View From The North Bank: Arsenal 3 Villa 0
Late to the party on this, I know. Blame the nice weather and the fact that Arsenal have won seven on the bounce and are flying.
Another assured performance from a team that is really hitting its stride. We have been given glimpses of what this Arsenal team are capable of throughout this strange – and often painful – season, interspersed with some elementary mistakes (Blackburn away to name but one) and wasted opportunities in front of goal (Swansea away to name but one).
It’s amazing what can be achieved when the majority of your first team are fit and able to play together consistently. Especially your back four as @limparhalfway so brilliantly analysed.
Wenger spoke after the match of how having your fullbacks fit allows for greater options when playing from the back, and a noticeable tactic in recent games has been Szczesny, who’s kicking is by far the worst facet of his game, pinging the ball to Sagna’s head with Arsenal’s midfield and Walcott alert to getting onto the second ball. Against Everton, Sagna won 14 out of 17 aerial duels (via @orbinho). A remarkable stat for a fullback. The Frenchman is very strong in the air, and we are playing to that strength whilst negating Szczesny’s kicking weakness.
Another evident example of Wenger’s recent tactical astuteness (something he is often ignorantly discredited with) has been in the back four and how they are stepping out more as a unit. This was best in evidence in both recent trips to merseyside. The back five of Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Gibbs has won seven and drawn one of the eight games they have played together this season, conceding just four goals. They would surely have added to that stat had Koscielny not woken up with tendinitis on Saturday morning.
The old adage that midfield wins you games can also be attributed to Arsenal’s recent run. Rosicky’s turnaround in form – again, something that comes with a consistent, injury-free run in the side – has been the catalyst. His energy both on and off the ball has increased the often labouring tempo of the midfield to great effect. And whilst Song continues to show pundits that he really isn’t a water carrier, by making goal after goal with Fabregas-esque through balls, Arteta has gone along with his business in a quiet, efficient manner akin to his Barnet. He has as many hairs out of place on his head as he sprays wayward passes.
Walcott has been in exceptional form of late also – the way he took his goal on Saturday was truly world class – and it’s no coincidence that he has returned to his best at the same time as Sagna has returned to the team. It really is vital to have an understanding with your fullback that comes with playing together regularly. We have seen this in the past with Clichy-Na$ri, Lauren-Ljungberg, Cole-Pires, Dixon-Parlour etc.
And having now gone two games without a goal, it appears that Robin van Persie just doesn’t feel like scoring at the moment. Gibbs became the 17th different Arsenal goalscorer this season, which poses the question are we really a one man team? Weren’t we a one man team with Cesc last season? And Thierry before him?
The atmosphere was fantastic again, as it has been of late. Watching Arsenal win at a canter in the sunshine just takes me back to halcyon Highbury days. It’s a far cry from some of the toxic atmospheres we’ve had during the dark days this season. We will again finish the season trophy-less but the way this Arsenal have responded, and the way they are playing, bodes well for the future, when we will see the return of last season’s Arsenal player of the year – a player who England will be building their team around in years to come – Jack Wilshere. Remember him? Are we really a one man team?
Keep the Faith.