After an indifferent start to the season we now find ourselves at the top of the league. After the euphoria of the Bayern victory it was important to come and do the business at home against Everton. It was a mental victory more than anything. Here are some things we learned from the 2-1 win.
Arsene Wenger does not do tactics
I am kidding of course. This is the second consecutive game, and umpteenth one for this calendar year where we’ve see the boss successfully employ different tactics for different teams. Everton win on average just 13.5 aerial duals per game in the Premier League. This puts them at a relegation scrap rank of 17th overall, so it is pretty clear they aren’t the best in the air. I think you can see where I am going with this. Walcott has been first choice for most of the season, but against Everton it was Giroud that started. Full credit to the Frenchman who has been much maligned. The man has scored in three consecutive games, all big games. Credit must go to the team as well for actually deploying the tactics, it was as if they all flicked a tactical switch from the Bayern game. It was all about finding Giroud or whoever was up front to win it in the air. Both goals were a testament to that.
Ozil oozes class
Ozil’s movement and passing of the ball was majestic at times and has been for weeks on end. Anyone who does not rate him after watching these past few games simply does not understand football. We have had to be patient but our record signing is really justifying his price tag and then some. Against Everton he showed his adaptability. His passing and movement wasn’t all for show, he stuck to the game plan (with Giroud up front instead of Walcott) and pulled it off to perfection. It is also nice to see us score goals in clusters recently, shows a killer instinct to seal the game early on that we have been lacking recently. Ozil has been a key part of this.
Gabriel is a warrior
With Mertesacker out ill we really needed Gabriel to step up and boy didn’t he do it? He was an absolute rock at the back and didn’t look out of place at all, but there was one moment that really summed him up. In the dying minutes Lukaku was through on goal and Gabriel lunged in and made a world class match winning tackle and celebrated it like a goal, and why wouldn’t you? It was worth a goal. This passion really sums the man up, and it is so important for that level of heart to be shown by the players to take it to the next level. Not only will he die on the pitch, but his fiery passion is designed to intimidate the opposition in a psychological way too. I have never been prouder of a red card in my life than the one Gabriel (wrongly) received against Chelsea. Why? Because despite the fact that it was Koscielny who was being bullied by Costa, Gabriel stepped in and said in no uncertain terms that “you mess with him, you mess with me”. I don’t condone violence on the pitch of course, but there are ways to intimidate the opposition, and ways to stand up for yourself on the football pitch within the rules. You cannot let the likes of Costa get away it. The likes of Vieira, Campbell and Keown would not tolerate that sort of thing, which is why back in those days people didn’t mess with us, because they were intimidated by us. In recent years we have turned soft. Last year when Alexis was put into a headlock by Charlie Adam not one team mate came to his aid. It was absolutely pathetic. That moment alone made me more mad than the loss itself. It showed that we lacked character. This season though we have true characters like Gabriel and Coquelin and they show the fire, passion and desire that gives us that little bit extra. We’ve talked about Wenger’s tactics and our players’ technical ability, but the mental side, and the players’ character are just as important, if not more. Gabriel you are a champion.
The Ox still needs to mature
I was, like many, screaming for the Ox to get his chance on the right, a position he is suited to unlike Ramsey. I think we now realise why. It is harsh I know, but even though the lad has been here since 2011, he still needs to mature. The simple fact of the matter is he loses the ball in poor positions which allows the opposition to counter attack. Against Monaco he scores a screamer, yet frustratingly he gives the ball away a few minutes later, resulting in them scoring. Against West Ham he gave the ball away too cheaply for their second. Against Everton last night he had Bellerin free on his right. Instead of passing to him, he shot. This shot was blocked, and with Bellerin out of position from right back Everton went about their counter attack and pulled one back crucially just before half time. It didn’t matter in the end, but it could have. You may think that he’s perfectly entitled to have a shot but a mature player realises that with the right back bombing forward and free, the more sensible thing to do would be to pass to him. It is simply too risky and makes less sense to shoot yourself with a defender directly in front of you. You may think I’m harsh, but I point you the previous examples of recent months where his carelessness has cost us in big games. There are other examples in previous seasons too but I won’t get into those. He is a brilliant player, capable of causing havoc to some of the world’s best defences. He is an asset to this football club and will become the complete player once he gets his defensive and overall maturity up.
Cech to the rescue (again)
There was a lot said at the start of the season that Cech would bring us X points this season and the like. At the time many were sceptical, wondering what that even means, let alone if it was true or not. We are now starting to see what Chelsea captain John Terry meant when he uttered that phrase. Against Liverpool he pulled off a series of miracle saves to ensure we got a point. Against Bayern his composure kept us in the game and helped get the win. Against Everton last night he pulled off a crucial save at the end, just when we thought we would be sucker punched into a 2-2 draw. All small events on their own but they will all add up by the end of the season. This is the stuff of champions and if we do win the title we will look back on these crucial saves and see that they made the difference.