The previous two results were difficult viewing, despite the generally positive scorelines.
Scraping a narrow win over Southampton, and a valuable away point in Paris overruled the overall performance in both games, which were of a disjointed and awkward nature.
This 4-1 win however, rectifies some of the worries that were manifesting after these games.
Always in control, and despite some characteristically wobbly moments – the missed penalty and then conceding at a potentially important time in the game – the Gunners showed that the contentious decisions over team selection should really be consigned to the bottom paragraphs, rather than the headline.
It was pleasing to finally see the passing and movement that are our signature signs on the pitch. There are players that are still searching for top form, but crucially, there are also men on the pitch that are performing well to make up for it.
There is much to take from this game. For example, our squad is exactly where we all demanded it should be, and our customary late substitutions proved it. Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Lucas Perez were our replacements, and not many sides can boast of such depth. Bearing in mind that Giroud, Ramsey and Mertesacker weren’t even included in the squad, and it tells of a healthy team more than equipped to deal with the rigours of a full season.
Also, it would have been great to see a bit more of Lucas, a five minute cameo didn’t sate the desire to see more of him in action, but his time will surely come, just like Granit Xhaka, who scored the fourth goal in spectacular fashion. If you haven’t seen it, then where have you been? Then there was Theo in the thick of things, which was great to see, but he still needs a few more games before we see the best of him.
So, here are five other key factors that arose from the game:
Alexis has all components necessary to play ANY attacking position
Much has been made of Arsene Wengers insistence on playing Sanchez as the lone striker, and the majority of opinions are of the negative side. However, the Chilean now has three goals in two games. Alexis, if the service is present, can be a striker. It is not his optimal position, and we have other strkers who can do the job, but make no mistake, surely we have all seen that he has enough attacking nous that he can make his mark as a frontman? Regardless, Wenger thinks so and it doesn’t seem as if he doubts Sanchez in the slightest.
Ozil not at the races. For now...
Mesut makes a difference irrespective of his level of form. He is like Ferrero Rocher. If you spot these delectable treats at a social gathering, then your opinion of the party is automatically raised. Ozil is operating at 75% capacity, and he orchestrates proceedings even though he isn’t as finely tuned as normal. He is lacking the edge he requires to make the killer move, and we need him to regain it. The problem is, our games are coming thick and fast, and is it beneficial to play him as much as we can so he can get into the groove? Or do we need to rest him so he can find that keen cut that he possesses? It’s not easy being a manager…..
Iwobi can make the difference
The young Nigerian broke through last season thanks mainly to injury, and hasn’t looked back. He has proved he is not a flash in the pan with his consistently great performances and he looks like he will be a part of this team for quite some time. He has exemplary vision, a fantastic touch which belies his age, but it is his mentality that shines through as a fine example to all youngsters. He suffers the lows and enjoys the highs, but seems completely unflappable. He made the difference in this game, with the assist for the breakthrough goal and his excellent backheel for our third. His build-up play, especially for his second assist, warrants mentioning and if he can maintain fitness, then the sky is the limit. Hopefully he can learn to track back a little in that time!!
Coquelin shouldn’t be forgotten
With Granit Xhaka not gaining the minutes his talent perhaps deserves, and Santi Cazorla proving why he should be in the side, our resident hatchet man Francis Coquelin has fallen in favour somewhat. Yes, his positional discipline sometimes deserts him, and he joins the attack a little too much for a DM, but even though he is guilty of this – and he did the same during this game – his stats fro the game show that he is performing the role we expect him to under the radar. We cannot pick up everything every player does, and he is still the tackling beast we all fell in love with two seasons ago. His numbers for the game were – 98 passes, 98% pass completion, 7 ball recoveries, 4 tackles won, and 4 interceptions. Beast mode still intact and we still have this underrated Frenchman to rely on when times are tough and out backs are against the wall.
The game after a Champions League fixture is always difficult, so credit where it’s due
We are all painfully aware of how difficult it is to navigate through a season, and the potential banana skin that is the domestic fixture that follows a Champions League game. So many sides have suffered this hoodoo, and we have seen us slip up on more than a few occasions after enjoying a midweek game in Europe. So, to return from such a physically sapping 90 minutes in Paris and then win an away game in the Premier League is a huge deal. This facet will be underplayed in the media, and we will have been ‘expected’ to have done away with the Tigers, but their start thus far from a meagre squad shows they would provide a tough test. We won, we won handsomely and it was far tougher than we made it look. Kudos to us.