1) Wonderful result and performance at the Emirates, before we get into the nitty gritty of it all can there be any argument against this being our best starting 11 (Koscielny aside)
@chefrevelry - As constructed, those are absolutely our eleven best players. I do still worry about Ramsey on the wing. It is such an unnatural position for him that I wonder if resentment is being built up, especially with his struggle for form.
@fdma22 - No doubt about that still think we could get more from Rambo if he played central as good as he was yesterday. The question now will Gabriel keep his place when Koscielny returns? Well at least we have 2 more weeks to see.
@GunnersStunners - Based on today's performance, there can be very little argument about this being our best starting XI especially if you look at our bench today (including injured players). Gabriel seamlessly slotted in Koscielny's absence. He can play alongside either Per or Koscielny which is great for us. Hats off to the amazing work of our in-house Data Analytics company for telling the club to sign Gabriel!
From the bench, only Giroud and Ox can make a claim of being part of our best starting XI but Ox isn't ready to start yet despite his direct penetrative runs. Although, Giroud is better than Walcott against more physical opposition, today's pacey game wouldn't have suited him as a starter.
@shotta_gooner - From my observation only a noisy minority still question our best XI. It is obvious Wenger has decided that a mobile fleet footed Center Forward in the person of Walcott is first choice. There are a few remaining members of the cult of "Ramsey must play in the middle". This they suggest would allow the OX to play as a wide forward. That idea is now totally discredited based on recent performances by the Englishman. Others of that cult have gone further and suggest that Rambo should play centrally instead of Santi. The idea that we not play our most technically proficient central-midfielder so as to shoehorn the Welshman in his favored position is so preposterous as to defy discussion. But after today's performance, as well as the games vs Leicester and Olympiacos, the cult has been dealt some fatal blows. With Ramsey playing nominally as a wide midfielder but the freedom to to tuck in centrally or to double up on the flanks with Bellerin he helped us to dominate the ageing Carrick and Schweinsteiger in midfield and to totally frustrate Ashley Young on the flanks forcing United to substitute him at half-time. Only injuries or the neeed for rotation will make a difference to our starting XI in the near future.
@TheOddSolace - Absolutely none. This is without a doubt our strongest XI at the moment, aside the obvious question of who Koscielny replaces on his return. Mertesacker needs steel to balance his prosaic silk, but we can also present a brick wall with Gabriel and Koscielny together, though that takes away a bit of finesse. The worry with finding your strongest team though is that it leaves little room for rotation, and when the rotation does happen, the replacements invariably struggle.
2) From your view, what was the difference between our defeat against Olympiacos and our victory against Manchester United?
@chefrevelry - The difference in my eyes was based on expectations within the team. Arsenal teams of recent years tend to play up/down to the level of their opposition. Had the Chelsea debacle not occurred, I'd say it would be a consistent trend to either play up to their potential against top teams or relax and play too loose against lower tier teams. With the knowledge of what the game meant leading into an interlull and how recent teams had performed against ManU, it seemed everyone was on their toes. Midweek was another example of taking a team too lightly and not adapting to what was given in terms of tactics.
@fdma22 - Our defence didn't take us of the game. Same thing happened against Liverpool. You build momentum and an error occurs. Of course Cech improves our defence
@GunnersStunners - Answer is very simple, converting our chances especially early in the game which we did perfectly well today and reaped the goals, I mean rewards. We missed some early chances against Olympiacos. Had we buried them especially Ox's one on one with their keeper in 11th min, we might have been talking about a comfortable win in midweek. Today, we scored on our first real chance and then, 33 seconds later Ozil doubled our lead. I know it's not that straightforward to score early in big games but we did that brilliantly well today.
Another difference was our individual errors that cost us in midweek. I know the whole country (media/press) has been talking about Ospina's error on 2nd goal as the root cause of our defeat, while completely ignoring why we conceded that corner in the first place that lead to the goal. Today, every player was on red alert which helped the whole team defend better and resulted in a match winning display and a welcome clean sheet.
@shotta_gooner - Unlike Olympiacos we were dominant and assertive from the start, attacking United at speed. I call it "hurricane Arsenal". In 20 minutes we blew their roof-in, hurricane stylee. For some unknown reason we were tentative vs Olympiacos particularly in the first half. I think it is due to the rotation of players coming into the starting XI. It is natural that the new players take a little time getting up to speed plus the normal anxiety of taking on a new role.
@TheOddSolace - Simply put, an angry Arsene! I think his cutting acerbity at Friday's presser was only a sneak peek at what the players faced following Olympiakos. I would not be surprised if Arsene really ripped into the lads after that midweek debacle. It also helped that there was real atmosphere at the Ems, against Olympiakos it was like a morgue even before the banter reared its head.
3) There were many a good player on show but who was the best on the day and why?
@chefrevelry - Özil was hands down my man of the match. Walcott might have had better numbers/all around game but considering the pressure slagged onto Ozil by the pundits, especially the claim he disappears in big games, his opening twenty minutes hopefully silenced them.
@fdma22 - I will have to for Theo. Had to prove something and did it well. Movement ever so improving by the min , his control, determination and speed of course that seems to bring more out Mesut
@GunnersStunners - People would rightly point to Alexis for his brace today but he wasn't the only player who was on point against Utd. Özil was the mastermind behind the first and second goal. Similarly, Cazorla's pass that started our attack for 2nd goal was mesmerising. Theo deserves a mention for being unselfish and putting it on a plate for Ozil to score. Ramsey ran the whole 90 mins like a proper box to box midfielder.
The back five were resilient and produced a solid defensive performance in 2nd half when we decided to sit back and let Utd have the ball. Per had a very good game especially seeing how he's singled out by commentators and pundits week in week out as the weak link in our defence. In his 4+ years in Arsenal shirt, I have rarely seen him being outrun by opposition centre forwards despite being 6' 7" tall which means he's a bit slower than the players shorter than him. So, all in all a great performance from the whole team.
PS. Arsene Wenger gets a 10/10 for his meticulous suit :) Oh and for a great game plan which was brilliantly executed by the team.
@shotta_gooner - It is fairly obvious that Alexi will get the plaudits and deservedly, not only because of the his goals, both of which were of the highest quality but also because of his "efficiency" in the words of Wenger. I take that to mean he did not lose the ball as often as he did in past games and was a terrier on defence, putting great effort into tracking back and helping Monreal to deal with the constant threat of Martial and Mata on our left. Apparently he covered the 3rd most distance of Arsenal players at 8km. Just outstanding.
@TheOddSolace - Best on the day for me was Mesut Ozil. Sanchez was decisive, but there are recent enough mental recollections of him being this sort of unstoppable freight train. Keynote displays have been thinner on the ground from Ozil, so the pleasure of this one was more visceral. He reveled in the space United afforded him.
4) Who wasn't at their best today and why?
@chefrevelry - Ramsey was the only player on the pitch who did not seem to have one of his best games of the season. He missed a sitter and again seemed disappointed to be on the wing.
@fdma22 - I would say Rambo, mainly because he is out of position but was great. One of. His best performances in that position. At his best that missed chance is tap in
@GunnersStunners - Not one player was below par today. Everyone raised their game to match the occasion. So, full credit to the manager and the team.
@shotta_gooner - Everyone raised their game to a higher level to meet the challeng of United. The entire team was outstanding.
@TheOddSolace - Difficult to say anyone really underperformed; I'll take the easy way out and say Ramsey for failing to score. For all the talk of him being played in an unnatural position (whatever that means), he still gets chances. He missed a sitter today, and seems to take forever to line up shots. He needs to relax and trust his ability to take on chances first time.
5) Knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup and now this, are we rid of the Hoodoo?
@chefrevelry - To a degree. Would love to see a similar game at Old Trafford to finally be done with the notion of "history" playing a part in these matches. Arsenal has now defeated every other "Top Four" team within the past two seasons (if you include the Community Shield) and should be convinced of their own abilities and potential.
@fdma22 - Yes. But consistence is what we might lack. Next is Chelsea, no team I want us to beat more..haha
@GunnersStunners - I don't think there was any hoodoo. It was more like a psychological barrier which stopped us from being mentally ready to fight against big teams in recent past. Beating Man City away in January proved to be a catalyst for us to kick on. Then, beating Utd in FA Cup and Chelsea in Community Shield gave our team more belief that they can beat the big teams both home and away.
@shotta_gooner - It is no coincidence that in the last 3 years when we not only stopped selling our best players but we were able to buy some truly world-class talent uch as Ozil and then Alexis, that over recent time we have become more competitive with the top-teams in the League such as United. So yes the "hoodoo" is broken but I will caution against triumphalism. Games betwwen the top teams are usually tight affairs often determined by one or at most two goals. I don't expect going to United next year and blowing them away in similar fashion. They will make the adjustments.
@TheOddSolace - Don't know about that, really. A hoodoo, I mean. Think it is a combination of two factors: we're a lot less given to wilfully trying to assert ourselves on a game, we pace ourselves more. Second of all, they now have a manager who is as much of a purist in terms of what he wants and how to get there. The downside with an approach like that (as we've also learnt down the years) is that it has to be perfectly ingrained in order to work. So, basically, we've become a bit more like Ferguson's United sides that used to pick us off, while United have become more like what we used to be.
6) What role do Arsenal have to play this season? Are we title challengers?
@chefrevelry - Arsenal have no role to play other than to be in the mix for the title. There is a prevalent parity that exists now in England. Except for a few bottom of the table sides, on any given day any team has a realistic chances at victory. Therefore I don't see a side running away with the league and every side has shown weaknesses. It may eventually turn into a situation that the side that stays the healthiest has the best chance to win the league.
@fdma22 - Contenders! City are really strong but they will slip up
@GunnersStunners - I might be a little biased but I do believe we're title contenders this season. Our squad is quite stable and we have a very good balance across the pitch which will serve us well in the long run. However, we need to string a few wins together and stay near the top until at least February-March next year then, it will all come down to getting those gritty 1-0, 2-1 wins during the run in. Plus, we need injury gods to give Arsenal a free pass this season so can we have our important players fit when things get tough. We're due a break.
The only team that looks better than all others is Man City but even they have lost 2 PL games already. Man Utd will make top 4 again and as hilariously bad as Chelsea and Mourinho are at the moment, they can still come back into the mix for at least the final CL spot.
@shotta_gooner - In the second half of the last season, with essentially the same personnel, we were one of the best performing teams in the League. At the start of this season we have been creating more chances than ever, an average of 20 per game but converting at only 5% prior to Leicester. Our usual conversion rate is 15%. Today 9 chances were created yielding 3 goals, that is a 33% strike rate. So our averages are reverting to the norm. If this season we maintain the same consistency as the 2nd half of last season, which we are now approaching, then we will challenge for the title, no doubt.
@TheOddSolace - Yes. I think Arsene senses it too. The playing field in the Prem is getting more and more evened out, or at least there is not as much of a gap between the best and the worst teams as there used to be. If we can find consistency in our output, we stand as good a chance as anyone.
7) Manchester United spent a fair whack on players this summer (and last.. and... ) what do you make of them at present?
@chefrevelry - I've heard a lot of pundits and bloggers recently rail against the idea of cohesion. They've said that footballers are professionals and cohesion is a made up quality that shouldn't be rated. I present Man U as a perfect example of how the quality does exist and can prevent a side from reaching their potential. High cost players don't help if they don't dove tail and compliment each other. Flipping half a squad for new players will cause an acclamation period that can become even more exasperated when too many similar players are attempting the same movements on the pitch. Man U will come back around once they've seen some stability in the squad.
@fdma22 - Work in progress maybe but I don't give a sh*t really
@GunnersStunners - Man Utd look good on paper and they have also got a few good results regardless of their performances. They also have a shiny new striker in Martial but the media putting a lot of pressure on his young shoulders will eventually cost them in big games as we all saw today. Only time will tell whether they will mount a serious title challenge but I do think they will make top 4 again this season.
@shotta_gooner - If I was LVG, I would be very concerned that the heart of this United team in the form of Rooney, Schweinsteiger and Carrick were made to look old and slow today by the Gunners. Once Arsenal stopped the supply from midfield Memphis and Martial didn't look like scoring. Other teams will copy the Arsenal template and press the United backline and midfield. It could get ugly.
@TheOddSolace - I think they're still very much a work in progress. Van Gaal is an oddball character sometimes, but I do rate his mind. They could be better with another manager in charge and having spent as much, but they went for a manager who prefers the slow-burn approach, so we'll see how that pans out for them.
8) What do you make of Theo Walcott the striker? Can he become a top bracket centre forward?
@chefrevelry - Walcott has without a doubt proven me wrong. I spent the summer convinced he must be moved on and a new striker brought in who would exhibit more Alexis-like ability on both sides of the ball. I apparently could not have been more wrong. Walcott has been a driving force and today showed a technical ability in link up play I had not seen from him since a few years ago on the wing. He may never reach the top tier of striker but he has the potential to entrench himself as Arsenal's striker.
@fdma22 - Too soon to judge but based on yesterday's show he well on his way
@GunnersStunners - Theo has the talent to be a top class striker but not in the bracket of Aguero or Suarez. Sorry to be so honest there. This season, he's showing signs of continuous improvement in his runs and movement on the pitch. With all his talent and pace, he still lacks the X factor that makes players like Aguero and Suarez stand out. He still can't create something amazing out of nothing like Alexis did with his 2nd goal today. I just can never see Walcott showing that kind of magic. It's not a criticism of him though, he's just not in the same league however, with hard work and dedication, he can become a prolific goal-scorer. All up to him.
@shotta_gooner - I must admit to privately having doubts about Theo playing as a central striker but since Chelsea he has made a believer out of me. He is fast, fleet-footed, perpetually in motion, strong, of low center of gravity and possesses a rocket of a right foot. Apart from favoring a different leg, this description reminds me of a certain Man City striker who is beginning to score bucket-loads of gaols. He may not have all the skills and tricks of the Argentine but if he keeps getting chances he will score tons of goals. That is the metricby which all great strikers are measured. Why not Theo?
@TheOddSolace - Short answer, I think, is no. I don't think Walcott will ever get into that top bracket. Ian Wright made a good point earlier in the season that the process of learning for the role should have been started much earlier with Theo. He is showing good signs, and he is an honest lad, so will always work hard. Still, he will fall just below that top bracket of forwards. His ceiling is probably 20 goals a season, which is still a very good return if others pitch in, like Sanchez did today.
9) Any other thoughts?
@chefrevelry - After the midweek disappointment in the Champions League there was another ground swell of questioning Wenger's ability to reach the team and to prepare for "must win" fixtures. I would like to believe it's the players he is managing that has changed more than the sport around him. Wenger clearly sees his relationship with the players as a partnership, not a boss-employee situation. It's all "we" and "us" instead of "them" and "me." This situation lends itself to players who don't need an external source of motivation or reaffirmation of confidence. Wenger's early Arsenal squads were chocked full of those players who never doubted themselves even in defeat. Wenger still has the ability to take the right squad to the summit. It's the players themselves that in my opinion need to believe and prepare themselves more thoroughly.
@GunnersStunners - Yes, just one message to all Gooners. Please support the team through thick and thin, not only when we win and things are rosy. It's nights like Zagreb and Olympiacos when our team requires our unconditional support. I understand the knee-jerk reaction every once in a while but throwing toys out of pram every time we lose a game doesn't help the team's confidence and it affects on our future performances.
The choice is yours.
Here is to a great season!
@shotta_gooner - It would be remiss of me not to mention the back-five of Arsenal which kept a clean sheet especially Petr Cech who made two brilliant saves to keep United from scoring. To win the title it will need more super defensive performances like this alongside our brilliant ability to make chances and score goals. Long may we continue to have clean sheets.
@TheOddSolace - Saw a lot of tweets as to why Arsenal cannot always play like this. Thing is: it requires a great deal of sacrifice, as well as the sort of obsessive drill-sergeant manager (e.g. Guardiola) that can push and push his team. The approach has its downsides too, most prominently burn-out, both on the part of the manager and of the players. Arsene is not this way, he does not have an intense enough personality to do that. His way is different, this is why a lot rides on the players and their collective sense of responsibility. If that is developed, we get a season like 'The Invincibles'. So the short answer is: the players have not yet developed an acute enough sense of collective and personal responsibiilty.
Really enjoyed those responses this week, very intelligent responses. Please follow the guys above if you are not doing so.