It was cold at the Emirates. Very cold indeed. I can’t feel my feet kinda cold, despite two pairs of socks (and a foolish decision on my part to decline the offer of some in-boot foot warmer thingies).
It was up to the team to keep us warm and, to be fair, we should have been well ahead in the first half. Petr Cech had to make a good save from a header, but then we spurned three absolutely gilt-edged chances to score.
I can’t quite remember the order of them, but Hector Bellerin stabbed a shot wide when he really should have put us ahead; Alexis saw one creep just wide of the post when he too ought to have hit the target; before Mesut Ozil skied one over the bar from a position you would expect a player of his quality to do better.
Shall we talk about expected goals? I would expect goals from players in those positions, and you did wonder, as we looked quite vulnerable to the counter at times, if those misses might prove costly.
However, did get ourselves in front via the hand of Alexis Sanchez:
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) February 11, 2017
I don’t buy this story about Clattenburg apologising to Hull players at half-time. Even if he missed it in real-time, it’s not a deliberate handball. Sanchez’s hand just wanted it more. It was a brave hand that got its just reward. Annoying if you’re Hull, I guess, but I’m not so it wasn’t.
That should have given us a platform to go and build on in the second half, but it would be fair to say that it was a pretty uncomfortable game until it was sealed at the death with the penalty. I was sitting, unable to feel my feet, waiting for the Hull goal. Cech again had to make a good save, some other lad headed over from a succession of late corners they had, and given the week we’ve had it felt almost inevitable that we’d get hit with a sucker-punch of some kind.
In the end though a counter-attack saw Alexis cross for Lucas whose goal-bound header was saved on the line by Clucas, which saw the Hull man sent off despite doing his best Steven Taylor impression afterwards. After a delay when some other Hull lad was injured, Alexis stepped up and stuck the ball in the back of the net. Hurrah, but if my life depended on someone to score a penalty for me I don’t think he’d be the one I’d choose.
Nevertheless, a much needed win, from a side that looks very low on confidence and belief right now. Pre-game I was hoping for some changes to spark some life back into us, and I don’t really think Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal was ever going to be enough in that regard.
There’s something of a torpor over us at this moment in time. That the spikiest we got yesterday was Theo Walcott taking umbrage with Maguire (I think) and getting a bit narky tells you something, particularly as it took an age for any Arsenal player to back him up. In the end Coquelin came over to go ‘Leave it, Theo. Leave it!’, while Theo went, ‘Hold me back, hold me back!’, but that was about as aggressive as we got.
However, we’re very much in the kind of territory where any win will do, and going into Wednesday’s trip to Munich anything less than three points yesterday would have made life even more difficult for ourselves. I don’t think this is a win that will go a long way to restoring lost confidence, but it certainly won’t hurt.
Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:
It was more about the mathematics than about the brilliance today because we had absolutely to win today. Unfortunately against a good team who I cannot see even from the stand any weakness in.
Overall I felt that we started well until we led 1-0, we created some very good chances. After we became a bit more protective to protect the result. After that we were playing a bit more to not concede a goal and that’s what the game was about because we knew that was absolutely vital to win today.
I thought there were some positives: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was good again in the centre of midfield, adding some consistent defensive discipline to his game, while Alex Iwobi was lively until he tired late on. We did create those chances in the first period too, but in general we have big players who are not quite at the level we need them to be.
Alexis got two goals and the man of the match award, but his performance was a long, long way from his best, and Mesut Ozil appears to be struggling in a big way. You feel like he needs a goal or crafty assist to get him going again, and when two players who are so often the fulcrum when we play well are below par to that extent it’s always going to be tough.
I was surprised there weren’t more changes, and I do wonder that kind of message that sends to players who are itching for their chance. With Lucas and Welbeck on late we had some freshness about us, and the Spaniard was again involved in an Arsenal goal – as he seems to be in almost every appearance he makes. Maybe he was keeping them fresh for Bayern but I’m not so sure about that.
Anyway, it’s always good to win, and always good to see a win, so let’s hope that yesterday can help with the midweek fixture that is going to require us to play a lot better than that if we want to get something from the game.
James and I will be here tomorrow to discuss in the Arsecast Extra, until then have a good one.