That’s more like it. We should only play at home. No more away games. Then we’d be champions again. Glory be ours. Home is where the points are. To be fair it helped that Chelski were shit. But we were pretty good.
Team selection was key today. No Mustafa. Maybe he’s injured. We can but hope. Back to a back four even without Monreal. And Torreira in midfield. So that’s better. And we turned and played for both halfs. Maybe that makes up for playing neither last week. We started with a high press game and put them under pressure immediately. Before we took a well deserved lead Aubameyang missed another chance. That’s a nasty habit he’s developing. Luckily we had CIgaerette on hand to score a true strikers goal. Somewhat reminiscent of his Liverpool goal, in a tight spot he demonstrated delicate control and then a poachers awareness of the goal. Maybe Torreira distracted their super expensive goalie a little who was still counting his money as the ball went in on the near post.
The pressure was pretty relentless even though Chelski had a perfect chance for Pedro to equalize. Our setup was very different from previous weeks and it benefited us. Ramsey was pressing Jorginho and, just like Ali did, it denied Chelski any fluency. Today was about the team selection. As buggered as it was last week, today, it was better. Ramsey in midfield at least linked up the play and pushed forward. And he worked really hard the entire game.
Cheklsi really were off their game for the first half and we should most probably have taken the lead earlier and, possibly, scored more from the chances they created for us. Right from the off David Luis gave us the ball in the final third. The numerous mistakes like that peppered their first half. But our press helped amplify their lack of focus.
I’m not entirely convinced by Guendouzi on the left. Both he and Kolinsac seemed pretty vulnerable today. Both seemed to work hard but Guendouzi did not help us too much creatively. Most of that came from the other two midfielders. Playing Torreira on the right was also unexpected leaving Xhaka in the middle. I’m not sure that brings the best out of either but today I think it was largely about nullifying and denying supplies lines to Hazard.
I’m still a little unsure as to how we managed to keep a clean sheet. I suppose it helps when Leno only had a single shot to save through the entire game aside from the header that hit the post. In fact, I wonder whether Chelski studied the wrong video from last week. Maybe they decided to mimic our play against West Ham. Chelski were lackluster and unable to close down anyone. They passed sideways and did not trouble the goalie.
The defense looked better and Kosclieny seems to be finding his way back to some form. But surely having Sokratis alongside him is more comforting than Meathead Mustafi. Today, mostly, they held their line quite well and were sensible in their distribution. With these two in the center the overall balance of the team was better and functioned more as an actual team. The contrast to last week could not be greater.
Maybe we need a home London derby each week. First Sp*rs and now Chelski. Of course, in-between we’ve been pretty crappy. It’s hard to determine whether OneEye is closer to finding out his best team and best formation. To his credit, he is not afraid to make tactical adjustments in the game – unlike AW, and, seemingly, Sari who stuck with the same approach until the wonderful Giroud appeared. It’s rare our crowd serenade another teams player, but in this instance, it’s excusable. We’ve missed his dashing good looks.
Ten minutes into the second half it was clear we should win this game as Chelski had limited invention and we’d adopted a mentality of shutting the game down. We let them have plenty of possession and then contrived to give them the ball straight back but still they could not do anything. There were periods where they reminded me of us trying to tip-toe through a packed defense with the perfected complex inter-passing that we so rarely execute successfully. We could have put the soon-to-depart Cech in goal today and still have won. So, thank you Cheklsi for playing such a limp and lifeless game. Your homage to our performance last week is much appreciated.
We needed this win. I know that seems like a pretty obvious, redundant statement. I believe that’s the general intent each week. However, given the turn in atmosphere at the club over the last week or so, I think there was a genuine need to change the sentiment for this club and team. If only for 90 minutes. Last week was truly atrocious and brought into doubt – based on the last 5 weeks worth of results – the end to the OneEye honeymoon period. So now, as we enter the first full year of our union, the first cracks have begun to show. Is OneEye the right man for the job? What the fuck is going on with our finances? And why are we in such disarray with our January signings and overall recruitment strategy? All these issues remain to be resolved but it’s more palatable armed with three points.
It feels like, over the last few weeks, we’re balancing on a knives edge. Just a few degrees away from self immolation. OneEye has not helped by dissipating all the goodwill he’d inherited both from his signing and the string of positive results. Maybe it’s natural that a new manager will modify and change his team strategy, alternate various players in order to figure out what works best for the players he’d got. Today that tinkering worked perfectly. Of course, we have had the advantage of watching this squad for too long so we already know who should be playing and who should be permanently injured. I’d just assumed that a professional manager would have figured it out sooner. And that’s not to assume that next week won’t rotate the team again. I’d expect to see Ob1 come back in. As the only player to perform last week he can consider himself unlucky to have been on the bench.
Obviously, the clear negative from today is the Bellerin injury. That had all the hallmarks of a season ending one. I fear it’s ACL or some other knee injury that will sideline him for many months. We know that Lichtenstein can’t replace him. Maitland-Niles is the best we’ve got and he’s not that great. This leads back to our transfer policy and whether we’re looking to bring in experience or youth. And begs the question of whether we have any money in the bank to pay for what we need.
At this stage it seems pretty clear we’re not going to make any earth shattering or influential January signings. We need players but we’re going to have to wait. But it now seems that OneEye has realized he needs one of Ramsey or Ozil to be the creative hub of the team. And yet we look like we could lose both – one to Italy and one to the stands. I have to assume that OneEye is not intent of treating Ozil how DarthVader treated Pogba. Not that the two players are quite comparable. But the similarities with the managers is a little disturbing. Listening to OneEyes comments during the week it seems that he’s being a little too vocal about the Ozil situation. He’s backing both of them into a corner. It was not Ozil’s fault he signed that contract. No-one forced Arsenal – whether it be Gazidis, Sven or Raul – to offer that contract. Surely they understood the economic reality. Maybe they should realize that you can’t let players get into the last year of their contract. Ozil did – or rather his agent did. I’m sure Ozil will play in the NoHoppa this week and maybe he can resurrect his career with us. But distractions like this don’t help the club. Nor the worrying questions about the finances.
Today helps to clear some of the gloom. But, remember, this is a long, perilous journey we are embarking on. The is no clear roadmap for us and, unfortunately, no clear leadership either. As happy as I am that silky-smooth Gazidis has departed, we need to have some management direction and control. This was always going to be a tough season. It did not start with belief that we’d end up in the top 4. But after seeing the weakness of ManU and Chelski our expectations rose. We have to see real progress and evolution. Today we saw a few signs that’s still possible. We had a real performance today. But we also need consistency. Both from the players and the manager.
Away at Cardiff is a reality check. Are we a team that can just turn up for home London derbys or are we a team that can consistently compete away from the New Highbury. Only then can we have some faith in this team. Just keep Mustafi in the stands. Maybe the final solution will be a German-less team.