In the last article posted, I noted the ‘New Orcs can be caught’ and after the 2-0 victory over Man Utd, it begins to seem like a distinct possibility that St Totteringham’s Day will be reinstated onto the Arsenal calendar.
The last 8 games look relatively easier for Arsenal than they do for Spurs, but in this league anything is possible so nothing should be taken for granted. Nevertheless, there is no mistaking that Arsenal this year have lost some of their soft underbelly that typified performances under Wenger and that augurs well for the future.
Although some would say Arsenal rode their luck against Man U, I’d say the result was a fair one as the Gunners seemed to ‘want it more’, aside from Ozil, who drifted through the game like a sated mosquito surrounded by impenetrable rhinos. To continue the animal analogies, the elephant in the room is now on the pitch and still looks out of place to me. He can pack his trunk, as far as I’m concerned, as he looks like a spent force.
In fact, it was a brave decision to play him in such an important game. I would have preferred the more industrious Iwobi, who offers more defensively and offensively nowadays than the nonchalant German, who has skill and technique but lacks determination.
On the topic of technique, few British players are as gifted as Maitland-Niles, but that in itself is no guarantee of success. Perhaps in time, the youngster can improve his decision-making, as right now he doesn’t have the skills needed to make the right choices. Of course, in time that should be acquired through experience, but I always worry about players who appear to have a cavalier attitude. I prefer ‘roundheads’, like the suspended Torreira, who always puts in a shift.
As it was, Torreira wasn’t needed as the adaptable Ramsey filled in, and worked well alongside the ever-improving Xhaka, who deserved his goal, however fortuitous it was.
The other Gunner who deserved his goal and got it was Aubameyang, who converted, albeit unconvincingly from the spot after a soft penalty award. Lacazette was felled, but generously insisted that Auba take it. This strike pairing (although one of them always plays wide) works partly because of the pair’s close relationship off the pitch. It really is pleasing to see two team-mates getting on so well and this is typical of the team spirit forged by Emery. It’s an ‘all for one and one for all’ attitude not seen at Arsenal since the days of the Musketeers.
Although United fielded a formidable strike force of Rashford and Lukaku, few Arsenal fans would trade Auba and Laca for such a pairing.
Indeed, few Gooners would swap Emery for a Solskjaer-like appointment, although Martin Keown claimed an ex-player could do a similar job at Arsenal to the Norwegian, who has seemingly turned United’s fortunes around. However, I can’t help thinking of ex-United and Arsenal striker Brian Kidd, who started so well as a Premier League manager, but was kicked out of the manager’s seat so quickly at Blackburn. Solskjaer May find that his honeymoon period is now over, although having Sir Alex Ferguson in the background pulling his strings may help the puppet manager keep United on track.
Nevertheless, Emery appeared to be one step ahead of Solskjaer tactically, which is why I think the result was fair overall.
Arsenal defended so stoutly and credit for that should go to the manager for choosing to play three at the back, as well as another outstanding performance from Leno.
The question is should Leno be used for the Rennes return leg. Personally, I’d play him, but no doubt Cech will get the nod and probably concede the goal that gets Arsenal knocked out of the Europa League.
At least, Arsenal are now in a position to make sure Champions League football returns to the club, which could mean more than 40 million pounds to spend on recruiting new players this summer. The other question is: will be Monchi splashing the cash? The answer to the last is probably ‘yes’. If only the answer to the first question was ‘yes’ too perhaps Arsenal fans could truly rejoice that the club is back in business on the field as well as off it.