That’s much more like it. Despite still not being nearly as fluent in our overall play as we were earlier in the season, two goals in two minutes midway through the first half gave Arsenal a 2-0 win at Bournemouth this afternoon, to see us leapfrog Manchester City in the Premier League table and join second-placed Sp*rs on 48 points.
Our first arrived after 23 minutes when Aaron Ramsey’s lofted ball into the box was won in the air by Giroud, who nodded it down for the on-rushing Mesut Ozil to rifle home first-time on the half-volley using his weaker right foot.
Then just 88 seconds later Arsenal broke forward again, Ramsey toed the ball wide to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of the hosts’ penalty area and the winger took a touch before finding the net via the far post with an unerring low strike.
After three league games without a goal and four without a win, it was a relief to see us score twice in quick succession and settle any nerves we may have had in what was a crucial fixture given our recent poor form and the emergence of an eight-point gap to leaders Leicester City.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one slightly surprised that Arsene Wenger opted to make just one change to his starting line-up from last Tuesday’s draw with Southampton – the Ox replacing Joel Campbell – but he again went with Mathieu Flamini ahead of Francis Coquelin to partner Ramsey in midfield and the former was involved in the first major talking point of the game.
With eight minutes on the clock Flamini went into a challenge two-footed and despite winning the ball, was lucky to escape with just a caution, because on another day with another referee and against an opponent who didn’t half pull out as the Bornemouth player did today, we’d undoubtedly have been down to ten men and facing a much more difficult task.
It was reckless to say the least and also very unnecessary so hopefully Flamini will watch that incident again and try his best not to be so brainless in future. Aggression is fine and indeed very welcome but today he was just plain stupid and we’re lucky we’re not sitting here ruing a defeat because of an early dismissal like we were after the Chelsea game a couple of weeks ago.
As a spectacle, the game was pretty forgettable and but for our two goals, clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides. Alexis Sanchez had a pretty poor game by his standards in my opinion, yet still created a coupe of moments of danger with one run to the byline and cross across goal deserving better reactions from his team-mates. Considering the Chilean’s still working his way back to peak match sharpness after a two-month injury lay-off, it’s not surprising he looked a bit below-par and I’m sure he’ll be back to his sizzling best soon enough.
On the opposite flank I felt the Ox had probably his best performance of the season and not just because of his expertly-taken goal. I thought he was far more involved and despite giving the ball away a few times, he drifted infield to great effect at times so should gain a lot of confidence from his display today moving forward.
As I mentioned a the start of this post, we didn’t function smoothly as an attacking unit and I think we still have an issue with circulating the ball from the middle of the park. Ozil dropped deeper with greater frequency to spray the ball around than he has to when Cazorla’s playing but that then obviously limits his presence in the final third.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else suggest this but maybe we ought to consider playing Ozil alongside Coquelin in a two instead of Ramsey. I think it could work if we then restore the Welshman to wide-right and maybe give Campbell or Alex iwobi the central attacking midfield berth. Innovative and perhaps some would say, stupid, but hey, how many of you would have envisaged Santi deeper before Arsene played him there? I think it could work a treat, especially now that Mesut’s muscled-up since first arriving in England and is clearly more than capable of holding his own in this physically-demanding Premier League.
We have a big problem with passing through midfield at the moment which is the main reason we’re struggling attacking-wise in my opinion and I can’t see Ramsey suddenly learning to pass it like Pirlo. Aaron’s got a great engine and many admirable attributes etc etc etc but I thought he looked a much better player once he moved to the right after the introduction from the bench of Coquelin in place of the Ox today.
Sky Sports gave him their man-of-the-match award and I’ve already seen some stats suggesting Ramsey had a high pass completion rate but that’s where stats can be completely deceiving. I mean, if Ramsey plays a pass out to Nacho Monreal for instance and the full-back gains possession, it goes down as a successful pass.
But he may have played it behind him, or to feet, when a far better pass would have been to play it into his path ahead of him to set us on the attack. That kind of scenario is exactly what I’m talking about when I use the word fluency – a completed pass can still be an infuriatingly move-hampering one.
Still, it’s job very well done for today at least and now we can start looking ahead to next weekend’s visit of leaders Leicester.
See you next week.