A 6-0 win is always jolly nice, and there was a lot to enjoy about last night’s Champions League outing. Arsene Wenger made changes to his starting XI, but not too many, clearly unwilling to upset the balance of the team too much.
In the first half in particular that seemed like a wise decision because Ludogorets were not the pushovers people expected. They started with lots of energy, pressed us as high up the pitch as they could, and were it not for David Ospina and some excellent goalkeeping the problems they caused us might we have been reflected in the scoreline.
As it was we took the lead in the 12th minute, a glorious chip from Alexis Sanchez putting us ahead. I thought he might square the ball when he got into the box, but he cut inside the defender and lofted the ball over the keeper for his 6th of the season. What a finish. If we thought it would break their resistance, it didn’t. They had a very positive spell in which Ospina was called into action more than once and they saw a shot clip the post.
We found it hard to get any rhythm going, so while Theo Walcott’s goal wasn’t exactly against the run of play, it was very welcome all the same. Found by Mesut Ozil just outside the D, he took a touch then curled a fantastic shot right into the middle of the goal where you might reasonably expect the goalkeeper to be. Taking nothing away from the finish though, and he’s clearly a man in superb goalscoring form right now.
The second half began and inside 60 seconds we were further ahead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who’d had a difficult first period, curled home nicely when the ball fell to him inside the box, and his performance in the second period was much, much better.
They still posed some danger but the fourth goal, starting with a brilliant Koscielny tackle, and ending up seconds later with a sublime Ozil touch and finish pretty much killed them off. Arsene Wenger made changes, bringing off Cazorla and Walcott for Elneny and Lucas, and the Spaniard had a big impact in the closing stages of the game.
He must have fancied his chances of getting on the scoresheet, instead he turned provider creating two goals for Ozil to complete his hat-trick. The first was a cross from the left which the German finished in something approaching trademark style, hitting it into the ground and bouncing it over the keeper. The second came from the other side, a nicely dinked ball over the defenders to allow Ozil to volley home at the near post for the first professional hat-trick of his career.
That’s 6 goals so far this season, and he finally got off the mark with an assist for Walcott too. The 28 year old is in truly fantastic form, and it’s great to see him become more ruthless in front of goal. This new system in which he’s very often the furthest man forward is helping too, to be fair, but he still has to put them away.
The goals are certainly being spread around too. Ozil has 6, Alexis 6, Walcott is now on 8, so that trio from the front four are proving very effective. Even Oxlade-Chamberlain has 3 to his name this season which is just one off his career best for a season, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say he’s still looking to find some real consistency to his performances.
Also, it’s interesting to note that we won 6-0 despite having less possession than the visitors, just 44% to their 56%. I know we’ve won games like that before, so it’s not that unusual, but scoring 6 certainly is. We had 19 shots, 12 on target, so a 50% strike rate from that latter group is really effective, something Theo Walcott touched on after the game, saying:
We always want to take our chances, and today we took pretty much all of them. We needed to make sure we started the second half strongly, and it’s worked out today. Everyone was very focused, ruthless and it’s a great result going into the weekend.
Afterwards Arsene Wenger was rightly pleased, but as is the way this season there’s no chance of any getting carried away with anything. Asked if this was the best squad he’s had in ages, he replied:
Let’s not be too quick on the verdict, that’s what we want to show. We have a strong squad and a strong spirit, but that can swing … you have to take care of it and keep your feet on the ground. The only way to win something big is to focus on the next one. Keep strong ambition, desire, hunger but as well keep feet on the ground and work on humility.
He’s also looking for the team to tighten up defensively while remaining as effective in front of goal:
We could’ve paid for the chances we gave away. Let’s continue to score goals and get these lapses of concentration out of our game.
As I said, there’s plenty to enjoy about last night, but I’m really enjoying the fact there seems to be a consistent message even during this run of good form (that’s 9 wins from our last 10 games, and we remain unbeaten since the opening day). There’s an acceptance that we’ve been here before, and while we’re answering some of the questions that have been asked of us, there remain others to deal with as the season goes on.
It’s coming from the manager and the players, so it seems like this is something being drummed into them repeatedly. Do not get carried away, humility, feet on the ground. And all you can say to that is ‘so far so good’, and hope they keep it up.
All the same, I don’t think we should immediately consign nights like last night to the dustbin of history. Certainly not from a fans point of view. Scoring 6 is fun however you do it and whoever you do it against, so watch the highlights again, enjoy Ozil’s finishing and Alexis getting the right hump at being taken off at 4-0 up ahead of a Premier League clash this weekend. That’s what it’s about.
Right, it’s good preparation for Boro at the weekend, which we can look ahead to over the next couple of days. Tim will be here with his column later on, I’ll be back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all that.