Welcome back. I don’t know about you, but my usual Monday morning blues, much like Chelsea’s presence in the title race, were nowhere to be seen today.
No feeling of dread at the prospect of another long working week, no fantastical thoughts of a career change, or perhaps even relocation to sunnier climes. No siree. All I felt was pure, unadulterated bliss, having watched us produce a powerhouse performance like yesterday’s. So thank you Alexis, thank you Arsene and thank you Arsenal, it’s not always easy, but at times like these, being a Gooner seems like a privilege.
Unsurprisingly, Arsene Wenger was very happy with the team himself, when he spoke to the press after the game, and explained his side’s game-plan against Manchester United:
I believe in the [first half] we started very strong and decided to press very high and play with great pace, and we did that very well. After in the second half we decided to be disciplined, control the result and we did that very well. We had two aspects in our game that was pleasing and we were convincing today. It gives us a strong answer to all the questions raised in the week.
And when asked if the destruction of the team who went into the weekend as league leaders was the perfect end to a difficult week, he said:
We won our last Premier League game 5-2 and we won here 3-0 so in the Premier League we have scored eight goals in two games against two difficult opponents. Overall it was a convincing performance. It was a strong response against Manchester United following our disappointment on Tuesday night.
Arsene also shared his thoughts on the performance of two of his players specifically. First, he discussed Theo Walcott, praising the striker’s display and pointing out the 26-year-old is still improving as he adjusts to life as the team’s central spearhead:
I must say Walcott had a hugely committed performance today in a hugely convincing way. He didn’t score but I like to praise the strikers when they don’t score and contribute and give assists. He was involved in two goals – Ozil’s and Alexis’ [second] one. He did really fight today and showed he can fight, commit and protect the ball as well. He is gaining some aspects of his game as a centre forward and they are improving.
Next up for appraisal was the youngest member of our first-choice selection – 20-year-old right-back Hector Bellerin. The manager conceded that along with the rest of his defence, the Spaniard had not enjoyed the best of games against Olympiakos but was much improved against United and picked out Bellerin’s aerial prowess on Sunday as unexpectedly strong. He said:
He has improved defensively and I think his defensive performance was average against Olympiacos, like most of our players on Tuesday night. On that front we responded very well and he was part of that. He is very good in transition from defence to attack but even in the air he was good today and he won some surprising headers. He is 20 years old and when you look at what he is doing already I think he has a great future.
Although he was prompted to give his opinion on those two players by reporters, Arsene made clear his belief that every one of his players, from goalkeeper all the way through the team to Theo at the top, played well when he spoke to Arsenal Player after the game:
You can say from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott everyone had an outstanding performance and a convincing one. I like to observe teams when they are under pressure to see how united they are and how well they respond. It was important when you are a bit shaky to start well. Alexis got two goals and everybody up front always looked dangerous and our midfield looked balanced and sharp. It was a good game. You go through disappointments in the season and the way we responded was very convincing. I like this group and I like even more the performance we have shown today.
Sometimes, a few members of the team stand out in a win, with the rest rated as unremarkable, but like the manager, I genuinely felt that all 11 players on the pitch for us yesterday contributed to our success in a big way. It was the complete team performance; expansive yet compact, disciplined yet adventurous.
Although, as Arsenal fans, we can appreciate better than most the fact that emotions can alternate drastically between joy and despair from fixture to fixture, for the next fortnight at least due to the international break (Cloid), we can all say: damn it feels good to be a Gooner.
Back tomorrow Gs.