Hi all, hope you’re well?
I’m enjoying this winning malarky. *whispers* it’s because we’re very good… Keep it a secret.
Are we doing better than expected?
Nope. We knew this team had it in them. They just need to do it when it matters. We have all the ingredients – We’ve gained maturity, chucked naivity out the window and we reek of defensive stability. A winning package.
We made three changes to the side that beat Southampton at the weekend. Aaron Ramsey partnered Matthieu Flamini in the double pivot. Tomas Rosicky played alongside Özil and Jack in midfield. Whilst Monreal came in for Kieran Gibbs at left back – Who was ill.
Before the game a French journalist bemoaned Marseilles ‘B Team’ ambitions – Partly down to injuries. But offensively they lacked bite. Dimitri Payet and Andre Ayew were out. Whilst they also rested Valbuena and Thauvin, due to there fixture pile-up (and being out). Rod Fanni wasn’t even in the squad – I’ll let you make the jokes.
Did we score too early?
Instantly from the kickoff Marseille broke forward with intent. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher mentioned on MNF, how the kickoff should be treated as a set-piece. Marseille had a plan. But they just didn’t follow it through and very limply gave away the ball. They pressed with five very quickly. But due to a defensive error the left back completely switched off, Jack broke down the right hand side, cut inside and finished with aplomb. Sumptuous. For the next 15-20 minutes we got much of the same and as the theme of season has been we completed dominated possession. Again I say: there’s a calm maturity about the team, caressing the ball around the pitch looking for an opening.
Our success in recent weeks has been our ability to overload the midfield. We didn’t need to overload against Marseille. Our midfield fluidly switched positions and formation throughout kept them guessing. Only Flamini and Giroud really staying in their designated zones. At times through the season we’ve almost played a 4-2-2-2 – Mainly down to the lack of wide players we’ve had available. We’ve opted for three ball playing midfielders with the aim to create openings with clever movement with guile. Instead of runs in and behind the lines.
I have to admit, however, that I became frustrated with our inability to finish the game off earlier. Because we’ve been so good in recent weeks. I’ve found it hard to expect even losing points let alone goals. Marseille were there for the taking. Our tempo slacked in periods I personally thought it shouldn’t of. In the final third where we are usually so dangerous we faltered and against better opposition we could have been punished. It must be remembered Marsielle were never going to win and so this game should have been seen off earlier.
Wilshere on the Right
The team looked very balanced. I’d argue that was our most balanced side. As I mentioned above, our only issue was our inability to take our chances. If Ramsey had finished his early chance and Özil scored the penalty. We may of had a cricket score. Football is reactionary. For fans and players. Emotions is a major part of the game, players aren’t robots. They do need the rub of the green sometimes.
Jack was deployed on the right, but he did drift. He had the freedom he craves, and enjoys. But, also had the players around him to make it all work for him. Rosicky and Özil are very mobile players and crave space which in-turn, gave Jack room to express himself.
Flamini (as well as others) has offered something we’ve missed as a team – well, since he left the club – defensively stability. The way he covers the defence, if and when they step out, is incredible (and yet so basic). His natural instinct is fabulous. When good fortune gave Gignac his opportunity early in the first half, Szczesny came flying out and collected the ball very efficiently. Flamini became a centre back then sprinted to the goal line for the brief second it looked like Gignac was going to round Szczesny. Priceless defending.
The shape of the team gave Jack not too many defensive responsibilities. Marseilles focus of played seemed to be more central, also allowing him even more freedom, whilst Flamini marshalled the team; when to push and when to press. Throughout Sagna and Monreal were almost in midfield – Even more cover.
I currently think that’s the way forward for him. He’s a special talent and needs nurturing. Protect him and let him grow naturally.
He’s bloody well good. The End. Kidding, well sort of. He’s exquisite but his price tag is going to confuse many. He’s never going to be a player who will own the ball the way Fabregas did or be a powerhouse like Patrick Vieira was. He has an effortless presence on the pitch, an ability to appear static for long periods, then suddenly spring into life. Opponents will try to keep Özil quiet – To counteract that, he will thread a clever pass into the path of a runner or embarrass defenders with a classy flick.
It’s what he does when he quickly bursts into the final third with the ball that will define Özil’s contribution to Arsenal. That’s why he can often be a player who frustrates fans.
You may, or may not remember I’ve recently mentioned about our inability to pass the ball out from defence, when under pressure. We missed vertical movement at times. Tuesday night, we distributed the ball very well. For one thing, because Marsellie didn’t press as intensively as others have against us in the recent weeks. But Ramsey and Rosicky took turns dropping in and collecting the ball. It helped raise the tempo and confused the OM midfield – Not knowing who to track. Against Dortmund (at home) Arsène got the midfield three to drop deeper to try and help out. But, Dortmund counteracted that, penning us back even further. With a more fluid midfield, the opposition are unable to track our midfield and leads to more success.
I still think moving forward we need an improvement in the deeper position in our midfield – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Szczesny – Very impressive throughout the night. His impressive distribution continued. When he was called into action he dealt with it, with ease. Improves every time he plays.
Sagna – Very solid. Very, very advanced.The Frenchman found a lot of space in their final third so he continued to push. Didn’t have to do to much defensively.
Mertesacker – Awseome again. I can’t remember him misplacing a pass. He has ice in his veins. Player of the season so far?
Koscielny – Had a great game. Was very impressive with all of his one on one battles. Seems to really step up when needed. A few slack long passes. Positionally good.
Monreal – Excellent considering his lack minutes. Brings a much needed urgency in attack and defence. Always in the right place at the right time. I bet he wonders what he has to do to get a start…
Flamini – Made the whole operation tick. Orchestrates everything. Head puppeteer. His tactical awareness was fantastic. Slightly concerned about his distribution.
Ramsey – Put in a huge shift. A great team performance. Won the penalty. Should of scored his chance. Sloppy in the final third at times. Positionally improving.
Özil – A slack first half and an equally slack penalty. Still reeked of class. The way he finds space is class. A marvellous assist for Jacks second. He will purr like a Rolls Royce, just needs time.
Rosicky – One of our top performers on the night. Brought a lot going forward. Smartly runs with the ball. Positionally smart. Took responsibility in midfield giving others freedom. A proper adult.
Wilshere – He’s getting to grips playing out wide. Marvellous goals. His hunger, class and effort was never in question. Just needed some luck. ‘What ever Ramsey can do, I can do’. He’s almost back…
Giroud – Won a lot of duels with their defenders. Awesome work rate. The timing of his runs was fantastic. Still on a high from World Cup Qualification. A solid night from the Frenchman.
I’ll leave you with this. Tough questions are surfacing. Is Jack Wilshere better than Aaron Ramsey in the double pivot? Is Aaron Ramsey better than Özil as a ten? is Özil better than Theo out-wide? We’ll save that for next time.
Carry on the good work Arsenal. Good times.
Cheers for reading,