight whiff of the PSV home game and so when we scored the second goal just a few minutes in to the second half, that’s when I personally calmed down a bit and could start to enjoy the game. And at this point we should talk absolutely the goal scorer, because Reiss Nelson stepped up yesterday and had a fantastic performance overall. The worry was of course Saka coming off injured after he’s once again been booted all over the place with little protection from the referee, but Arteta didn’t sound too worried after the game, so hopefully he can recover. But his understudy made sure there was little disruption in service on that right hand side.
It was interesting because for the first 10 or 15 minutes after he came on for Saka in that first half, it looked very much like he was just playing the safe option. But as soon as he scored his goal you could visibly see the confidence flood in to him. The first goal may have had a touch of fortune about it after his first shot was saved by Henderson, but the rebound fell kindly and his second attempt had nothing fortuitous about it. Very calm, very composed, a great finish. His dummy to send the defender for a hot dog just before his first shot was pretty special too.
As I said though, the confidence flooded in to his feet and his second goal was superb too, with shades of Giroud I said in the pub at the time. You know that run that Giroud used to make in front of a defender at the near post to flick goalward? Yep.
He was man of the match but the goals didn’t stop there and I thought Partey’s carbon copy of his NLD goal was a great way to make the afternoon a lot more fun, followed by a net roofer from Ødegaard to finish off the hammering.
If we’re going to look at the tiniest of downsides, perhaps there’s an argument that Gabriel Jesus should have got on the scoresheet, but his impact on the team and what he delivers – even yesterday – means that none of us should be too concerned. The goals are coming from all over the pitch and from a risk mitigation perspective that’s a very good sign.
Next up it’s Zurich at home and I think we need to rotate out as many players as possible, because that game at Stamford Bridge next weekend is going to be really tough. I don’t care what they’ve been playing like, they’ll be up for us and Potter has often had our number, so hopefully Arteta is mindful of that and is already planning how he gets one over on him.
Right, that’s me done for the day. I’m off to Napa for some wine tasting. Have a good one folks.