Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth: Welbeck shines as opposition pose few problems

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Well, that was much more pleasant. A good Arsenal performance against a surprisingly tepid Bournemouth side is a far nicer way to pass 90 weekend minutes than what we got last time around.

Arsene Wenger stuck with three at the back, but played wing-backs in their correct positions, and it paid off just six minutes in. Sead Kolasinac combined well with Aaron Ramsey down the left, drove on, and crossed it for Danny Welbeck to shampoo it home – head and shoulders. I do like him, but he does make hard work of the finishes sometimes. By the end of the season I fully expect him to have scored a goal with his right arse-cheek while doing a forward tumble.

It was just the start we needed, it settled the nerves, and the fact that Bournemouth were so passive was perfect for us. We were potentially quite brittle given the circumstances, and a more astute/cynical side would have tried to exploit that in some way, but they just didn’t.  We had loads of the ball, plenty of chances, and there wasn’t much fight about them at all, making their four successive defeats at the start of the season understandable. I think they’re in for a long, difficult campaign.

The midfield of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey was more or less untroubled, despite similar positional issues manifesting themselves at times (this is the 39th minute and there’s that big old space again).

Space in the Arsenal midfield

Mesut Ozil was flitting about doing excellent things, and he was involved in the second, feeding Welbeck from midfield who laid it off to Lacazette on the edge of the box. The French striker’s touch was good, his finish was emphatic and Arsenal were 2-0 up before half an hour had been played.

Was there a response? No. Maybe they tried, and maybe it was just down to how well we were playing, but it wasn’t until the opening minutes of the second half that they provided a moment of danger. A Jermaine Defoe header hit the post and rebounded back to him, but he couldn’t get that on target.

Our response to that was to go up the other end and score again. Lacazette hassled the defence into a mistake, Ramsey picked it up and drove forward, playing a lovely pass to Welbeck whose first time finish with his left was absolutely clinical.

Bournemouth did have a decent spell late in the game after we’d decided 3-0 was a comfortable lead, but did very little to threaten Cech’s goal bar one looping header which the keeper palmed over the bar. In truth, had Arsenal been better on the counter – there were two brilliant chances to send Lacazette and later Giroud in behind – and Begovic not been in such good form the margin of victory would have been even greater.

Alexis Sanchez came on to a somewhat mixed reception, there were a smattering of jeers but far more cheers, and immediately looked sharp and got involved well. His first touch was an excellent flick, and in the 15 minutes he was on the pitch he tested the keeper twice and created an excellent chance for Giroud which was also saved. At this point, what happened is history, let it scab over and don’t keep picking at it because he’s a player we really need if we’re to do anything this season. Not to mention the fact I don’t think he did a lot wrong this summer anyway.

The only slight negative was losing Francis Coquelin to injury after he came on as a sub. There was something a bit comical about the way it happened, he leapt through the air like a salmon that’s realised it left the iron on, but in reality we can’t really afford any midfield injuries. We have a Europa League game this week in which he was likely to feature, and with Chelsea on Sunday it means that perhaps we’ll have to risk a player we might have earmarked for a rest.

In the end it was a comfortable, convincing win, and afterwards Arsene Wenger said:

I’m pleased with the win and the way we played. It’s always a test when you have such a negative experience, like we had, for the mental health of the team to respond. We had a committed, disciplined and a very good offensive performance.

Props to Danny Welbeck whose selection over Alexis raised some eyebrows pre-game, but finishing with two goals and an assist is a healthy return for any forward. That’s not to get carried away, you do have to take the opposition into account, but on the day he had an excellent game and deserves credit for it.

The players will know that it was bread and butter stuff though. If this was getting back on the horse after falling off at Anfield, it was a Shetland Pony. Next weekend, when we face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, is a goddam Clydesdale and that is going to be the real test of this team, it’s character and quality. Big opposition away from home has been a familiar failing, so we have to put that right.

For today though, I think we can be pleased with what we did and how we did it, and hopefully it’s something we can build on and take into the Cologne game on Thursday. Right, that’s it, have yourselves a pleasant Sunday.

More from me tomorrow and James and I will be here with an Arsecast Extra too.

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