Hurray! victory to the mighty Arsenal, clean sheet and a good performance was pretty much what I asked and hoped for pre match. Today we are joined by @beautifulgroan, @joeman4ever and @YankeeGunner who will be sharing their thoughts on the game.
1) I don't know about you but I'm feeling a tad better than I was on Tuesday night. How did you see the game, did Arsenal improve a lot from midweek or was it a simple case of Aston Villa not being up to it?
@beautifulgroan - I think the difference was more on us - people will say it was 'only Villa' but this was an opposition fresh after a week off, coming off the back of a win at Anfield and with a defensive record that promised problems. And we swatted them aside, before holding them at bay in the second half, in a way that reminded me of the win over Napoli last season. We played into Dortmund's hands in some ways on Tuesday night, today felt much more about us just doing what we do best.
@joeman4ever - Much needed positive performance! The starting line-up needed a jolt and AW, to his credit, gave it one! For some reason, Ramsey has been slow to find form this season, and that has been throwing off the midfield chemistry, because his position is so pivotal to everything we do. Add in a new striker in Welbeck and new winger, Alexis, and you've got a recipe for disharmony in the middle of the pitch, our strongest area. Oh, and, by the way, we've been playing a new formation as well! Too many changes at once, I think, and that is a large reason why we'd looked off our game so far. Today was excellent, because Arsene played a more familiar system and players who were more familiar with each other. I think today is probably the only time we've played with the fewest number of new players this season, only Welbeck and Chambers. I think the win and positive performance today was more about Arsenal and not because Villa were poor (though, I expect many "pundits" to put the result down to Villa!). One could argue that based on form so far this season, Villa were the strongest team we've faced yet in the league -- fewest goals conceded, for example. Szczesny made an important save from close range early on to keep us alive at 0-0; we built on that to deliver a very strong team win.
@yankeegunner - I think there’s probably and element to both. At the start of the match we looked a bit tentative and maybe could’ve conceded first to (you’ll never guess) a header from a set piece. Before the first goal it didn’t look like a game we were going to win easily, but once the first went in we immediately seemed to grow in confidence and urgency and Villa looked like they didn’t really know how to respond. While our players must’ve been exhausted after Dortmund, they also must have felt like they had acres of space compared to the suffocating pressure applied by the Germans, and one we started using that space we really controlled the game. In some ways it’s a difficult performance to analyze because the game was decided in the span of three minutes and everything that happened before or after that was largely irrelevant, although it was nice to see us control the second half so easily.
2) I'm still unsure of our system today. Did we play 4-1-4-1 with Özil centrally or did we revert back to 4-2-3-1? Care to shed some light?
@beautifulgroan - The fact you and I are both unsure is a good thing - I don't remember us ever having a midfield as flexible as the one we have right now - the party line will be that Ozil was better in the centre, but the heat maps showed him spending a lot of time on the left anyway. With the Ox and Cazorla both happy going wide or coming inside, I saw us coming at Villa like a swarm of flies, and they didn't know which way to swat. I bet you could capture plenty of freeze frames where it looked like either formation.
@joeman4ever - same here. There were so many changes that it was difficult to spot the starting formation right away. It did look like our usual 4-2-3-1 from last season. The midfield looked so much more fluid and familiar than in our previous games so far. Özil certainly spent more time centrally but, per usual, he was everywhere. Today, he looked more like a #10, constantly in positions to receive the ball and orchestrate things. He's such as intelligent player that it is difficult to tell what position he's supposed to be playing at times. He just looked very comfortable today, much like in his best games with Germany.
@yankeegunner - I’m no tactician but I think the formation was basically the same. However, I think the addition of Cazorla changed a lot about how we played within that formation. Santi and Ozil seem to have a better understanding of where to go in this new formation than Ozil and Jack. Jack doesn’t often drift wide and that leaves Ozil mostly shifting from one wide position to the other. Moreover, Jack and Aaron seem to get caught in the same areas leading to poor spacing in midfield. Ultimately, by choosing to rest Jack, and bringing in a more natural wide player in Santi, I think Arsene gave Ozil some of his freedom back and our midfield appeared to be more balanced. Ozil is the player we want playing the final ball and he had more chances to do that today.
3) What did you make of Mr Mesut Özil's display today?
@beautifulgroan - Much improved, although I think criticism of him have been overblown, in the sense that while he has been clearly out of form, I don't think he has stopped working as much as claimed by some. He is a confidence player, and he's been off form and lacking in match sharpness. I'm sure that by Christmas we'll be chuckling at how ridiculous it seems that he was once labelled a passenger. He's too good to be ineffective for long.
@joeman4ever - I thought he was simply Mesut Özil. The main difference between today and previous matches so far this season is that he looked fitter and more familiar with the movements around him. Much of the criticism he's been getting so far has been related to his position on the left. I don't particularly subscribe to that narrative. He's a World Cup winner, one of the best players in the world. You should be able to play him anywhere in the top 6 and get decent results. I personally think he's been out of shape due to not having a pre-season. He peaked at the World Cup, then had a break right after; you can't expect him to get back to his best in such a physically demanding league right away. Anyone who's played competitive sports knows that... Özil is obviously very critical of himself, so that patch of sub-par performances, coupled with all the negativity from supporters and the media, has probably been weighing negatively on his psyche and further impacting his on-field play. Being played on the left is secondary to all of that, in my opinion, but I am sure many will disagree. What he will continue to need from all of us is support, like he gets from the coach, and for us to sing his name as loudly as possible every time he takes the pitch - especially when he's not having a good game. He's simply our best player and we need to treat him like it.
@yankeegunner - I thought Ozil was excellent today. He went where he could cause the most damage. I think a lot of that was down to an excellent understanding with Santi, and not having to compete with Jack who wants to occupy the same spaces. As a result, Mesut was able to play the final ball more often, or get on the end of moves, two things he’s done very little of so far this season. I don’t think it hurt that Villa did very little pressing. After the experience in Dortmund, Mesut must’ve felt like he had all day on the ball today and with even a little bit of time he has the ability to be deadly. The way he finished his chance for the opening goal didn’t suggest any lack of confidence and can only help ease some of the pressure that’s been heaped on him, admittedly mostly by idiots in the media. And the cross he played for Welbeck’s goal was pinpoint perfection, reminiscent of his cross for giroud against Sunderland last season. I think it’s way too soon to say Mesut is “back,” per se. He still needs to put in a big performance in a big game. But this performance will surely help with three big fixtures coming up.
4) Who was the most impressive Gunner on show this afternoon and why?
@beautifulgroan - The Ozil/Welbeck pairing is showing real promise and I was really encouraged by how they linked up, and not just for the opening two goals. Arteta was quietly efficient in a crucial role behind such a flexible midfield, and Gibbs dealt with his defensive duties very well before aiding the third goal. If I had to pick one I'd go with Welbeck though - I felt his movement created a lot of space for the cavalry and he fully deserved his goal.
@joeman4ever - I'm sure many will say Özil. I was particularly impressed by Welbeck the most, because he's still a bit of an unknown to me. I expect Mesut to pay like he did today, because that is his level (even though he's still not at his best). I liked Özil's performance and feel he was MOTM, but I was most impressed with what I saw from Danny and the dynamicism of his play - he showed for passes, won the ball back quickly, linked up well with others, and had a great finish after a clever run. Those are all things I hope Welbeck can do for us, but it's more hope than expectation, so seeing him actually do those things in a match we needed to win (for the sake of morale) was very important for me.
@yankeegunner - The obvious choice would be Ozil but I’m going for Danny Welbeck. Welbeck did so many things well today. His assist for Mesut showed that he fits our style and system brilliantly. But his goal was particularly significant because I’m not sure it’s a goal Giroud would’ve scored. He made the right run but also had the energy and pace to get to the far post to meet Ozil’s cross. Welbeck wasn’t afraid to take a shot when other Arsenal strikers might’ve looked for a teammate, and while those shots didn’t fly in, I think we need a center forward with that striker’s mentality. But the most important thing Danny did today was work to win the ball back when we lost it. Without Alexis today I was worried we’d be missing his energy and work rate off the ball. Welbeck provided a lot and it was great to see. Overall, I thought he had a complete performance and I don’t think we can overstate the importance of him opening his account just before a run of very challenging and important games.
5) Who did you think was not at their best and why?
@beautifulgroan - Ramsey's struggled a bit again today and it doesn't seem to quite be clicking for him yet. At the same time, he has three goals already this season, which highlights his real strength - his extraordinary ability to still make a difference when not playing well. He'll fight his way back to form - he's that type. Elsewhere, impressed as I am by Chambers, he'll be one that I'll get nervous about every time he gets an early yellow card - he walked a bit of a tightrope today.
@joeman4ever - I don't like to comment on individual players... Just kidding :-)
It was pretty obvious that Rambo is still struggling a bit. He looks tired to me, but the best way to get him match fit in that box-to-box role is to continue playing him there. I personally think a substitute appearance, where he knows he's only playing, say, 45 minutes, would do him some good. He can go hard and build up his confidence without feeling like he's run ragged. We can actually afford to not start him, given our current plethora of midfield options. Abou, anyone? Anyone?
@yankeegunner - Aaron Ramsey showed again today that he’s really struggling for form. He had a few good moments in the match but his passing was well off what we expect from him. For whatever the reason, the ball just isn’t sticking for him at the moment and he looks tentative in his decision making. There was one moment in the first half that I thought was representative of the problems he’s been having. Mesut picked up the ball deep in midfield and charged forward to start the attack. As a Villa player stepped up to press Ozil, he laid the ball off to Ramsey and charged past his marker, creating passing lanes as he moved. Ramsey’s first touch was sloppy, then he took a sideways dribble and passed backwards, bringing the attack to a halt. It was an uncharacteristic combination of a poor touch and tentative decision making that we’ve seen from him surprisingly frequently this season. Of course the pass everyone will remember from him today was the one he sprayed directly out of play from deep in our own half when under no pressure. It didn’t cause us any problems, but I do think it’s just another indication that he’s not playing with the confidence and class that we saw from him last season. Ultimately if we’re going to really get our season on track, I think we need Aaron to round into form sooner rather than later.
6) Any other thoughts?
@beautifulgroan - Football has such fine lines - it may be easily forgotten now but Szczesny's brilliant save at 0-0 was critical - if that goes in the whole complexion of the game changes. For so many years we had keepers who could lose us points - we have one that wins them now. Still needs to work on his kicking though! As for other thoughts, how about this - if City beat Chelsea tomorrow then we'll be the only unbeaten side left. Some crisis!
@joeman4ever - that was just what the Doctor ordered! I liked that Jack came on as a sub when there was really no pressure on him to do anything special, so that he could focus on just playing his game. Many of our other young players like Ox, Campbell, and Bellerin need those types of pressure-free opportunities to properly develop their game in a healthy way. I wish Diaby had gotten on as a sub, but maybe we'll see him in the Cup.
@yankeegunner - Amidst all the euphoria of a much-needed comfortable win today, there were two concerns that I think are worth mentioning. First, it was a bit disconcerting to see us start the match without a single defender on the bench. We have the options to just about get by at the moment but any injury to a center-back, especially the excellent Koscielny, and we could be made to suffer. The other issue that I think is a bit of a concern is Mikel Arteta. With every game he plays it’s becoming more obvious that he’s lost another step and that he’s probably no longer suited to the extensive running required from a player in his position. With Chambers needed as a fill-in RB and backup CB, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him at DM any time soon, and Flamini wasn’t even on the bench today. It all leads me to wonder if Coquelin is getting close to a place in the first team, or if Arsene is planning to try Jack or Aaron in Arteta’s role. Neither of those scenarios inspire much confidence. My hope is that we are able to get to January without suffering the consequences of shortcomings in those two areas and can finally address them properly, the way most of us expected we would in the summer.
Let the guys know your thoughts in the comments below.
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