This was a must-win game
Arsenal’s record this calendar year has been very poor. Prior to this game, the team managed just one win and a string of disappointing draws – along with a now customary loss to Chelsea thrown in. This was a chance to salvage the season.
We were not at our best, but it was a marked improvement on recent performances. Bournemouth certainly played their part as they offered little in attack. They were defensively solid apart from a momentary loss of concentration that led to Arsenal scoring two goals within a minute.
This win should give us some momentum going into next week. It’s a testament to just how competitive (or poor, depending on your point of view) this season is. Arsenal could be just two points off the top with a win against Leicester next week.
We got a bit of luck for a change
Last week, I was commenting on how we are not getting the “rub of the green” that you need sometimes to win a game. Luckily, the old cliché that things tend to even out during a season was in full effect here.
The referee could have easily sent off Flamini for a reckless – and needless – two footed challenge in the first half. Giroud was lucky to escape with just a warning for a foul in the second. There was even a penalty call that could have gone against us that was a waived away.
From an attacking perspective, Ozil was presented with a similar chance, which he shot straight at the keeper last game. This time, the ball found the back of the net. Similarly, Ox’s goal was similar to many of his near misses.
The hope is we won’t have to rely on luck to win many more games this season, but it was certainly a welcome change from our recent fortunes.
Is our must-not-lose approach enough to win the league?
For a second consecutive game, Wenger sacrificed an attacking player to bring on a defensive minded one. The circumstances were slightly different, since we did not look like scoring against Southampton, while looking vulnerable on the break – so the decision made more sense.
In this game, we could have further asserted our dominance and possibly jacked up our goal difference by bringing on a Walcott or Campbell, rather than Coquelin. Given how tight things are at the top, it may just come down to goals at the end of the season.
Leicester is playing with the attacking intent that used to be a staple of successful Manchester United and Arsenal teams of the past. Right now, we are not showing the same level of ambition – at least not on the evidence of our recent performances.
If we continue to play it safe, is our pragmatic approach going to be enough for us to pull ahead in the title race?
We are getting back to our attacking best
Mesut Ozil found himself on the score sheet for the sixth time in the league, but his contribution to our attacking play extended well beyond the goal. He was gliding past players as if they weren’t there, and his passing was range and accuracy where second to none.
Ramsey was back with a commanding performance in midfield. He provided an assist, was involved in the buid up for the first and made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch. It’s also hard to overlook Cech’s influence, as he made some vital saves to ensure all three points.
The only disappointment was that Alexis seemed to still be off the pace. It’s understandable since this is only his third game back, but he set the bar very high for himself since his arrival at the Emirates. Once he’s fully fit and firing on all cylinders, Arsenal will be an attacking force to be reckoned with.
Where should Theo and Oxlade-Chamberlain play?
It was great to see Oxlade-Chamberlain score the much needed goal to lift his confidence. He has not been having a great season so far, and while I was not comply writing him off, it was getting harder to see when he was going to catch a break.
His performance on the wing was impressive, but did little to help him cement his best position in the squad. I think he still lacks the required discipline and positional sense to play centrally, but Wenger is usually reluctant to play him much on the wing, where he is arguably more effective right now.
While Theo’s omission was understandable given his recent performances, I had expected him to come on earlier in the game. Giroud has played a lot of football recently, so it would have made sense to introduce him with 30 or so minute to go – not 30 seconds.
Neither player would make my preferred starting XI at the moment, but in an ideal scenario I would like to see Ox on the wing, and Theo coming off the bench to run at tired defenders as a replacement for Giroud.
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