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Monday, 18 September 2017

So they can do it after all

I last got around to writing something between the Stoke and Liverpool matches. Let's make no mistake here, the start to Arsenal's season has been a car crash on and off the pitch. The humiliation at Liverpool, who have been totally undone by everyone they've played since, was just a continuation of recent years against certain clubs. Wenger yesterday claimed it was down to the transfer window being open and the uncertainty caused by that. Utter nonsense. The fact there is that Wenger and Gazidis presided over yet another disaster of a transfer period and failed to deal with the buying and selling of players appropriately. To blame their incompetence off the pitch (while taking no responsibility himself) for the players performances on the pitch (while taking no responsibility himself) is symptomatic of the malaise which runs through Arsenal right now from top to bottom. No ambition, no plan, no leadership, no direction and, apparently, no money!!!
That's the negative stuff out of the way (I'm not going to go in to what happened at the stadium last Thursday as I wasn't there myself so nothing I have to say is really going to add to the debate) let's get on with the good stuff.
At the risk of stating the obvious we needed a good win at home to Bournemouth and we got it. I don't care that Bournemouth were rubbish, the players went out and won comprehensively. There was some decent football played and Lacazette scored a very fine goal, as did Welbeck with his second of the game. It doesn't mean forgiveness for what happened at Stoke and Liverpool, but you have to start somewhere. This was followed up with another very good win in the week against Cologne. Played against the backdrop of what was happening around the ground the players concentrated on the job in hand, after half-time at least, and again scored some superb goals. Even better was that Jack Wilshere was back in the squad and those present gave him the sort of cheer that Wenger hates as it tells him the fans love a particular player that he doesn't. Jack looked sharp from what I could see on TV so it was disappointing yesterday to see Elneny and Maitland-Niles named on the bench instead of him. I have a theory here that Wenger is going to make Wilshere's position at Arsenal so difficult that he has to ask for a move in January.
Yesterday was a game that I fully expected Arsenal to lose. In fact I expected us to concede at least four goals and be hammered yet again. What we got instead was 100% effort from everyone on the pitch, with no player really worthy of criticism - at least among those who started the match. Iwobi playing instead of the injured (really?) Ozil was a surprise but the youngster did everything asked of him on the day. For once the team was set up properly to play against a top class opponent and Arsenal should have won the game. My Dad pointed out this morning that we seem to be able to play well against Conte's Chelsea and so it proved again yesterday. Aaron Ramsey, by cutting out the flicks and tricks, and not just bombing forward aimlessly, was superb by keeping things simple. Along with Xhaka and Iwobi I thought we dominated the midfield for most of the game, with Kante, Fabregas, Pedro and Bakayoko pretty much anonymous on the day. I criticise Ramsey a lot on this site, and deservedly so, but I also give credit where it is due - yesterday Ramsey showed that when he plays properly and doesn't try to be Lionel Messi he is top class. On the theme of giving credit I have to say that Shkodran Mustafi had far and away his best game for Arsenal yesterday. It's a shame he got himself offside for the disallowed goal as he would have been a worth scorer of any winning goal yesterday. I thought he absolutely put Morata in his pocket throughout the match, to the point that Morata got frustrated enough to lose his head. If Mustafi can produce that kind of display on a consistent basis then I might begin to understand the money we paid for him. As I said above, the performance of the team was top class and as far as I'm concerned it was no coincidence that a certain German international (whose contract is running down completely under the radar compared to Alexis) wasn't involved.
This Arsenal team has a lot of catching up to do, and a lot of making up to do for the supporters. The game at Chelsea should stand as a spring-board to them for this season, showing that they can play well against other top teams. However, there have been enough false dawns in the past for me to get excited about it just yet. Let's see where we are after 10 games, or a few more away to the other big clubs, and then start to judge whether the penny has dropped. In the meantime I want to see the good run kept going with a handsome League Cup performance at home to Doncaster in midweek. Momentum is key if the season is to get on track properly.

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