Alexis is undroppable
The mercurial Chilean has been in terrible form since his return from injury earlier this year. His talent is undeniable but his recent form caused many fans and pundits to question his place in the team.
He may not have been contributing in the final third as we would have liked him to, but his effort and infectious enthusiasm were hard to overlook. Other players in his position were also not doing enough to warrant benching Alexis in their favour.
He did not have a great game, but came up with the goods when we needed him most. His cool, clinical finish past one of the best goal keepers in the league underlined his value to the team, regardless of form.
Wenger’s decision to play him through this bad patch was vindicated. Perhaps this could be a start of a run of form that could reinvigorate our faltering season.
Refereeing inconsistencies are frustrating
It is quickly becoming a weekly gripe, but we continue to be on the receiving end of some baffling decisions from referees.
To give credit where it is due, I agreed with the referee on both of Coquelin’s yellow cards. The first was a blatant handball that was designed to prevent a breakaway counter attack, while the second was an obvious pull-back.
What frustrated me was the failure to show Eric Dier a second yellow for an almost identical foul later in the game. The same set of rules needs to be applied to both teams. It is possible that the outcome had been different if the game ended up 10 vs. 10.
We cannot blame the referee for a result that was ultimately a fair reflection of the game, but it would be nice to see a few more decisions called correctly when Arsenal is involved.
David Ospina had a decent game
Cech is Arsenal’s undisputed first choice goal keeper. His stature, experience and ability are head and shoulders above any other keeper currently at the club. Moreover, I would rate him as one of the best goalies in the league, if not Europe.
Being compared to such goalkeeper is unfavorable no matter who you are. Ospina did not help himself by making costly mistakes when called up in the Champions League.
While he did not look very assured here, and dropped a few too many shots for my liking, he put in a good performance. A few acrobatic saves capped off a decent night, and I feel good about our short-term goalkeeping prospects.
Cech will be back in goal as soon as he recovers from his injury, but we could do worse than give Ospina some much needed game time.
A faint hope of a title push remains
Coming into this fixture, anything less than a draw would have been an unmitigated disaster. The pressure to produce a performance and a result to match would have weighed heavy on both Wenger and his players.
It is encouraging that they managed to stand up to the pressure, and a draw is a result that keeps us somewhat in the title race. Ahead of this fixture, I would have gladly taken this result.
This season is such that no team seems capable of stringing together a decent run of results. Even Leicester and Tottenham have dropped points recently, and I expect them both to drop more points in the run-in.
The optimist in me believes that if we were to go on a run, which I know we are capable of, we could conceivably win the title.
The pessimist in me thinks that we will probably do just about enough to stay within a few points of winning, before choking under pressure and ending up finishing third or fourth.
Or worse still, we go on a good run, but it ends up not being enough to overhaul the goal or point difference we need to win the league.
Elneny makes an impression
It is sometimes hard to evaluate the performance of a holding midfield player. The work they do is more about positioning and smart play, rather than flashy assists and no-look passes. Most of the time, when you notice them, it is because they made a mistake.
So it is compliment to Elneny that he was quietly efficient on his full Premier League debut, keeping things moving in midfield and making smart decisions regarding positioning.
I started to doubt his quality when he was not featuring more in our recent games, but this performance helped ease my concerns. I am glad to see that he is finally getting his shot, and with Coquelin’s silly red card, looks likely to start the next game or two.
He may not be the finished article, and I still think we need an imposing, defensively minded midfielder in the summer, but it is good to see that we now have two decent players in this position that can provide a solid midfield platform in tough away games.
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