A four goal glut, the return of one of Arsenal’s best players, and a goal for Arsenal’s much maligned center forward proved to be a welcome relief from a week of madness at Arsenal.
Football has become a distraction from the real game, the transfer game. Football only happens twice a week, transfer stories run 24/7/12/365. And right now Arsenal have no less than two major transfers in the works. I won’t sully your eyeballs with them, you know what they are.
Arsenal haven’t scored four goals in the Premier League since the 5-0 win over Huddersfield. That was back in November. There have been a couple of three goal games and there was the 6-0 thrashing of BATE in the Europa League but this was one game where it just felt good to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and gently put it to bed. With the other pups.
Arsenal deserved the win. Palace were listless and allowed Arsenal to just run through them. The Gunners created 5 big chances in this match and Arsenal have now won 10 of 11 matches where they have 3 or more big chances. The only loss this season in those matches was against Man U. 30 of Arsenal’s 42 points have been won in those 10 games where the Arsenal offense was clicking.
Not to bring the mood down, rather just for completion, on the other side of the coin, Arsenal have won just two of the games where they created 2 or fewer big chances. They also have 6 draws and 5 losses in those matches. I’d just say that about half the time Arsenal are creating 2 or less big chances (almost all of them are away games – 10 of the 13 were away) and that Arsenal have 19 Big Chances in away games but 9 of them were against just two teams: Everton (6) and Crystal Palace (3 – not this match, the previous one).
So, it’s a great match when Arsenal create 5 big chances. And instrumental to that output was the return of an Arsenal legend, possibly the most technically gifted player on the team, a guy who is a consummate professional, and who has stuck with Arsenal through thick and thin, a guy who always re-signs when the club offer him a deal, who has 196 appearances, and who will play in any position Wenger asks him to play. I’m talking about Nacho Monreal.
I was at Swansea for Monreal’s first Arsenal goal and I’ve had a soft spot for the player ever since. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that I think he’d make a great DM for Arsenal. His touch is world class, as is his control, and his passing. He’s also a fantastic defender and has the stamina needed to play the position. But that’s a pipe dream, Wenger will never convert him.
Have you seen the famous twitter video of Monreal playing keepy uppy with Cazorla? His touch is amazing. It’s on the level of Cazorla, who is better than Ozil. I guess what I’m saying here is that Monreal’s touch is at least equal to Ozil.
In this match against Crystal Palace he created two big chances for his teammates. Ozil created one (Lacazette’s goal), Xhaka one, and Wilshere one.
Monreal also scored a goal. A wonderfully worked header. His 6th ever Arsenal goal. Third this season.
And up front, Lacazette got off the snide. All strikers go through a drought. Lacazette wasn’t getting any service – he’d only gotten six shots in the previous three matches and you can hardly blame him for not scoring in the awful match against Bournemouth where Arsenal’s midfield couldn’t play their way out of a well made bed. Ozil, a keen student of the game, knows what kind of moves that Lacazette’s going to make. So, when Ozil backheeled for Laca, you knew that he knew that Lacazette would be there.
Perhaps I got the mood of the club wrong in my pre-match write-up. That is the danger of couch punditry. In the match, there was a sense that Arsenal were lifted by the presence of Ozil – as much as Palace didn’t really press, Ozil was brilliant. He made his teammates around him better.
And Wenger is bringing in Mkhitaryan for Alexis which should add further quality to Arsenal’s midfield. I even see Mkhitaryan possibly taking over the Cazorla role in CM – depending on his attitude and workrate, of course.
There’s going to be a period of adjustment for Wenger/Ancelotti signing both Mkhi and Auba this January. You certainly can’t have both Ozil and Mkhitaryan playing free-wheeling AM and he’s not going to play fullback. You also have two outright strikers now in this team with Lacazette and Aubameyang. Looking at some of the Borussia Dortmund lineups when Auba played with Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski, Aubameyang played wide left, Mkhi in the middle, and Lewandowski up front. I’d like to see a front three of Auba, Laca, Ozil with a midfield three of (two real DMs) and Mkhitaryan.
Damnit.. I wandered into transfer territory. I guess while I’m there I should mention that even if Arsenal sign Auba and Mkhitaryan they still need a keeper, a left back, and at least one center back. There are also a ton of questions about the current team: if Arsenal sign Mkhitaryan and Ozil where does Jack Wilshere fit? Is he supposed to play a more defensive midfielder role? What about Ainsley Maitland-Niles? Surely he needs to be given a chance in midfield. And what about Ramsey? Is he going to finally fulfil his potential as a midfielder instead of pretending to be a center forward?
This is what we like to call “a good problem to have”: Lots of players, lots of positions, lots of quality.
And one last thing about Alexis Sanchez. It’s sad that he put money over trophies. I thought he was a winner. I thought that his histrionics were about wanting to win trophies but going to Man U – and for just a small percentage more money – means that he doesn’t care about trophies. Mourinho’s United is not anywhere near as good as City. City are on the verge of a dynastic football team while United look like they are riding the luck of David de Gea and Mourinho looks like he’s ready to start falling apart, like he does with every job he’s ever had. If they lose de Gea, who should demand a transfer, they are in real trouble. I honestly think Arsenal could finish above them next season and it would be divine justice.
Sources: Opta via Whoscored.com and SofaScore.com