Recently, we have accused the manager of not been imaginative enough with his in-game interventions, so I supposed he decided to show us what real imagination is with his starting eleven against Bournemouth. I can’t remember if there was ever any period where the starting midfield combination has been looked out for as much as we do these days. Everyone has their favourite pair and the pre-match debates on Twitter move swing from interesting to nonsensical very often. I saw this chart on Arseblognews, and I think it does bring an interesting perspective to the discussion on what our best options are.
As they say, Statistics do not tell the whole story, and I got asked a great question I didn’t have an answer to. The chart above does not reflect the quality of opposition played against. For instance, if Coq and Santi play against Hull and Watford, the numbers are more likely to look better compared to Ramsey and Xhaka against Man United. However, feel free to analyse the chart.
Going back to the game, I was surprised to see Debuchy start a game for Arsenal and I was even more surprised that he was actually having a good game before he suffered an unfortunate injury again. I know we all criticise players a lot for a few reasons. Firstly, we want our teams to do well, we all would rather be footballers in the modern era, and we want the kind of money they earn. But when you see how sad Debuchy looked walking out of the pitch, players above all things want to play football. That is what they love to do and that is what brings them joy.
To see a player with talent suffering due to his body failing him is one of the most painful things and that is why I love how Arsenal treats players like Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Diaby and Rosicky. Ensuring they have every possible chance to still make a career at the club. I think Lucas Perez captures what Arsenal tries to be to all its players perfectly here
“The Arsenal surprises me every day because of the treatment you get, the desire to have the player as comfortable and at ease possible,” “You just have to dedicate yourself to training. It’s a marvel of club.”
One thing that certainly needed improvement in recent weeks was the intensity and fluidity with which we have played with this season. We have played our last three games looking like we were short of ideas on the pitch and I wonder how much of this informed the managers starting team. Unquestionably, the introduction of Oxlade-Chamberlain meant he wanted a faster approach.
Overall, Wenger seems to be making an effort to use as much of his squad as possible. If we all think this is the most complete squad we have had for a decade, then we cannot begrudge the manager when he tweaks the team to either counter the strengths of the opposition or keep his own players fresh. The first half against Bournemouth was basically three halves. We dominated the first fifteen minutes, and we were rightly rewarded with an Alexis Sanchez goal. We saw the best of Bournemouth for twenty minutes especially after Debuchy went off injured and the back four struggled for understanding. As always with Arsenal, sustained pressure leads to a goal even though the Bournemouth goal came under circumstances that were debatable.
We dominated the remainder of the half and were almost rewarded with a goal as the keeper made an excellent save from a Sanchez effort that also cannoned off the bar.
Speaking on BT Sport during the away game to PSG, club legend, Ian Wright spoke about Arsene Wenger’s approach to half-time
“He’s always very calm. You’re sitting there feeling like you want to pull you hair out, because you want him to get animated. “He doesn’t say anything for the first 10 minutes when you get in the dressing room. He doesn’t say a word.”
I wonder if this was the same approach the manager employed during this game as the players came out of the tunnel with extra zip about them. The football looked better and we were rightly rewarded with a Theo Walcott goal which he dedicated to the birth of his new son. Sadly, two other players didn’t join him to recreate the iconic Bebeto celebration from the World Cup in 96. On paper, Ozil would not get an assist for this goal as statistics will give it to Nacho Monreal and rightly so but it all came from excellent work by Mesut Ozil turning the whole defence around before putting in a delightful ball for Nacho to cross for Theo to simply nod it in.
Watching Bournemouth, it is clear to see why the media keep rating Eddie Howe very highly and the rumour is he in the running for Arsenal manager job as he currently is not interested in the England job. His team still continued play positively, and it was strange watching Arsenal concede so much of the ball to the opposing team. They came close to equalising but for Petr Cech who made a fantastic save with his legs. Petr seems to struggle with saving penalties, but saves like the one he made is the reason why he is one of the best in the world.
We scored our third, Sanchez’ second of the day to seal the game. The score line looks good on the eye but this was one of the best games this season for the neutral. End to end football played by two teams who did everything they could to win. In the end our superior attacking play one us the game but special mention to Laurent Koscienly who yet again shows why he is one of the most improved players I have ever seen at Arsenal. Also, Xhaka with his pinging balls, offered us a lot going forward and statistics showed he had 14 interceptions during the game. He might not be a replacement for Santi Cazorla we all seek but his approach is different.
To be honest, I think it would be very difficult to find a replacement for Santi, a two-footed forward player in his youth, who has spent over a decade providing assist and dictating play from the front. All that experience he has brought with himself into a deep-lying position, picking balls and distributing still with the same efficiency as he did upfront. Creating options for the team, beating men in the middle and giving the players at the back and outlet out of defence they can trust.
It’s Southampton next in the EFL Cup. Thus far Southampton has not been an easy team for us either. November hasn’t been that bad for us. We hope it continues that way.
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