Focus on the Details

By now, you’ve already read a minimum of three blogs on last weekend’s match and have been watching the highlights on a continuous loop. The win over Chelsea was jaw-dropping, inspiring, confidence-boosting, brilliant, and downright deserved. This is the way that we know the team should be playing and the way that Wenger should be utilizing adaptive tactics! I found myself jumping around the living room in relief and excitement, holding in screams and nearly passing out due to jet-lag from my recent trip to London. I wanted to note some of the specific decisions that not only put us in the lead but allowed us to accelerate away throughout the match.

I have mentioned in an earlier post that Sanchez’s new position was a tactical decision by Wenger to get a multi-purpose striker who can attack on the break, work defensively from the front of the pitch, and pull defenders wide to open up a path to goal for our number ten. We have been seeing glimpses in each match, and this was an accumulation of Alexi pulling those strategic aspects together. With the positional sense clicking, the linkup with Ozil on the goal and continuous play throughout the match was effortless.

At the other end of the pitch, there has been plenty of coverage of Bellerin’s incredible ascendancy in talent and Cech’s heroic efforts to deliver a clean sheet. One of the most important improvements to take from this match is the communication and play between Koscielny and Mustafi. There are still some details to iron out, but they were covering for each other at almost every misstep and look like a dominant pairing. This season, more than most with the new attacking focused talent and rules, we need a defined, fluid, and experienced center-back partnership.

Low-Profile Tactics and Squad Depth

Walcott has reclaimed his position on the right wing, whether by interviews or performances and appears to be following in the footsteps of Alexis in terms of work rate. One of the most important substitutions that I saw over the weekend was Gibbs being subbed on for Iwobi. He learned his trade as a left-sided defender with the skills of a midfielder. One could even argue that he is more advanced along the eventual path of Bellerin. This was one of the most excellent bits of tactics to seal up the match and keep us tight. Iwobi’s excellent play helped us get ahead, but gaps were starting to appear behind him that left Monreal exposed. Gibbs has great footwork and crossing ability as a midfielder, but he is instinctually better at covering Monreal. I would like to see this substitution more often toward the end of matches, and I feel that Gibbs might have better luck with injuries playing in an attacking role.

Coquelin was solid and put to bed any lingering comparisons between himself and Kante. His injury is concerning but early reports are claiming no tear or surgery, and Xhaka is not a bad understudy! I, unlike most, have not been clambering for Xhaka to start certain matches solely because of his price-tag and his recent arrival. I mention in a previous post that he would need some time to adjust to the soft refereeing of the Premier League.

The squad depth that Arsenal has acquired this season is a huge advantage for form and avoiding injuries. I believe that Wenger is managing the rotation of players very well, considering that he admitted to preferring to “keep a small squad” previously. We missed Santi dearly lay spring and he has been amazing in his role of deep-lying playmaker. I was personally shocked at a couple misplaced passes against Chelsea, but he has been doing a huge service to the club in sitting deeper. The best part is that if he starts to show signs of or feel minor fatigue, we have options! Ramsey is making his return in a few weeks and we have quality options in midfield, such as Elneny and others. It’s tough to imagine a season with less injuries, which leads to the discussion on Wilshere’s loan, but my hope is that the new depth will make it seem that players are continually coming back at the right times.

With contract talks on the horizon, I can’t see that Ozil and Sanchez would think twice about signing new deals if the club (choosing the word wisely here) keeps up its form. They both, I feel, love to be high-impact leaders on the pitch and of obvious importance to the team. There were stars all over the pitch for the Arsenal against Chelsea on Saturday. The manager made changes when necessary, and the players proved the quality that we knew they could have in a big match. The fans are on a high and the players have to build on this form through the rest of this busy period, starting with Basel and Burnley!

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