Arsenal beat Chelsea

Hey guys! (whispers) Arsenal beat Chelsea.

(louder) Arsenal beat Chelsea.


And it was a good beating too, three to nil. Three great goals and a clean sheet! But most important, it was the kind of beating that we fans have been begging for for years.

Any one of us would “have taken” a draw. Any one of us would have been happy with a 1-0 win decided by a dodgy penalty or a sloppy goal. But none of us expected the kind of win where Arsenal dominate to the point that that they turn the game into art.

The first Arsenal goal, however, was created out of nothing, really. Arsenal were sort of pressing, but also sort of not pressing. There was a lack of cohesion to the press early in the game and Wenger was up off the bench, urging his men to make the game more compact and to press higher up the pitch even if it was leaving gaps behind the defense. Alexis was saying the same, waving his teammates on and asking them to come join him. And now you know why.

Wenger saw the weakness in Chelsea, that Cahill and Kante might not be the best players in possession. And that by pressing them, Arsenal might find some early joy.

Here is a screen cap just before the first goal. Everyone is covered and Iwobi closes down Ivanovich while cutting off the pass to Fabregas. Ivanovich is forced to to pass to Cahill.


Alexis jumps on Cahill, who took a donkey’s age to compose himself as he tried to pass back to the keeper, but Alexis nipped in and took the ball off him. Alexis then drove at the keeper, waited for him to go down, and chipped. It was a goal forged in graft and guile. The kind of goal that justifies Wenger’s faith in Alexis as Arsenal’s forward? I think so.

And as much as that first goal was made from hard work, Arsenal’s second goal was a work of art. Wenger often says that the goal in life should be to do something so well that it becomes art. He also says that the only way to deal with the inevitability of death is to turn each day that comes before it into art. Both of those rang true in that second goal.

There were nine passes in the buildup but here are the seven that matter: Walcott to Cazorla, Cazorla to Ozil, Ozil to Iwobi, Iwobi to Ozil, back to Iwobi, Kante falls over, Iwobi drives, passes across field to Bellerin, who was left unmarked by Hazard, Bellerin rolls a perfect ball to Walcott, who scores. I will put money, right now, that you won’t find a better goal than that all season. It’s a goal of such astonishing quality that it has to surpass the Jack Wilshere Norwich goal which, let’s be honest, required quite a bit of good fortune to pull off. This goal was just perfectly executed technique that left Chelsea players on the ground, slapping their thighs, and spinning in circles.

And the third goal? Classic Arsenal. Arsenal under Wenger in the Invincibles era were known for their lightning fast counter attacks. Campbell would pass to Vieira, Vieira’s job was to pass to Denis, Denis to Henry and then “BANG” goalasso.

For the third against Chelsea, Koscielny intercepts and collects a loose ball, passes to Ozil, Ozil is pressed by Kante, Ozil turns, Kante is dead, Kante jogs back as Ozil presses forward. It’s two on two, Ozil and Alexis versus Cahill and Luiz. Luiz is mesmerized by Alexis’ simple run, he and Cahill are turned inside out, Alexis collects Ozil’s pass, and chips back to Ozil, who knocks the ball down into the dirt and over the keeper. You say you like counter attacking goals? That was a classic counter attacking goal from Arsenal.


In a way, the match felt like a vindication for Wenger. When I saw the lineup, no Xhaka, I wondered what Xhaka has to do to get into the starting lineup. There was Wenger, playing Coquelin in that inverted midfielder role with Cazorla the deepest midfielder, something which absolutely drives me nuts. And while I’m not a person who gets upset that Alexis is starting at center forward, that’s a decision I fully back, I know that’s one that drives others to drink.

But you have to admit that the whole thing worked and it worked perfectly against Chelsea. Was Wenger vindicated? Maybe, but the most frustrating aspect of the game is that Wenger’s inverted system is now going into the treatment room. Coquelin hurt his knee and is out for 10 weeks, maybe more, so Xhaka will be starting in midfield*. That means all the work of getting the team to play football this way, the way that put two goals on the board against Chelsea, is undone and they will be going back to the drawing board.

Xhaka’s abilities are different to Coquelin and that demands a different set up in midfield. Xhaka is best playing long passes out from deep in midfield. That should mean quicker transitions, especially to speedy players like Walcott and Iwobi. But he’s also not going to have a target man to play to because I suspect that Wenger will continue to keep Giroud on the bench. That means his long passes might not be as accurate and could mean less possession for Arsenal.

Xhaka is also larger and a bit slower than Coquelin. He is better in the air but not able to cover the ground that Coquelin can. He doesn’t intercept the ball as well, which is a key trait Wenger values in his teams. So, Arsenal are going to have to adapt to this new way of playing, and that means all of us fussy Arsenal fans who don’t like when things don’t go perfectly, will probably have to adjust as well.

I wish I didn’t have to! As much as I like Xhaka, I’m almost wishing right now that Coquelin would keep starting for Arsenal because more than anything this match felt like the dawn of an era. I know, I know, I know, “stop it Tim, it’s too soon to make such a call.” But Chelsea has held the advantage over Arsenal for so long that this win, and the comprehensive nature of the win, makes it feel like the dam has finally burst or like something finally clicked into place. All of the pieces were working the way that they should: Alexis was center forwarding, Coquelin was box-to-box defending, Özil was fast breaking, Walcott was winging, and Iwobi was Iwobiing.

It was the passing of another era as well, this was the death of Fabregas. His shadow has hung over the club since he forced his way to Barcelona for cheap. Then he weaseled his way back into the Premier League going to arch-rivals Chelsea under the management of the most hated man in football, Jose Mourinho. It was the biggest slap to the face for the fans and for Wenger that I have ever seen from a former Arsenal player. So, it was good to see him look weak and it was good to see him taken off in the 51st minute, which probably would have been at halftime but Conte was aware of how much that would hurt Cesc’s confidence. That performance from Fabregas finally put the Fabregas era behind us.

The win over Chelsea wasn’t just a win. The win over Chelsea felt like a watershed moment. It felt like a vindication of Alexis up front, of Coquelin playing forward in midfield, of Wenger sticking with Walcott over Campbell, and of Wenger’s search for speedy forwards this summer so that he could play in a counter-attacking style. And it was a taste of what Wenger wants to do with the team; he wants to play football the old way, the way that won titles. And it looks like he may have the pieces to do that.

Unfortunately, one of those pieces is broken. So as much as I want to say this is the dawning of a new Arsenal, this could mean back to the drawing board. Which is the only dark cloud on an otherwise perfect win.


*No, Elneny, no.

70 Comments on Arsenal beat Chelsea

  1. I’m not quite sure it was a vindication, though I appreciate why some would think so. For me, Cazorla works as a deep-lying midfielder, and Coq works in a more advanced role, only when we face a team whose tactic right from the start is to put ten men in the 18-yard box, which is what Chelsea did. A lot of things went right on Saturday that haven’t in recent weeks, and that’s in part because of just how moribund the opposition were. We were excellent, though, and Chelsea’s deficiencies does not in any way take the shine off an incredible, and long overdue win.

    • I don’t think Chelsea parked 10 men anywhere. You mean to say that you thought they were playing Mourinho style? Or do you think they parked in our half? I didn’t see that at all and the stats don’t bear that out either. So, I’m confused with this comment.

      • Several times in the first half especially, I counted all of Chelsea’s ten men in the 18-yard box. It felt a bit Mourinho-ish to me. What wasn’t Mourinho-ish though was that Conte clearly asked them to play it out of their half when Courtois had possession, and that allowed our high press to be successful. I don’t think most teams will do that against us, which is partly why I hesitate to call this game a vindication or a sign of how we’ll fare against other teams.

        • They actually had more of the ball than Arsenal. Maybe they sat deep some times but all teams do that to Arsenal and if this is the trick that works against that, well then isn’t that a vindication of sorts? That Wenger figured out a new plan?

          I mean, I was asking in the post and asking here. It FEELS like a watershed. Maybe I’m just swinging too hard to the positive side after a great win. I don’t know. That’s why we have a comments section!

          • I don’t know. But I hope it is a watershed moment. Personally, though, I feel I’ve been led one too many times by Arsenal to the watershed, and each time it turns into a waterfall that throws us violently into a churning watery grave.

          • Well, I was careful to say it “feels” like a watershed moment because I know as well as you that there are always rapids ahead with Arsenal.

      • (And, I might add, all ten men, with none of them really pressing any of the passing players. I have never seen that before. When we play lesser teams, they never give us that much time on the ball. Like I said, I think the team deserves a ton of credit, but that was lackluster from Chelsea, and we won’t have it so gift-wrapped elsewhere.)

  2. Dawn of the new era…
    Just like when arsenal beat Utd 3-0
    Ancelloti’s Chelsea 3-1
    Barcelona 2-1
    Until the injuries intervened and put a dampener.
    Hope. Let’s just hope.

    • A couple of things here.

      That Man Utd team is a great parallel: early October, pre-injury nightmare, shows what the team can do, first half burst of great play. Great parallel. Injuries then took us to the shed and we were an average team after January.

      That win over Chelsea was in late December, 2010. I had to look it up. Weird win. That was the season ruined by van Persie’s constant injuries. The season we lost the League Cup final. I think that loss in that match was what killed the season for us. Arsenal won just two games after that loss. Getting 11 points in the last 11 games. That was a collapse of collapses. We lost Cesc to the broken leg. Lost van Persie. Lost Nasri to being Nasri. Ugh, WHY U REMIND ME?

      Barcelona 2-1 is one that a lot of fans thought was such a great match but I thought we were pretty lucky. So, I guess I can see the parallel. Maybe we got lucky Saturday. I don’t know.

      • C’mon man. I didnt want to dampen people moods. It’s just that something terrible always happened just when we thought it was a dawn of something. And thats totally badluck. No matter what anyone says.

  3. I’m not as worried about Coquelin’s injury forcing a return to the drawing board. Even as people have been shouting about Xhaka not starting, he’s been eased into the side. He started against Leicester and Watford, and has been coming on later in games. Sure, he’s not a direct Coquelin replacement, but we need that variety through the season, and he’s good enough to adapt (and that’s easier to do with a team that is playing well). Also, the fact that next game is in the CL, and vs Basel, should suit him in that it’s likely to be a more familiar pattern of play in the game.

    I also think it was smart to bring on Giroud. You could see it was a readjustment for the team to go back to playing with him up front, but it’s important that they can do that. Maybe Giroud will start up front if Xhaka plays. (though I think it unlikely)

    Reports seem to suggest that Coquelin’s injury isn’t too bad, and I hope that is true. Along with Ramsey, Elneny, Ox and Lucas we have options to rotate or change things around. There’s also the likes of Bielik, Jeff, and Akpom who can be used to mix things up.

    It is a deep squad. Unless the injuries REALLY add up. But now it’s all up to Arsenal to keep up the intensity and desire. Wenger’s been saying as much.

    • One of the themes of this victory to me was the midfield playing closer to the strikers which allowed both more effective combinations on the ball and more cohesive defensive play off it, despite the necessary evil of conceding more space behind us. The top combination in this match was Cazorla (playing ostensibly the deeper midfield role) to Ozil (who does whatever he wants and I love that). Contrast that with the PSG match where the spacing was way off and the top combination was Koscileny-Mustafi. I compared heat maps for Coquelin/Cazorla in PSG and Chelsea matches and the difference is clear, probably 10-15 yards higher on average for both of them. Bringing Xhaka into the mix will only help in my opinion because it gives us another creative outlet on the ball without sacrificing much in the way of defensive ability. The only issue I can foresee is Xhaka not being in tune with Cazorla in terms of positioning.

      Wenger values stability and relationships for good reason but Xhaka is a big part of this team’s future and needs to play. As I mention below, I believe his long term midfield partner will be Ramsey, so perhaps Wenger is reluctant to use him in a way that’s not exactly the type of role he foresees for him long term. However, with Cazorla playing so well, it would be impossible to justify benching the little Spaniard, except in order to rest his aging legs. Perhaps a rather nostalgic Xhaka/El-Neny combination is in the cards vs. Basel?

      • I agree with all of that. I’d feel more comfortable if Cazorla were rested for Basel. Though I’m sure he won’t see it that way.

        But yeah. Playing higher up the pitch. That’s exactly what Wenger said we weren’t doing in the first half at PSG, leaving Alexis isolated.

        If we’re going to play deeper out of necessity or any tactical changes due to opponents, Giroud might get the nod. Though it is more likely that Lucas could be the one. We’ve seen very little of him, but he seems the type to go play on the shoulder of the striker, rather than come deep too often. Perhaps the long passes of Xhaka would suit him.

        But for Basel, this early into the season (and system), I think Wenger sticks with Alexis and Cazorla, and plays Xhaka (who played the majority of the Chelsea game with Cazorla anyway, albeit from 2-0 up)

  4. Now I’m confused as hell. So, Wenger paid 35 million quid for a midfielder he didn’t plan to build his midfield around? Where did he plan to play Xhaka, his prized acquisition this offseason? Wenger’s plan all along was an inverted midfield with Coquelin as “harasser” in chief or did he happened upon that idea after he signed Xhaka, the epitome of the deep orchestrator he’s craved since his love affair with Xabi? By the way, that inverted system looked woefully exposed against a below par PSG side , an average high pressing Southampton side and the high adrenaline Klopp disciples from Liverpool.

    • Well yes, but could he have bought a decent midfielder for much less in the current market? Mustafi wasn’t far off that.

  5. big up to you, tim, for holding your hand up concerning the xhaka/coquelin discussion. i know you didn’t want to say what you did about it but coquelin’s fit is hard to deny. it’s like i said, xhaka wasn’t competing with coquelin, he was competing with cazorla. cazorla is the wily, old head with two good feet and skills to bamboozle, while xhaka is the young buck who’s brand-spanking new to the league and still earning his way. like you, we were all eager to see wenger’s shiny, new swiss toy but we’ve had to wait. be careful what you ask for. you just might get it.

    it was awful sweet to see arsenal blow chelsea away. they had absolutely no answer. for me, the highlight was the mustafi/koscielny partnership and the way the team dealt with diego costa.

    as for cesc and his move to chelsea, i probably would have done the same thing. his wife wanted the move to london and arsenal didn’t want him back. chelsea could pay his wages and give him a chance to win the premier league. where else was he supposed to go? west ham? tottenham? crystal palace?

        • I don’t see how you are connecting those dots. If Xhaka and Ramsey are not in direct competition (despite the manager explicitly saying he sees Xhaka as more of a box to box role) then that means less competition for Ramsey. In the current setup, before Coquelin’s injury, Ramsey would have presumably played the newly very box to box Coquelin role. Xhaka is more likely the complementary piece for Ramsey.

          It will be interesting to see who Wenger will pick to step in for Coquelin against Basel. El-Neny fits the roving box to box model perhaps better than Xhaka, but his brand of quiet ball circulation doesn’t really fit with this team’s newly found run and gun ethos.

          As for whether Ramsey belongs at all, I would agree he has something to prove after last season but you can’t seriously sell to me that you believe Coquelin is a better option long term in the roving box to box role. If he develops a bit more tactical discipline he could easily become one of the top midfielders in Europe with his combination of goal threat, link play and appetite for a tackle.

      • you don’t know me, sheila, but everyone here know’s i’m not a ramsey fan; i don’t think he fits at arsenal and i do think he disrupts continuity. i think he might do well at everton.

      • I wish we’d stop with the narrative that Cesc only went to Chelsea because Arsenal didn’t want him back. Cesc wanted to go to Chelsea.

        • there is no narrative here that cesc “only” went to chelsea because arsenal didn’t want him back. it was, however, a factor in his decision to go to chelsea and one that i completely understand. in fact, i stated that i would have probably done the same thing that he did. i’m sure he would have preferred to return to ashburton grove but given his circumstances (he had to leave barcelona, he couldn’t return to arsenal, wages, location, title aspirations, etc.) the chelsea decision was not unreasonable. i don’t fault cesc at all.

  6. I saw the goals again this morning before heading out to work. Just had to start my Monday with a smile on my face.

    It looked to me that the reason why Coq pressing higher up the field worked against Chelsea so was because our shape was more compact than it was vs. PSG. Theo, Iwobi and Alexis all dropped deep to collect/defend as well as picking their moments to press high up the pitch. Even the spacing between the two CBs was executed with perfection by Koz and Mustafi. It seemed more a case of the whole team functioning as a unit and players playing for each other rather than just one particular strategy.

    It sucks that we lost Coquelin. His skill set in our midfield is unique. I worry that without his dynamism we could become slower in midfield which might make us a bit more ponderous in our attack and more vulnerable to the counter-attack. I also think it’s back to the drawing board for us to see this new MF is going to function. My hope is that what we lose in speed and tackling, we make up with better positioning and passing.

  7. I think you have it spot on. I think Wenger defied what many people were saying, and certainly what seemed obvious to me as a pretty unanalytical fan, in several areas.

    I certainly didn’t think Walcott had anything left to offer Arsenal. But his renewed vigour in defence, which is fantastic, that can only be down to
    some conversations between player and manager.

    Sanchez as CF – it kinda makes sense to me, especially the idea to develop a CF from within – if this now works, does this now mean we have Sanchez as an Aguero-like figure, with Giroud and Lucas as backup? If so, that is such a masterstroke…

    Iwobi – Iwobi is the extra element that allows Sanchez to get sent foreward, Walcott on the wing (mixing it up as a CF on occasion like against Chelsea).

    Am I overdoing it if I liken it to Pires, Ljunberg, Henri coming in at all angles at the front (read Iwobi, Sanchez, Walcott)? Perhaps, but at least that game made me feel that a goal could be coming from any angle, just like in the glory days.

    • Yes you are overdoing it, but yes you are right. It finally looks like the goals could come from anywhere, with all of the front four looking dangerous. Our over-reliance on Giroud is done. I love him for his fight and – yes – his skills but everything going through him made us predictable.

  8. Enjoyed the win immensely. But I will take it with a grain of salt, after all we demolished Man Utd last year and then never repeated the performance again.

  9. Thoughts..

    I fell asleep whispering to myself.. Iwobi is good. Iwobi is good.

    I still feel Campbell could’ve found playing time in this squad. Call me crazy.

    I don’t really know who Chelsea is anymore.

    This team has second or third place written all over it. And I’m happy with that.

  10. Tim said: “The win over Chelsea felt like a watershed moment. It felt like a vindication of Alexis up front.” Tim ought to wait for the benefit of some months of hindsight before trusting his instinct about this. Alexis will have to vindicate on a weekly basis. If he doesn’t, then Arsenal’s center forward problem will still be there. Tim knows that Arsenal has been suffering from a center forward problem for the last year. During that time, Giroud has had some games in which he has scored or assisted more than one goal.

  11. No one speaking up for Theo’s performance on here? Shame; everyone was quick to slag him off during pre-season (and fair enough, his performances were pretty grim) but he’s been getting better with every game now he’s back out wide, and the more settled squad is beginning to gel. Look at his movement for the second goal: he starts it with a lay-off to Santi then drifts inside, taking the full-back with him which leaves Hector in acres of space, then nips in behind with perfect timing to slot in the cross. He could easily have had another but for a smart save from Cortois, and he put himself about all game long. I saw a lot of comments saying he should have been sold in the summer; how are you feeling about him now? Me I’ve always liked his loyalty to the Club and I’m just glad to see him showing signs of his old self (with even some defensive improvements)…

    • I’m glad he is putting his critics in his place. I lost faith in him too. I hope he keeps proving all of us wrong and gets a great season under his belt.

  12. Saturday was a fantastic day to be a Gooner but as I’ve said before, this team has taught me the truth of that hoary old cliché “take it one game at a time”

    As Critic pointed out above, we’ve been here before. If this were to really be the start of something, where we put together a run of swash-buckling games, it would certainly be beyond my expectations. But I’ll take 45 minutes of near-perfect football from Arsenal anytime, anywhere.

  13. Wenger still has options in Coquelin’s absence. This season I’ve noticed Coquelin has a drive about him. Whenever he is in possession its not only about horizontal passes but, pinging the ball forward to Iwobi and Ozil. I feel Xhaka can do something similar.

    With Ramsey coming back soon & Elneny we have different options to keep this run going.

    The one concern I have though is around our wide players. We still need players like Ox and Lucas to do well off the bench and be ready when the need be. Theo is working hard and regaining his confidence which is good. Inevitably there will be injuries as the season progresses and when they do happen, we need those players off the bench to do well.

  14. Is Theo Walcott’s renaissance for real? He’s LANS in his renewed passion, his scoring touch, his willingness to trackback and actually win the ball in our half.

  15. Honestly, I think the watershed moment came this summer when we signed Xhaka, Lucas, and Mustafi. Even Elneny last January. Those signings gave us some much needed upgrades and a squad depth that has been unmatched at Arsenal for an awful long time. Despite the continued success of the Coq-zorla axis, we’ve needed a player like Xhaka, someone who combines a physical, positionally astute defensive presence with measured, accurate, and penetrative passing, for several seasons. In the long term, not only will the team adjust to Xhaka’s presence but the midfield will be better.

    Lucas, if he’s good enough, gives us yet another option to play in the front three. We now have five players to play in the front three. Mixing and matching those five gives us plenty of options and doesn’t even include fringe players like Ox and Welbeck.

    Mustafi has slotted in well in central defense and his speed means we can push up and press, which seems to be something which Wenger is implementing more this season. And if Jack ends up resurrecting his career and comes back to us next season ready to truly win a starting role, he should thank Elneny. Elneny is a very good squad player for us and I doubt very much that we let Wilshere go on loan if Mohemmed isn’t in the squad. Instead of starting 30 more or more games, fitness of course allowing, for Bournemouth he’d be making the 10 starts and 10 sub appearances that Elneny will be making this season.

    My fingers have been burnt too often and badly to truly embrace a title challenge yet. We’ve had performances like this as recently as last season without maintaining the necessary consistency. The truth will come out in May. But at least from a squad point of view, I’m encouraged.

    • Your point about Mustafi’s speed is a good one – I feel twice as comfortable with a high line now, and actually it allows our front six to cut off passing lanes to the midfield rather than press the man on the ball, because with two aggressive CBs who can play on the front foot AND recover behind, the through-ball to Costa was no longer a threat.

      Seriously, this CB pairing is the platform we’ve been waiting for. These two are the mustard.

  16. Or we can just enjoy the win for a bit and forget for a second that we have had our fingers burned in the past. why the dampener?

  17. Taking 3 points from Chelsea is always to be savored. I’m still enjoying it. But the elephant in the room remains Mourinho. We have still not beaten a Mourinho-led Chelsea side and Wenger still has that one hoodoo, that dragon he must slay before he hangs it up. So for me it really is all about beating him and beating him at home and at Old Trafford.

    And then beating him some more. Maybe literally. Just f$&king beat him!!!
    I think we finally have the side to do it.

      • That’s being “charitable”. How about a real match worth 3 points in the league or a knockout cup game?

        • It’s pointed out your first statement was wrong then it’s really not a real competition.
          We have stared beating the so called large teams in the pl regularly and Chelsea was the last of those teams
          For the moment enjoy the win and for get about Mourinho until we face man utd.

        • ‘We have still not beaten a Mourinho-led Chelsea side..’

          Just pointing out that that’s not completely true in fairness.

          If you don’t count the Charity Shield that’s fair enough but it is worth mentioning. It was a win against a Mourinho led Chelsea team that showed up Mourinho once again as the terrible sportsman he is and arguably kicked of Mourinho’s downward spiral into crazyness that led to him getting the sack.

          It was a big win for Arsenal and a significant blow to Mourinho, regardless of the stature of the competition.

          I’m happy to count it if it means not carrying around any Mourinho shaped baggage.

        • The Charity Shield is only not a trophy when your team isn’t in it, that’s the general sentiment.

          If we’d have lost you can be sure the press would’ve been all over Arsene and sucked off Mou.

          Sorry, but we beat Mou’s Chelsea fair and square and showed him to be the classless fuckwit that he is.

  18. “There was Wenger, playing Coquelin in that inverted midfielder role with Cazorla the deepest midfielder, something which absolutely drives me nuts.” Pressing high up the pitch, Coquelin is a better option than Cazorla to chase the ball and make interceptions. It wouldn’t make sense to have old Cazorla do the running. When the high press fails and the other team is in Arsenal’s half, then Coquelin drops back and plays alongside Cazorla.

    • Yes, and that’s the way they’ve been playing together since the middle of 2014-15, but it felt like in the PSG game things were just really off, as Coquelin wasn’t dropping back alongside Santi as much, and was WAY ahead of him when we were in possession in their half, not just pressing when we didn’t have the ball, but making ridiculous runs into the box a la Flamini of old. It’s this tactic that I object to, and also when it seems Coquelin is either unwilling, or under instructions not to, help collect the ball off the central defenders when we’re building from the back (I get that Santi is better at this job, and they don’t want to clog the space, but they both have to help out, especially when the defense is up against a high press like against Liverpool and PSG; fortunately against Chelsea I thought Coquelin was doing a better job both of positional discipline and of helping in the buildup, before he had to go off).

      • My reading of the PSG game (post-facto) was that Coquelin was the only one following Wenger’s instructions to be closer to Alexis, as the rest of the team kept dropping deeper and deeper. This made it seem like he was wildly out of position, when in fact he was just doing his job.

  19. No it does not surpass the Wilshere goal. Kante falling down and not being in a position to pressure Iwobi, along with Hazard being a passenger in defence was dumb luck as well.

    • While I prefer the Wilshere goal, I see Tim’s point. The goal has a luck element because I seriously doubt that goal can be replicated if they wanted to. Felt like a ‘once in a lifetime’ goal.

      However that goal against Chelsea showed us in control. Kante fell over because of the Iwobi-Ozil one two that left him flat footed and Hazard was too busy admiring the beautiful passing to track Bellerin.

      At the end of the day, two great goals but you kinda see that good passing had more of a role to play than luck in the Chelsea goal.

      • I think we’re forgetting the Rosicky goal, later in the same season as Wishere’s. I’ve always felt that was a more perfectly beautiful goal, though Jack’s might be a bit more impressive/fun on first viewing just because of the insane speed of the interchange between him and Giroud. The Rosicky goal was at least the equal of the second goal on Saturday, though obviously in a much less important game (I think it was against someone like Sunderland?).

    • I think Kante stumbled because he may have been anticipating a return pass to Özil, and as Iwobi turned away from him he realized he needed a quicker step.

  20. In the big win over Chelsea$, one thing really confused me is how Cech handled the back pass from defender. Since Alex was the central forward, should Cech avoided the long ball forward when Arsenal does not have any aerial advantage? Should Cech passed ball to our defender as Bravo did in MC? I can not remember any time our forward/mid fielder won the header from Cech’s long ball.

      • I’ve read comments suggesting that the main reason we’ve struggled with Sanchez up front is that we continued to play as if Ollie was up top.

        Maybe the team are finally getting used to a smaller, more mobile presence up front. If we want a high quality, speedy, mobile front man isn’t Sanchez as close to Aguero as we’re likely to get?

      • I’m actually surprised by this since Alexis has scored a number of rather spectacular headed goals. I’m sure you remember them. You described one as “pure desire.”

  21. I think that Wenger’s comments on partnership are important (when questioned on his reticence to use Xhaka), in the same interview he mentions the cazcoq partnership and elneny twice but frankly in my opinion his use of elneny in the interview is doublespeak for Ramsey. There isn’t enough mobility in midfield with cazorla and xhaka, nor is there enough invention with coqeulin and xhaka, I view Xhaka as deep facilitator as opposed to cazorla’s deep playmaking, and in a partnership i can see us in those horrible defensive situations we have been used to where our backline is overloaded and exposed on the counter and our centre backs get the choice of suicide on the halfwayline or suicide on the 18 yard line while the keeper get to chose between diving and looking inadequate or standing and looking inadequate (you know the ones). Cech has benfitted from a team balance, especially defensively that literally none of the other keepers before him have had anything close to. Xhaka is a replacement for (and possible upgrade on) Mikel Arteta. In every sense. He is Intelligent, wants to take responsibility, long passing, game intelligence, odd longranger where the keeper has no chance…check. added to this is much greater physical stature, presence and capability. More penterative passing (opinion) and more aggression (undoubtedly). However he will still be susceptible in a team like ours to an inability to recover in the event of a counter attack and I question if he will gain that indispensible abilty Arteta had to tactically foul, repeatedly, and go unnoticed by the referee, fans, pundits, and pretty much everyone in football. Antcipate, close the player down before he turns and pretend to try to get the ball off him 2 or three times, while slowly bundling him over, pretend to the referee that he got it wrong while simultaneously going back to position, rinse and repeat. Xhaka’s aggression and stature may cause Referees to see this aspect of the game differently(on a side note, Arteta chose to be a disciple instead of to have one?). I dunno. But back to Partnerships, Arteta worked well with Ramsey. This isn’t coqeulin v Xhaka its Cazcoq v RamXhaka. Another thing i think is important is wengers way of making the defensive midfielder move to draw opposition midfielders out of position so the centre backs can pass forward. Xhaka (from what I’ve seen) likes to operate inside of a comfort zone, dropping between the centre backs but also staying back while we attack so he can either spray passes wide or recycle if need be to stay defensivly solid (Things you and I as arsenal fans have literally cried for around hhmmmmm…..lets just say a season or two) however we just demolished chelsea wenger’s way (refer to the last set of brackets) and coquelin was central to the high press, his dribbling, like cazorla’s allows us to maintain pressure in possesion and is dangerous on the counter, and his adherence to wenger and the execution of his plan has quite rightly given him importance in the eyes of the manager. Yh we bought Xhaka for 30 odd million. But Coquelin did something worth more than gold. He earned his place. And in classic arsenal style just on the eve of cult fanhood….. was injured. At this moment Xhaka’s Place is assured. Will he earn it? How do we play in midfield with elneny as our most mobile midfielder? He hasn’t really developed a sense of himself on the pitch, and he tackles like a punk ass b****. (wengers comments on his possible problems being the physicality when he first came) his forward passing and constant movement are plusses (goals at the nou camp are always welcome), but if he left at this point flamini would still be more of a legend than he ever was therefore he hasn’t quite pushed on enough yet (not really hating on him just not sure what affect his increased involvement will have on us.)

    • agreed, mr. goldtooth. i hate the fact that you write like a lawyer with very long sentences with my adhd and all. it’s rare that someone can make so many points and i agree with them all. the only thing i don’t think i agree with is whether xhaka can pull off the professional fouls that arteta did without being booked. xhaka is not as talented, experienced, respected, or clever as mikey was. likewise he has an awful reputation for bookings and sendings off already preceding him. we’ll see.

      i especially agree with your point about the lack of mobility that a xhaka/cazorla midfield would provide. in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see wenger play the xhaka/el neny partnership he played last tuesday when arsenal play against basel; not to mention they’d be playing against their old team. maybe the nottingham forrest game was a trial of sorts. we’ll see.

    • oh yeah, i don’t know that xhaka could move players to facilitate play the way that arteta did either. that ability came from years of experience that xhaka simply doesn’t have yet. maybe in another few years. i really liked your comment.

  22. i’d like to give big-time props to theo walcott. this summer, he held his hand up and said that he is not a center forward (something i’ve gone on about for years). imagine, from a youth, having this idea of what type of player you wanted to be and, in your mid-twenties, totally going against the pre-established grain. theo played up top and realized that, with his skill set, he’s ill-equipped to lead the line in the bpl. wenger was willing to continue to try theo up top but he’s respectfully asked the boss to play him in a perceivably diminished role. that takes a lot of maturity. lastly, he’s doing the dirty work to try and achieve a world-class level. i’ve never seen theo play as much defense as he did on saturday. i’m proud that theo is an arsenal player.

    for the record, i’ve never blamed him for asking to play up top. i’ve never blamed his for asking arsenal to pay him. i’ve never said i wanted to see him sold. for playing him up top and paying him that money, those blames go to wenger. theo’s insistence that he play wide again has meant that he’s not allowed his career to be ruined. let’s see how good this young man can become.

    do you guys realize that theo walcott has not played a single minute of world cup soccer?

    • I wonder how many young players got caught out by the widespread tactical shift towards a lone striker. The lower leagues are probably full of them.

      Walcott’s tackling stats suggest a) improved fitness. (Doc has pointed out that ACL injuries are a b**** and can take time to recover from) and b) an increased dedication and understanding of his role.

      As you suggest, it seems like he’s finally committed full time to being the best he can be, rather than trying to be the next Henry.

      • i made the point earlier this year alluding to the fact that there seemed to be a shortage in strikers. most strikers that have developed that are theo’s age and older learned to play with a strike partner. most folks didn’t believe my point as legit but i haven’t heard a decent counter-argument. as great as michael owen was, could you imagine him playing in any team in world football right now? where would he play?

        i made a similar point with griezmann. he’s always played with a striker partner. a caveat is i’ve seen him play on the wing, too, meaning he get in the side at a top club that didn’t play with a front two. could he play up top on his own? there’s no way i could tell.

  23. Great article, Tim. I’m hoping like hell that was a watershed moment but, like many I’m waiting to proclaim it so. I tend to gravitate towards players based not on ability but on what I perceive that person is like as a whole. Hence, Santi has been my favorite since he joined/I began following the Arsenal. Same year. Must have been fandom fate. That said, I’m a big fan of Welbz as well and am curious as to where you and the others on here think he fits once healthy. I’d love to see him come good and can you imagine the pressing with Danny, Alexis and Theo up front?

  24. The last watershed I paddled through was a a swamp. It took days and days of steady paddling ’til the water actually started to flow faster than we were pulling the boats.

    So one of the mid-fielders got injured. Gonna happen again this year. Good time to find out how le Prof’s preparations (and the team’s readiness) for that inevitability will work. Hopefully better than when we lost Santi last year.

  25. The surprising thing about the Big Sam news is probably how unsurprising it is.

    His football philosophy has been steeped in how to most successfully stop as much football being played on the pitch as possible. He looks at the laws of the game and plots how to get around them with as little punishment as possible. That’s what he does.

    It’s funny that he’s talking about ‘entrapment winning’, as if we should feel sorry for him for informing strangers how to get around the rules of the organization that he worked for. Poor guy.

    It’s also not surprising to see that most of the reaction from people in the game, on the BBC site at least, has been how he’ll be disappointed with himself or how he’s let himself down. Danny Mills went as far as to say that he didn’t think people are too bothered by what Sam actually did, just that he should have been more concentrated on the england job.

    What are the odds of him being back at somewhere like Sunderland by Christmas?

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