Due to work commitments I haven’t been able to pen my thoughts on the victory against FC Basel so far, it is somewhat late in the day and you’ve probably read everything there is to read about it but it would be rude not to comment on such a performance.
Some of the football on show on Wednesday night was mouth watering, I cannot remember a half that provided such quality on the ball than the first 45 against Basel. Arsene has spoken about the players gaining confidence from every performance and you can see that pretty clearly. The Chelsea win has given this Arsenal team a spring in their step just as the Hull City display provided us with the platform to destroy the west Londoners, and before that the second half at PSG. It just goes to show how difficult it is to make football predictions, it was only a few weeks when we struggled for fluency against Southampton and now we are watching a team attack and defend as a unit without a second thought.
One move we produced very early on resulted in Walcott just drifting offside but the triangles, movement and quick passing from our creative players was so satisfying to watch.
I enjoyed our first goal a lot, Cazorla disguised a pass to free Alexis down the left, his early left footed cross was met by Theo Walcott to head in from close range. Walcott fired in his and Arsenal’s second on 26 minutes with a typical Theo finish from the right of the box. I liked the touch from Alexis to set him free.
I am loving Alexis in the number 9 role, he seems to have the whole package. His ability to roll central defenders who are tight to him is a real plus for us as is his link up play around the box, it means whatever the centre back does against Alexis, there will always be a threat of danger.
We missed a host of chances during the rest of the game, what was interesting was the fact that it came from such a wide range of players. Our conversion rate has been pretty good this season so hopefully this is more of an anomaly as opposed to what’s to follow.
A few interesting observations on the game.
Hector Bellerin the overloader
It was mentioned on the Arsenal Vision Podcast about how he is underlapping Walcott rather than overlapping but in this game, especially in the first half I thought he took it to another level.
Bellerin often looked like a creative midfielder combining with our rotating attacking players. It is a part of the reason as to why we are able to create so many angles around the opposition box. I haven’t checked the stats yet but I’m sure he is taking more shots than ever before, if so it is surely down to the positions he finds himself in.
Santi Cazorla joining the party
Francis Coquelin’s injury was always going to impact the team as we would have to adjust to the very different qualities of Granit Xhaka. I wondered how Xhaka and Cazorla would fit together, who would sit deeper and which one would push further forward. Arsene said that he saw Xhaka as more of a box to box midfielder but that is not really what we saw on Wednesday. Xhaka’s presence allowed Santi the freedom to express his talents further forward and we haven’t seen much of that when partnered with Francis Coquelin.
Imagine being a team that sit deep and allow you plenty of the ball, you could have Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis, Cazorla and even Bellerin all floating around moving and exchanging passes around your box forcing an opening.
Keep your head up Alexis
Arsenal winning 2-0 utterly flattered the Swiss champions, we should have wiped the floor with them but for a crazy amount of missed chances. The culprit in chief was Alexis who could have scored 4 on another day. Hopefully he is saving the four for Tottenham.
You could see his frustration when he kicked the advertising hoardings late in the second half, he wanted to get the goal his performance deserved. Arsene also spoke in his pre Burnley press conference that he left the game unhappy, which in one sense is very pleasing. It means he is hungry to score goals and we’ve seen when he tried to convince Cazorla to take our penalty against Southampton, and then his missed penalty at Hull City when he was not supposed to be on penalty duty.
Clearly he likes the responsibility of scoring but he must not let missed chances dominate his thoughts. Hopefully the frustrations lasted that evening and then wiped away for the next game. He is a tough cookie so I’m sure he won’t let it bother him too much. Alexis for the opener on Sunday anyone?
I have a feeling that once he gets on a hot streak he will score many, a little like Robin van Persie when he made a similar switch.
So while Chelsea was the high of the season so far we witnessed our best football of the season on Wednesday night.
We will face a very different style of team at Burnley on Sunday and they have a very good home record but I am confident and I reckon the players are too.
Let’s keep improving and continue to string these victories together.