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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Winning but frustrated but top of the Premier League

The most deserved goal of the season

I was really happy with the win yesterday, obviously. But I was also left very frustrated by the missed chances that meant we failed to add to our goal difference - both Spurs and Man City have better figures there than us and that could yet prove crucial in the final reckoning. Let's face it, Mesut Ozil couldn't have done much more for his mates than lay on six clear-cut chances in the game. Bournemouth should have been humiliated yesterday but we weren't ruthless enough and Theo had one of "those" days. Three points are not to be sniffed at, however, and we sit on top of the Premier League this morning.
The first 15 minutes or so saw a nervous looking Arsenal. Following the chasing at Southampton on Saturday it looked like the players were more interested in safety-first in the early going. We weren't committing anyone forward, lest we should open up the back-line and give Bournemouth some encouragement. They did get in on occasion but lacked the quality to trouble us unduly. When we did start to play our football in their half Arsenal totally dominated the game and were just too good for their opponents. Gabriel added much needed application in the back-four, while Koscielny will benefit from getting a day off. Calum Chambers came in for the injured Flamini and did just fine in the defensive midfield position. His lack of pace may well be exposed in there against better players but he did all that was asked of him yesterday and showed, on a couple of occasions, that he is a good footballer when he has the ball at his feet. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had too much for either Bournemouth full-back but his end product is still worryingly non-existent, while Hector Bellerin's crossing has become progressively worse since he came in to the side - our inability to hit Giroud's head from wide areas is actually an embarrassment at times.
Despite the poor crossing in open play I haven't seen us look so dangerous from corners in years. There were three elements to that yesterday. Firstly Ozil was delivering the ball really well. Secondly Gabriel was attacking everything that came in to the area. And thirdly Bournemouth didn't have a clue how to defend when we had a set-piece. The first goal was a perfect illustration of what I'm saying. It was a very well taken corner from Ozil, Gabriel made sure he was getting on the end of it, while Bournemouth were neither marking their men, nor occupying the space in front of the goal. You could see what it meant to Gabriel to get his first Arsenal goal, having come close to doing so at Wembley against Reading, and I was really pleased for him. I like Gabriel a lot and I would like to see him in the side far more regularly next to Koscielny.
The only surprise after that was the amount of time it took to get the second. We missed chance after chance after chance. Ozil kept putting the ball in perfectly and nobody could produce the finish. Theo Walcott must have set a new record yesterday (previously held by himself) for the number of total miskicks in a game of professional football. Gabriel hit the post with a lovely flicked header, only to see Mertesacker take the rebound in the mooey and the ball go agonisingly wide of the goal. I did worry a little at half-time that we might live to regret the misses if we switched off for a second and allowed Bournemouth the chance to score. We did let them have that chance, but Gabriel made a proper defenders block to deny Stanislas early in the second-half and we went on to dominate again until the later stages.
With Ozil seeing all the others miss the chances he created he clearly decided he would have to do it himself. The one-two with Giroud was beautiful - what a flick by Giroud to put Ozil in behind the defence. Ozil opened up on to his left-foot and rolled it past Boruc to tie things up. In its own way it was one of the goals of the season. I have to say that fewer goals can have been more deserved by the goalscorer. For me Ozil should score more than he does, but he has been so good in the last couple of months that he totally deserved to get his own moment of glory, especially in front of the North Bank. With Alexis injured he has become the sole focal point of our attacking game and he has stepped up to the plate in the grand manner. 
We saw out the rest of the game missing more opportunities to score, while the substitutions (or the late timing of them) baffled me completely given what we hear from Wenger about fatigue. Bournemouth might have got a goal late on but it is a mark of Petr Cech's quality that he was still concentrating enough to make a very good save. Of course this gave him the "Premier League" record for clean sheets - this, like Jamie Vardy's scoring run, is modern football nonsense on the highest level as the game was played long before 1992!
So top of the league for at least a few hours and you can't argue with that. We should be far better off than we are, but so should Manchester City really. If someone had offered me our position after losing at home to West Ham in August I'd have taken it like a shot.

Tomorrow I'll be writing the traditional mid-season review piece so look out for that.

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