A 5-2 win and we couldn’t have asked for much more. Saturday’s victory over unbeaten Leicester saw the wish list perfectly met: three points, a Giroud goal, a rampant Alexis, tamed tempers and a solid balance.
A game of counter attacks was won out by a team displaying superb technical ability (and fitness) and it’s easy to see what the boss meant post-game when he said “we’re coming back our best”.
Conceding two goals clearly isn’t ideal. Yet, without being too school-of-Keegan, if you’re going to score five then the two isn’t usually problematic. We know defensive consistency is something Wenger will be just as keen to work towards as attacking prowess, and clean sheets do breed defensive defiance.
Anyway, more thoughts on various things to come before the weekend, but immediately we’ve tonight to think about.
A home-tie against Olympiakos seems a good way to get back on track in Europe. It really should take some kind of disaster to be as poor as we were in Zagreb – and by know means do I want that. Seemingly even Munich’s Philipp Lahm (according to the Express) found our opening result shocking:
The defeat of Arsenal in Zagreb really surprised me. At first I thought it was a mistake.
Unfortunately not, and it means another must win game against another ‘unbeaten’ team. Olympiakos sit top of the Greek Super League with five wins from five, although the 3-0 UCL Matchday 1 loss to Bayern may sow some doubt in Greek minds. Bayern held 71% possession and had 22 shots at goal, so if we ramp up the pressure we might start to see some similar cracks.
We’ll need to capitalise on those, but just how we’re going to break through the Erythrolefkoi could be telling for the remainder of the season. In the Champions League most teams arrive to play. Undoubtedly Olympiakos will be looking for defensive discipline, and that could make at least Walcott’s night a little tricky.
Against Leicester, Theo found runs in behind a rather high line, making runs off the shoulder; a situation the Foxes seemed happy to accept until we showed second-half dominance. Okazaki came off for King to bolster Leicester’s midfield, and their defence dropped deeper to nullify Walcott’s pace. Giroud still offers a better outlet up top against a sat back four – and was duly sent on at the weekend – but with Frenchman is of course suspended tonight.
Walcott will start then, but his pace may have to be attuned to short sharp bursts of a few yards to gain maximise space away from defenders, with either single touches to set or immediate shots. It’s something the best strikers can call on, and if he wants to develop fully in the role he’ll need nights like tonight to hone his skills.
A lack of striking options means the obvious replacement for Walcott if needed is Sanchez. Few will have issue with that after he lit up the King Power, and needless to say the goalscoring burden isn’t Walcott’s or Sanchez’ alone. An dangerous front four seems much more likely this time out. Özil and Ramsey would love to find the net, and with the Ox still waiting to find true form off the bench, there’s plenty to be hopeful about.
In other areas the whispers are that Ospina will start. Arseblog ponders a Cech injury but, while that could be the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the competition between the Czech and Columbian is a little bit closer than many consider. Gabriel is available, but the only other obvious change to Saturday’s strarting XI can come in midfield. With Arteta and Flamini out, the Coquelin and Cazorla core seems certain.
Our central midfield options have been analysed to the Nth degree, but Cazorla especially benefits from Coquelin alongside him. Coquelin provides more athletic, lateral defensive cover than Flamini and Arteta, and allows the Spaniard greater vertical movement to drive our play up the pitch and away from the defensive third. This was epitomised by the 2-0 against Manchester City in January. Cazorla was the stand-out player, but Coquelin wasn’t far behind.
Focus again then will be heightened as to how we manage our own game, as well as that of our opposition. Honestly I think we can allow ourselves some confidence, just as long as the team has shaken off those zagreb zeds.