I watched the Arsenal win at West Brom for a second time last night, it is interesting to note how you miss the little details when only watching live. Not only that but when you have a rather annoying buffering feed you can miss the finer details.
Firstly I was very intrigued to see how our three forwards would get on together. Initially I assumed Welbeck would be playing ahead of Giroud in a 4-4-2 system but instead Arsène went for Welbeck on the left, Alexis on the right and Giroud as the central striker.
Arsène has said a number of times that Welbeck can be used out wide and that he can play with Giroud, to be honest I thought it would be a likely option from the bench when chasing a game rather than a starting option.
It was certainly more fluid than I thought it would be. The front players along with Santi linked up very well around the West Brom penalty area. Welbeck should have little fears about being stuck on the wing because as we've seen in this system our wide players are required to make runs inside and support the Frenchman. Welbeck seemed to spend more time on the flank when we didn't have the ball and was often seen 5 yards away from Giroud when we had the ball in the final third.
It is certainly a change from the norm. Arsène is usually pretty rigid about his balance. You rarely see two strikers on both flanks. Often Arsène chooses to balance the opposite side with a more defensive player or creative player who likes to tuck inside (Pires, Rosicky, Cazorla)
Perhaps the difference in work rate from players like Welbeck/Alexis to Podolski/Overmars means that Arsène is willing to take the gamble. Welbeck is also a very good passer of the ball for a forward player. Unlike Theo Walcott for example, Welbeck takes more touches and completes a high number of passes. Having players who are able to build up the game and get involved are important to how we play. So Theo's return will be very interesting although I felly expect him to return to the bench at first at least.
It is the first time that those three strikers have played together and it is on the back of a high intensity Champions League game so I'm hopeful we have more to come from this attack. I don't think it is beyond the realms of possibility to expect 20 goals a piece from those three players and that is not including Walcott and Ramey. What I also like about a trio like that is that Alexis has the capability to morph into a creative number 10. We've seen it for Chile and already a few times for us. He drops into a deeper position and spins a pass over the top for a runner. Welbeck couldn't quite control one of those passes into his path in the first half. Walcott would love a bit of that from Alexis.
There is some attacking potential there for sure.
A player who has been overlooked over the weekend was Mathieu Flamini. He has had his fair share of criticism and I think it is fair. He has often been the weak link in the Arsenal side. While West Brom did not cause us much in the way of problems I thought Flamini played with real intelligence and positional awareness on the weekend.
West Brom had 48% possession of the ball yet only attempted 3 shots on target over 90 minutes. We defended very well as a team and did not give much away which has been an issue of ours in recent weeks. When West Brom were in attacking positions I noticed that Flamini had either dropped in between the two centre backs or filled in the space left by one of his full backs. Like Gilberto Silva before him, his presence on the pitch prevented dangerous situations taking place just by being in the correct place. We cannot expect Flamini to replicate Mikel Arteta and use the ball in the same way but if he can play safe and continue with plugging the gaps then he'll get his game back on track.
Santi Cazorla showed that his midweek man of the match display was no fluke. He was at it again at the Hawthorns. Avoiding challenges with his double foot shuffle, a nut meg and dummied cross and shift to the other side. Some of the trademark Santi skills we've all become accustomed to in recent times.
He really rolled back the years with the assist. His tap past the defender then have the pace to get beyond him and withstand the shoulder barge only to produce a perfect left footed cross to the towering Welbeck to power in his header via the stung palms of Ben Foster in the West Brom goal. How many times have you seen the starting left sided attacker score from a header? Not many I'd imagine, so that gives us great options when teams sit back in numbers.
Oxlade-Chamberlain who came on in the second half had a great chance to score a late second goal and he was furious that he didn't get the chance. As Ben Foster came up for a late corner the ball broke to Aaron Ramsey deep inside his own half, to his right Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was lurking calling for a side footed pass that would have sent him through on goal against one defender and an empty net. Instead of the pass Ramsey tried a left footed shot from his own half. The ball did not get as far as the goal, in frustration Ox fouled the defender in frustration before giving a mouthful to Ramsey. Clearly the lack of goals is still bothering Aaron but I thought his overall game was much better. His defensive work is better and he is timing his runs better rather than camping in the opposition half. He did provide a key pass in the first half for Danny Welbeck who had his shot saved at the near post.
Injuries are once again the downside to what was supposed to be a cheerful day. Monreal had to be withdrawn early and his replacement Gibbs also suffered with an injury. Chamberlain picked up a late knee problem which looked pretty painful. We are losing players at a much faster rate than we are getting other players back, especially when players like Theo Walcott are re-injuring themselves. It is very difficult to get a run together of positive results when you are forced to chop and change players.
Hopefully three points and another clean sheet will inject some more confidence into the team and fingers crossed on the injury front before we face the Saints. I was going to talk about the banner but I think I'll save that for another article. It links in with a topic I have in mind so if I can find the time I'll try and compile it all together at some point.
There was no Q&A on the game this week but you can catch the post match Podcast here.
'till the next time.