A pessimist and an optimist would have had an interesting conversation about our last three league games. “We haven’t lost a single match this season”, an optimist would say, “and we have made a come-back in three out of four league games!” A pessimist would reply: “Yes, but we could have beaten Everton and Alexis’ leading goals against Leicester and Manchester City respectively were cancelled with equalizers.” The thing is, both of them would have been right – our glass is both half-empty and half-full.
Here are the key pointers from the game against Manchester City.
1.Danny Welbeck is a refreshing addition to our attack.
The English striker didn’t have to wait too long for his baptism of fire. He also didn’t have to wait too long for his first chance to score and had his chip went just a few millimeters to his right, he wouldn’t have had to wait for his first goal either.
Nevertheless, Welbeck has already shown what pace and mobility mean in today’s football and his awareness to create himself a sitter in the first place was also impressive. With chances and non-stop pressure he makes on the opponents’ defenders, he’ll get at least fifteen goals to his name.
2.Two out of the three best strikers in the league were on the pitch today.
Aside from the incredible Diego Costa who has already scored seven goals, Alexis Sánchez and Sergio Agüero are the best strikers in the Premiership. The Argentinian scored the opener and was a real threat on counter-attacks, especially in the first half. Our South-American, on the other hand, didn’t let Manchester City defenders have a breather and eventually rewarded himself with a stunning volley.
Oh, yes, you will ask about Falcao. Well, I’m a huge admirer of the Colombian striker but El Tigre is yet to make an appearance in the Premier League, he wasn’t at his best at AS Monaco last season and his knee might be a problem in the league where long-term injuries happen on a regular basis.
3.Jack Wilshere can deliver the final product.
A goal and an assist against Manchester City would be considered as a huge contribution from every player in the world. Most of the non-nicotine related critics Jack Wilshere has got for lack of goals and assists. Those critics weren’t totally without grounds – I mean, William Gallas wore No. 10, played in the defence and scored more league goals than Wilshere. One of the most talented English players should give performances like the one today on a regular basis – the next league match will take place at Villa Park where Wilshere has scored on two occasions.
4.Mesut Özil should impose himself in the forthcoming fixtures.
At this time last year Mesut Özil was striking fear into our opponents – Sunderland and Stoke were victims of his perfect passes. His form suffered a decline around New Year and – apart from two impressive performances against Liverpool and Everton respectively in the FA Cup there is a growing feeling that we are yet to see the real Mesut Özil in big games.
The German – pretty much like Per Mertesacker – has gone through a hangover following the World Cup victory but he must shake it off, wake up and kill the game off with assists for Alexis, Welbeck et al. He can’t hide his bad form behind the lack of pacey players to pick with his pin-point passing. Otherwise, we won’t wait for too long before Arsene Wenger repeats Alex Ferguson’s lesson to journalists when the Scotsman was asked about Juan Sebastian Veron.
5.We must go back to the drawing board to deal with set-pieces.
Wright-Phillips, Gaitan, Falcao, Hangeland, Coleman, Demichelis…all of them have one thing in common – they scored goals against us after dead-ball situations. Corners (Wright-Phillips, Hangeland, Demichelis), a throw-in (Gaitan) and free-kicks (Falcao and Coleman) – it doesn’t matter what kind of dead-ball situation our defence is dealing with, it’s a danger for Szczesny.
I’ve taken our pre-season matches into account just to stress out how poor our defending of set-pieces has been so far – we have conceded nine goals and seven of those (78 percent) were headers (six after set-pieces and Ulloa’s goal for Leicester). It’s a bit absurd that Sergio Agüero has been the only player to score a regular goal with his foot against us as Steven Naismith was offside when Lukaku passed the ball to him.
Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny must step up and organize the defence for the aerial battles against opponents. At this moment, we have a huge problem with set-pieces and that might be the main reason why we will anxiously wait for Olivier Giroud to return. Perhaps Abou Diaby’s return to full fitness could help us.
6.Where the hell are Tomas Rosicky and Joel Campbell?!
It’s becoming a real battle of nerves – will Arsene Wenger be more persistent in ignoring Tomas Rosicky and Joel Campbell or will I be able to constantly pressure him after every game in which the Czech and the Costa Rican don’t feature? Whoever wins, Arsenal won’t – I strongly believe that either or both should have been used more in the opening matches of the season, especially the Czech given that Özil got a prolonged rest and has struggled to recapture the form from September 2013.
7.James Milner might be a good addition next summer.
One of “the oldest young players” in the world gave another good performance at the Emirates. He was instrumental in Manchester City’s victory in 2012-13 and today’s performance was a solid one too. He would fit into The British Core and would be an improvement on both Arteta and Flamini.
8.Santi Cazorla should have got some playing time today.
Our little Spanish wizard should have been on the pitch in the second half at some point – probably instead of Özil. The Spaniard knows how to keep the ball and how to make a perfect pass through the defence. Perhaps Wenger sees him in a key role in Dortmund.
9.Both English teams will have to improve defending and midfield ahead of German tests.
Arsenal play Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City play Bayern in the Champions’ League next week. Both German teams have a perfect transformation to counter-attack and their midfielders know how to play quick and efficient football. Our chances against Borussia Dortmund are more than solid – we haven’t lost at Signal Iduna Park in our last two matches and their best player Marco Reus won’t play due to injury.
Even if they don’t have Robert Lewandowski anymore (he is going to be Pellegrini’s worry), their attack won’t let any sloppy defending from our side go unpunished. If we want to stretch our unbeaten streak to fifteen and end the streak of draws at three, we must be composed at set-pieces and punish the Germans whenever we get the chance to endanger Weidenfeller.
And now – Champions’ League. As usual, we are the only North London club in the competition and our streak of 17 consecutive appearances won’t mean a lot if we fail to qualify from the group. A victory in Dortmund would relieve the pressure from us a little and it might be the right moment to visit Borussia as Reus, a player that I would absolutely love to see at Arsenal, won’t be a threat to us.