Hull City 1 Arsenal 4 - Premier League
Well that was much better wasn’t it?
It’s taken a couple of games since the international break for Arsenal to shake off the rust but we saw a different looking Arsenal yesterday afternoon in Yorkshire.
I expected a bit of midfield rotation as Santi Cazorla played 180/180 minutes while Francis Coquelin played 165/180 minutes in three days. But Arsene stuck with the duo, continuity and their experience together is clearly important to Arsene and he pretty much said that during his pre match chat.
Most Arsenal fans like what they see of Granit Xhaka (myself included) and are desperate to see him in the side because of the quality he possesses but I think that desire to see hiim included interferes with the assessment of the players occupying ‘his’ position in the Arsenal team. Some of the post match comments seemed rather harsh on our midfield considering our domination. I thought the Coqzorla partnership worked very well yesterday and provided the team the springboard to play some really good stuff yesterday.
Coquelin’s role in our build up has been a cause of frustration in recent games from Arsenal fans but I don’t think that criticism can be leveled at him yesterday. He received the ball in tight spaces between the lines and recycled quickly. He also passed between the lines without any issues. He is no Iniesta but he was fantastic yesterday. Cazorla too played an important role yesterday and linked up very well with Mesut Ozil in particular. He tired a little in the second half and was on a knife edge in regards to his early booking but it begs the question, do you make a substitution every time your midfielder receives a yellow card? At what point do you trust your player to manage the situation himself?
What excited me most were the players ahead of our midfield. Theo Walcott back on the right, Alex Iwobi giving us balance on the left and Alexis back at centre forward.
Against PSG Alexis was very isolated but this time he had Theo, Iwobi and Ozil switching and rotating with him and it caused Hull City all sorts of problems. We had been missing fluidity in our game since the first half at Watford but it returned yesterday.
Alexis opened the scoring deflecting Alex Iwobi’s shot past the keeper. Alex Iwobi may feel a little robbed for the goal but he should be very happy with his performance. If he had chosen to represent England for international football, the press would be drooling over him right now. For a player of his age. The speed of his footballing brain is incredible for a 20 year old. He is already making a pass and moving off into space before he receives the first pass.
We have a big squad at the moment with a lot of options but the balance that Iwobi gives surely means he has to start for Arsenal in our strongest 11. It’s a big ask for a player of his experience but so far so good. I thought he worked much better defensively compared to midweek, perhaps the players had a re-watch of their performances in France and he went out to correct his flaws.
Theo Walcott had another strong performance on the right and what I’ve noticed is the tidiness in his game that wasn’t there in the past. His passing is much cleaner and sharper now. In the past he would misplace passes consistently but today they find their intended targets frequently. Whether it be to Bellerin overlapping or inside to one of his attacking partners. He will never have the technique of the top level player but I've been hoping we will perfect what he already has, hopefully that is happening now.
10 minutes in to the second half Walcott added Arsenal’s second, driving at Hull City, playing a one-two with Iwobi who set him through with a nice back heal and Walcott’s dinked finish was helped over the line by the Hull City defender. If he stays fit I can see him continue to add to the goals and assists column. He looks more focused and committed than I’ve seen in quite a while now.
Alexis had missed a penalty before that point, Santi has been consistent from the spot this season but I can totally understand Alexis’ desire to take it. He is playing as centre forward and his instinct is to score goals but his record from the spot has not been good so far for Arsenal. Was the Livermoore red card harsh? maybe and maybe I don’t care either. It’s just amazing to see Arsenal awarded penalties so frequently. Three in a row when we were lucky to get three in an entire season, long may that continue. I'd be up for a couple against Chelsea if the footballing gods are listening. Maybe the referees have been listening to the 'it all evens itself up' nonsense from pundits. If that is the case then we should get a penalty every game from now until the end. I'd take that.
Hull then got back into the game when Cech raced off his line to meet and through ball but could not get there. For the sake of balance, would Ospina have made it? Possibly.
Robert Snodgrass showed Alexis how it is done from the spot to give the 10 men of Hull a lifeline. But that was short lived when Alexis effectively killed off the game three minutes from time. The Alexis and Walcott partnership was in action again when Alexis slid Theo through but his shot was blocked by the keeper only to the feet of Alexis who danced around a defender and smashed the ball high past the defenders on the line. 1-3.
Granit Xhaka had replaced Santi Cazorla who didn’t look particularly happy coming off on 67 minutes. Not quite sure why that was considering he was on a yellow and had played a tough 90 minutes on Tuesday but Xhaka looked very tidy when he came on apart from one over hit pass to Monreal. But in stoppage time he unleashed a rocket of a shot past the keeper to make it 4 for the Arsenal.
Not entirely sure who the shushing was directed to but I hope they keep talking if it means more rockets like that. What a sweet hit that is. I can’t think of many Arsenal players who can hit the ball like that from range. Not since Lukas Podolski in fact. Much is made of Arsene’s habit of preventing players from shooting from distance but if it is a players strong point then I think he is the type of manager to encourage it in the way that Podolski did. Lukas would let fly when it could and that didn’t change at Arsenal. Someone like Gervinho for example would be encouraged to work the ball into a better scoring position rather than give it to the keeper for a goal kick for example. Makes sense to me.
Anyway plenty to be happy with in regards to the performance and result yesterday, the manager said that the confidence is back and I hope that is the case. We are now on 10 points, only Manchester City have a good lead over us and that’s because they have won all of their games.
Next up we face Nottingham Forest in the whatsitcalled cup, so a chance to give 90 minutes to Xhaka, Elneny, Holding, Perez and company, a chance to get them up to speed and then to Chelsea which will be a real test of where we are. I’m looking forward to it.