Rapid Vienna were not very good it has to be said, Arsenal had already qualified for the knock-out stages before the start and if you, like me, expected a game something akin to a training ground kick about you were wrong. The returning home fans were treated to a determined display of high intensity football the likes of which we have not seen in a while.
The team selection made sense although there was one thing that confused me, which I will come to. Mikel was able to be a bit more relaxed in defence and play a back line who all needed a bit of game time, this included the long awaited return of Mari who played well enough, he certainly took his goal well, the problem I have is I don’t understand why we signed him?
By contrast Soares whose signing is also questioned makes complete sense to me. As much as we take relegation or the absence of it for granted it is obviously important that those who have their hands on the reigns do not.
If Bellerin gets injured and is out for the season (it has happened) we need someone who knows what they are doing to steady the ship; Soares is an insurance policy, a small hedge if you like.
Mari on the other hand is playing in the same position as the best defensive signing we have made in years. Possibly covid wasn’t anticipated and Luiz wasn’t expected to extend for another year so we would have an interchangeable back line of Gabriel, Mari and Holding? Perhaps Gabriel wasn’t expected to hit the floor running quite so well as he has? I’m not sure?
The goal keeper had to play and should have played in all of the games in this competition, if Leno gets injured this is the guy that is going to be holding us together.
Elneny and Maitland-Niles in front of the back line was I hope a trial run for a start on Sunday, although I am not holding my breath. I am working on the basis, of course, that Partey will come up short for Sunday.
There was talk before the game about Arteta playing two number tens in the form of Lacazette and Nelson, I don’t think it turned out this way, to me it was a straight forward three up front with Lacazette playing in the pocket just behind. I was deeply sceptical as I just don’t think he has the close control to carry this off; he may or may not but he has got one hell of a thunderous shot and one was unleashed early on that found the back of the net that shut sceptics like me up. I expect him to play in that role on Sunday and then we will see if this idea has legs.
And of the attack, who would have thought that a left footed winger playing on the left and a right footed winger playing on the right could be so effective? Errr, our very own GB, but apart from him I mean. Both Pepe and Nelson both put in very impressive displays.
The last bit might upset a few but I am still not impressed with Nketiah, if you want a fox in the box then he is your man but I want to see far better close control and far better hold up play before I am convinced.
An easy victory really, we are good at going forward when there is space to run into but no one in the EPL gives us that kind of freedom and without it close control is everything — Martinelli has it Saka has it and even Willian has it but the list of players who we continue to persevere with who do not is long.
I tried to finish this on an up note but I clearly failed probably because I am worried about the weekend, perhaps tonight’s determination will be carried over to Sunday naturally I hope so. COYRRG