When the ball fell at the feet of Mesut Özil yesterday afternoon, I immediately thought back to our previous match against Southampton when his flicked effort from close range was swiped away by the annoyingly brilliant Fraser Forster. The boss was unusually critical post match of his players and particularly the finishing. That night we had wasted chance after chance. Özil guilty with two, Theo with two in one moment, Koscielny, Alexis so on and so forth.
Perhaps additional finishing practice had been on the agenda at London Colny last week. As Giroud's lovely knock down from an excellent Ramsey curled ball bounced in front of our record signing, the German leaped up to meet the dropping ball with his right foot and smashed it past the keeper. No ribbons attached, no glitter just a case of getting the job done. 88 seconds (I think) later, Arsenal were motoring forward in numbers once more, Aaron Ramsey once more playing a significant role in the move, fed Oxlade-Chamberlain bursting down the right as he does and he showed another glimpse of that arrowing strike across the keeper and into the far corner. His shot like that cannoned off Coloccini at Newcastle earlier this season for our winner, I am pretty sure he scored a similar goal in pre season, was it Lyon perhaps?
I hate to keep harping on about the Southampton game but perhaps that choice of finish would have been Walcott's best option when the ball landed to him in a similar spot. Anyway promise (sort of) that I stop talking about it now.
Arsene has mentioned that finishing is a little bit cyclic a few times now. Couldn't score for toffee a few days ago then went and took our first two chances in 90 seconds.
There were a few interesting subplots to speak about before and after the goals. Firstly I missed the almost certain wailing pre match of Mathieu Flamini's inclusion in the starting line up. I had been deep in the middle of dreamland due to a rather nasty chest infection but luckily my son succeeded where my alarm failed and woke me bang on 1.30pm. It seems crystal clear that Arsene is very cautious about Francis Coquelin's return to regular 90 minute football, rightly so I suppose. The fans are as quick as anything to complain when a player is rushed back too quickly and then finds himself back on the treatment table so I guess we cannot have it both ways. Elneny still cannot make the Arsenal bench, I am guessing he is currently knocking back a couple of protein shakes every hour or so. Given his performance in the FA Cup, it seems a tad harsh. A little lightweight perhaps but nothing remarkably so I didn't think.
I'm sure Arsene has his reasons mind, I can pretend I have all the information all I like, fact is I simply do not.
Mathieu Flamini was a very lucky boy though wasn't he? diving in two footed in not allowed, he already knows this as he was sent off against Southampton for something similar last season I believe or was it the season prior? There wasn't any real reason to do it, a normal tackle would have won the ball as he was closer to the ball. 'Hey Matty? You know that experience you have? best you use it yeah?'
Benik Afobe was a bit poo and I thank him for that. You have my permission to score in every game from now on this season. It wasn't the usual old boy against his former club performance but he is a young lad, best of luck to him for the future. A proper Arsenal boy.
The biggest chin scratcher for me though was the continued partnership of Gabriel and Koscielny. Is this a temporary change? Has Arsene handed the keys over to Gabriel from Mertesacker now? What I like about that combination is how it allows the rest of the team to play. We can squeeze higher up the pitch and play more aggressively off the ball. I was writing about this pre match and it was nice to see us do it successfully in the first half.
The second half I thought we were a little too cautious and dropped off too much. Some of that must have been the home side having to dominate the game a bit more but we were not good enough on the break to kill the game off once and for all. Alexis wasn't at his best and I think he really should have scored when he accepted an Özil pass on the left, cut inside his man and should have picked out the far corner, instead making the keepers job far too easy. Alexis is still searching for top match sharpness and I guess that is a good example when it comes to chucking Coquelin straight back into the fire.
Aaron Ramsey was our best player on the day I would say, not only his contribution to both goals but his overall defensive play, creativity and ball possession. He bossed the midfield like he perhaps hasn't done in a number of weeks. I wonder if there has been a slight tweak there. We didn't see much of Ramsey making his trademark runs into the box, instead it was Mesut Özil making runs as we saw for his goal and it was in fact Ramsey pulling the strings deeper.
Petr Cech made some big saves when required but it's all rather standard procedure stuff now when it comes to Cech. His late double save was top quality but it almost doesn't raise an eyebrow anymore such is his extraordinary consistency.
I see Arsene has rustled around under his bed and found his old box of mind games. He dusted off the lid and unleashed some post match when he declared Leicester City as the favourites for the league title. It is not the first time he has said this in recent days. Clearly he wants to put them under a bit more pressure, especially before our game against them.
I'd be very surprised to see Mertesacker come back in for that game given Leicester City's strength on the break, especially Jamie Vardy. That game right there is pivitol. It's huge for all the teams. The same day Manchester City face Tottenham. We beat the 'super favourites' and City draw with Tottenham and well, it would be pretty nice.
Anyway that is to come, let us enjoy the result, the goals and the clean sheet for now. I hope, cross fingers, pray to the footballing gods that this is the beginning of one of those long unbeaten runs and the first step of us finding our confidence and form once more. If ever there was time to do it, it is now.