Happy Monday to you, welcome to another week and with Europa League action it’s Sunday until we can get back into the Premier League saddle. I have a few more thoughts on some of the things that went on during/after the United game, so I’m going to do them by category.
Arsene Wenger’s comments about him after the game were really curious. Normally when a player goes off there’s at least the very basic medical info, e.g, hamstring, calf, groin etc. When asked about him in his post-game press conference and what the problem was that forced him off, the manager said:
I don’t know what [injury] he has. I don’t know what’s wrong with him at all.
It sparked discussion about whether he was injured at all, but I have to believe he was. Wenger’s comments are strange, but maybe in the heat of everything that went on his focus was not on a player who couldn’t play, and instead was on what was an extraordinary game of football.
Nevertheless, for a man who usually choose his words very carefully, it leaves the situation open to speculation, and it might well be an idea to clarify this one as soon as possible. That said, if we hear he’s going to be out for a while with a back problem I might reconsider this one ?
Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil
Although they are players who divide opinion among Arsenal fans, the two of them were superb against United, as they have been in recent weeks. If you look at how often they combined, it speaks to a real and growing understanding that’s going to be hugely important for the rest of this season.
Ozil found Ramsey 27 times, and it was 20 the other way around, the two highest Arsenal combinations besides Ozil to Sanchez (26) and Koscielny to Bellerin (21). Of course it’s easy to see it in a game in which we dominate possession, but I think there’s some happening here and as I pointed out yesterday, the Welshman is the team’s chief creator so far this season with seven assists (three more than Ozil and Kolsasinac).
Some have doubted whether or not the lay-off to Lacazette was deliberate. I’ve watched it countless times, and he meant that 100%. Look at the body shape as he receives the ball, it’s a great piece of play that set up a relatively simple finish for the Frenchman.
It was his second assist for the striker this week, perhaps signs that there’s a burgeoning relationship there too.
The back four
I know the circumstances dictated it in some ways. When you’re 2-0 down after 11 minutes and you lose a defender to injury, you need to do something to change the game, but it was interesting how quickly Arsene Wenger decided to go to a back four. He had Per Mertesacker on the bench who could have slotted into the back three without any fuss, but he reverted to what he feels most comfortable with.
Again, with one eye on the overall context of the game, it’s hard not to notice how effective it was from an attacking point of view. I know United were sitting on a two goal lead and thus not terribly ambitious, but the way we consistently found space in midfield and created chances was impressive – even if our finishing didn’t quite match that.
There’s no way Mourinho’s game-plan involved Arsenal having 33 shots and his keeper having the game of his life. There was just little he could do to stop it. He didn’t react tactically in any significant way, and perhaps on another day the momentum would have seen us get back into the game properly. It really should give the manager something to think about, the players looked comfortable and that extra body in midfield made us more effective.
Of course people will point to the fact that we got caught on the counter for the third goal, but it’s not as if that doesn’t happen to us when we’re playing three at the back, and ultimately that goal was avoidable with better defending and concentration even when they got the ball into the danger area.
Perhaps the main caveat is which pair of centre-halves we deploy because that’s still not obvious. It’s also clear that we’re approaching the time when we really need to think about how to replace Laurent Koscielny. I’m not saying he’s done or anything like that, but if we want to see the best of him over the next couple of seasons then we have to ensure that he isn’t played into the ground.
I don’t think any player who requires daily treatment and regular injections for an Achilles problem can play three games a week without it having a detrimental effect on him. With the transfer window opening in January, there’s a chance to address this particular issue.
Arsene Wenger says he wants his team to be angry after the United game, saying:
I believe the result has to make us angry and even more determined. If I am a player, and I think with what we produced, we have a huge potential, and we lose the game, we cannot accept that.
I hope that’s the case, but I think this team needs another big game win to help it along the way. Yes, we beat Sp*rs a couple of weeks ago and that was a fantastic performance, but so far this season we’ve lost to Liverpool, Man City and Man United, scoring twice and conceding ten times on those three games.
You can choose to view those games in isolation and talk about how the transfer window was a problem at Anfield, how the referee influenced things at the Etihad, and how we shot ourselves in the foot at the weekend, but the overall record speaks for itself too. Liverpool come to town on December 22nd, and what is already a big game becomes even more important. We need to see that record straight.
We will have a podcast for you today, of course, but it might be a little later than usual, probably around 2pm UK time. If you have any questions or topics for discussion, please send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra.