There are a few things that are certain in life and one of those is the fact Arsenal will have a difficult opening match in the league. Crystal Palace gave us a good scare but at the end of the day three points is all that matters. Arsenal have won nine matches in a row in three different competitions and that should do wonders for players’ confidence ahead of an important streak of three matches in eight days (Bešiktaš away, Everton away and Bešiktaš at home respectively). Here are the key pointers from the game.
1.We really need Mertesacker back.
Set-pieces have been a huge problem for us lately. Hangeland’s goal came as no surprise if you read our match preview. Koscielny and Chambers have pace and passing range but neither of them are big enough to control our penalty box at set-pieces like Mertesacker can. Mertesacker’s leadership is another dimension that was missed in preseason and against Palace but from now on it should be better.
2.Aaron Ramsey is the right man in the right place at the right time.
Ramsey’s winner wasn’t exactly a mind-blowing effort that would be remembered forever. It was an example of being in the right place in the right time. The Welshman scored another huge goal, a goal worthy of two points that would have slipped through our fingers if Ramsey hadn’t had great positional awareness.
Since the beginning of 2013-14 Ramsey has scored 18 goals in 36 matches for Arsenal in all competitions or 0.5 per match which is a brilliant feat for a midfielder and most of the strikers in the world would be thrilled with that goal-per-match ratio. Yaya Toure, for example, scored 24 goals in 51 matches in the respective period but Toure – unlike Ramsey – is a penalty taker for his team.
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3.Alexis Sánchez created his first goal.
Our passes in the final third were too sloppy and there wasn’t enough space for our strikers – neither Sanogo nor Giroud – to take a proper shot. Still, it’s a good thing to know that Alexis can look lively even when midfielders (Cazorla and Wilshere) fail to impose themselves as regular threats to our opponents.
He created our equalizer from the free-kick, created a chance for Giroud with a clever pass and earned a free-kick in a dangerous area with a lovely lift that forced the opponent’s defender to make a foul. There is still a lot of room for improvement but goals might start pouring once Özil returns.
4.Yaya Sanogo has a lot to learn.
It wasn’t the best day for the French youngster. We didn’t get anything from him on Saturday and our game looked much better once Giroud came on. Perhaps Sanogo looks better in big matches due to his pace and special motivation. Consistency, however, is something that makes an out and out striker and that’s something that Sanogo should add to his game.
5.Kieran Gibbs is too injury-prone.
Something is not right with Kieran Gibbs’ fitness. He has been on the sidelines too many times during his career and it’s something that should be seriously investigated. He is an excellent full-back who should be the first choice for England as well but he is too injury-prone to be relied on a long-term basis.
6.Injury-time goals say a lot about the character of the team.
Our goals against The Eagles came in injury-time of each half. That might have been a serious test for our nerves but it was also more evidence that this team has character – even when we play badly (FA Cup matches against Wigan and Hull respectively spring to mind) we can make a come-back and win games.
7.Is it time for Campbell?
Neither Sanogo nor Giroud looked like top-drawer strikers against Crystal Palace. The first leg against Bešiktaš might be the right opportunity for Wenger to use Joel Campbell either as a lone striker or on the wing with Alexis down the middle. Campbell has more pace than Giroud, he’s more composed than Sanogo and has a lot of experience of playing in a heated atmosphere.
8.Rosicky for Arteta/Cazorla/Wilshere?
Tomas Rosicky wasn’t introduced against Crystal Palace despite poor passing game from our creative department. Rosicky is a player who constantly moves the ball forward and adds aggression to our game which means Wenger should consider giving him chance instead of Wilshere or Cazorla who weren’t too impressive against Palace. Also, given that Arteta has been oriented to safe passes for a while and lacks pace, the versatile Czech might be the defensive midfielder we have been asking for.
It seems like it’s “Eagle Season Open!” – so far we have beaten Manchester City who have an eagle on their badge and Crystal Palace (also known as The Eagles) while our next match is against Bešiktaš, also known as The Black Eagles.
May the good eagle-hunt continue!