Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. There is plenty of post-match reaction to look at following our win at Crystal Palace yesterday, so I’ll get stuck straight in like Alexis Sanchez returning from his summer break.
And first up, it’s the boss Arsene Wenger, who expressed his pleasure at seeing his side display a number of different qualities in beating Palace to claim our first three points of the season. Speaking at his post match press conference, he said:
We have shown our strong response and we have shown different aspects in our game that are vital in the Premier League. We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I’m pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season.
‘Fight’ aside, the most pleasing thing about yesterday’s performance for me, was the rediscovery of our fluid, attacking football which was so glaringly absent against West Ham. Against the Hammers, we lacked accuracy in our passing and shape in our formation, with our forward six often taking up similar positions, too often abandoning their designated roles in the team and failing to find any collective rhythm whatsoever.
Yet against Alan Pardew’s men a week later, all those problems appeared hugely improved and I think there is one obvious contributory factor for that – Santi Cazorla’s return to central midfield. And Arsene hinted after the game that he’s over his nonsensical, temporary tinkering and the Spaniard is back in the middle to stay:
Cazorla is important for the start of the game when the ball comes from our defenders, because he can pass from deep midfield to high midfield better than everybody and get out of pressure. That’s why I positioned him more central. He is not any more a player on the flanks who can overlap and cross the ball.
I actually remember Arsene being asked whether Cazorla was now a permanent pick in the centre after a game last season and his response was to utter the most emphatic ‘certainly, yes’, I’ve ever heard him say. So to see Cazorla moved to the left flank on the opening day confused me like hearing Jose Mourinho plead poverty. I mean, how? And why?
Anyway, as long as our double, Double-winning, unbeaten season overseeing, six-times FA Cup lifting, stadium-building, world class player developing manager has learnt his lesson, I think I’ll let this one slide. Any more Cazorla kerfuffle though, and I’ll be forced to demand he’s replaced by Owen Coyle.
Next in line for praise from the boss was the majestic Mesut Ozil, who provided the assist for Olivier Giroud’s opener at Selhurst Park and generally played very well, passing with typical poise and precision and also displaying quite a turn of pace out wide on a number of occasions:
He had a very good performance. He was important getting out from the back, getting out of tight areas. It is a pleasure to watch the quality of his passing and the intelligence of his passing. What I told you is what I want from him more is a few more goals this season. For the rest of the build-up in the game he was magnificent. He works harder than people thinks he does. He is not spectacular in his defending but he wants to do the job, he wants to help the team. What I liked in his game today was he made many runs without the ball behind the defenders, which is a bit new as he likes to come with the ball. Today he mixed up his game better.
Mesut mixes it up then. Now we just need for Giroud to start producing finishes like yesterday every week and we can save the money for his replacement and instead spend it on a competitor for Francis Coquelin or research into cloning Cazorlas. But speaking of Giroud, Arsene said he felt the striker ‘needed’ a goal and described his current striking options as ‘strong’, saying:
He needed that [goal]. We have good strikers. Walcott was not used today and he’s an exceptional striker, Welbeck is coming back, we have Alexis. We have a strong striking force. What is important is that we show the team performance we have shown [against Palace].
Indeed. Team play is key to success and key to team play, is a central Cazorla. Now we have that established, we should go on to win every remaining game he plays this season. The Septuple is in sight.
Back on Tuesday.