This result has been portrayed variously in the media and the blogosphere – but generally, those not sympathetic to the Arsenal have called it lucky, and nothing to write home about. However, I think it is massively significant.
Firstly, let us agree that there are no easy games in the Premier League. It’s a cliche that’s trotted out when your team has lost or drawn against considered lower opposition. That does not diminish its central truth. There are eleven good players trying their damnedest to negate your superiority. There is a referee who is only human (except, possibly, Mike Riley and Mike Dean), and whose calls on one day might lean your way, and on another, might favour your plucky opponents. There is the capricious bounce of the ball. Critics who call down the Arsenal for only beating four also-ran teams heretofore, conveniently ignore that other aspiring leaders have come up short against these same teams already this season. Have Man City, Liverpool, Man Ure, Chelsea or even the mighty Sp*rs stuttered against the best opposition?
So a well-coached team spearheaded by the excellent Mitrovic was always going to prove difficult. The first half developed as one of those days, of which Arsenal has had many down the years, where possession and movement should have had us out of sight by half time. But the final pass/shot/movement frustrated. In previous seasons, we would have gone behind to a silly goal and hung on to lose luckily 1-0.
Then, early in the second half, we did go behind to a silly goal. At this point, I imagine I was in the majority anticipating the aforementioned anti-climax.
But this new team are made of other stuff. There is a steel, a confidence, a certainty about them – and that is why this was such a significant game. Not only did they keep going, keep ramping up the pressure, keep biting into challenges, keep exchanging crisp passes all over the pitch. They did it with a clarity of purpose that made victory likely. Significantly, doggy-fashion, they came from behind.
Odegaard’s deflected shot may have been lucky, but no more than half a dozen previously blocked shots had been lucky too. Gabriel’s redeeming winner may have been scruffy, but his focus was exemplary.
As to player ratings – well, I’ll give them all “tens”! With some added observations.
Arteta: unfairly criticised for his substitutions, bringing on Eddie for Tierney in the sixtieth minute. Simultaneously reactive and pro-active, and the young forward seized his moment with brio.
Saka: everyone jumping on the bandwagon that asserts he’s not the same player so far this year. Rubbish. He’s being double and triple marked and he’s still frequently wriggling clear to make telling incursions and passes. He has opposition defenders demanding brown underwear.
White: how can anyone be critical of this star? Filling in out of position, he has got better and better with every game. His defence is monumental; his attacking play increasingly varied and telling. He is undroppable – which makes Tomi’s situation interesting.
Xhaka: quite simply re-born. Moving him upfield has liberated him, and (pace LGB and LB) his contributions are a joy to watch.
Obviously, we will soon lose a game. It might be to the dreaded Manure next weekend. But whatever the results, this team are the most enjoyable and exciting Arsenal side for many, many, many a year.
A post by Maxwell The Great
Some add-ons from RC78:
- Odegaard has been in great form this season so far and it seems the captaincy is giving him wings to do better. He has been great in setting the tempo and finding the good pass. Let us hope he continues on his good form.
- Our CBs are showing great character and resilience. Saliba is impressing and Gabriel scored after his howler. It is great to rely on the whole team to score goals.
- We missed Zinchenko a lot vs Fulham in our build up play – he adds another dimension to our game that cannot be denied and it will be hard now for Tierney to earn his starting spot except maybe in Europe and Cup Games but for the EPL, Zinchenko is the starter when fit.
- While we are able to create chances, we are also giving away a few good ones in each game. We need to somehow become tighter to limit the opposition’s good chances.
- Jesus’ off the ball movement and runs are great – he is really creating space for his partners as well as creating chances for them.
- Nketiah had a great impact when he came on.
- I think that bringing in another DM/CM (Tielemans? Merino?) and FW/Winger (Neto?Pino?) would not be a bad idea