With all of the talk before the match against Crystal Palace at the Emirates being about the potential superstar goings and comings at the club during this transfer window, it was refreshing and perhaps unexpected that is was one of the underrated Arsenal players that would provide the impetus for a very comfortable win.
He might not look like much but Nacho Monreal is surely one of the most consistent and under-appreciated (by many fans) players at the Arsenal over the past few years. Despite being deployed in various positions over the years – left back, centre back and left wing back – Nacho has played like the consummate professional that he is.
After missing the last six games due to injury, the Spaniard was reintroduced into the starting lineup as the left back of a back four. He only played 33 minutes before being substituted by the Conservative MP Ainsley Maitland-Niles but his impact was immeasurable. Scored the first goal, assisted the next two and was completely unplayable in the first half hour.
The first goal came about in the first five minutes when Nacho Monreal escaped his marker at the back post and had to stoop to head Arsenal into the lead. From his post-goal celebrations; you can just about tell what scoring for the Arsenal means to the little man. The next two goals were carbon copies of themselves, both times Nacho finding ample space in the Palace box to deliver a telling pass to assist Alexis Iwobi and Laurent Koscielny respectively.
The fourth goal though, was the pick of the bunch. Mesut Ozil, Alexander Lacazette, Alex Iwobi and Jack Wilshere combining very well before Ozil found himself with the ball at the edge of the box with a Palace defender in close attendance. With a deft flick, the German backheeled the ball with the sole of his boot to Lacazette who found himself with loads of space before placing the ball past the outstretched hand of Wayne Hennessy. For all the talk of Lacazette lacking a bit of confidence during this his mini goal drought, the Frenchman finished that with a lot of aplomb. All the goals coming within the first 20 minutes.
Mesut Ozil, as he has been most of this season, was absolutely imperious. If there is one player Arsenal surely can not afford to lose, it would be the silky German. Everything good about Arsenal attacking wise went through as he seemed to have a free role during the game. Instead of the usual 4-2-3-1, the manager tweaked the formation a little bit, going with a 4-3-3, with Mohammed Elneny deployed between Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka in the centre of midfield. Ozil was positioned on the right of Lacazette in attack, with the license to drift inwards and do damage. And damage he truly did, bamboozling the Palace backline with his flicks, feints and dribbles.
It’s been a while since Arsenal has won so comfortably in the league and it was such a delight to see Arsenal play a match without the fear of conceding a cheap equaliser. Palace were pretty bad, particularly in the first half but Arsenal were very good, particularly in the first half.
It’s pretty easy to say this comfortable win will only paper over the cracks in this team but maybe the comings and goings expected in this truly baffling transfer window will provide much filling to this team.