I write so much in these posts that I think I’ll have to divide December into two parts, as we have 8 (eight) games this month. Everyone loves a vidiprinter reference right?
The only personnel changes from our first team for Burnley are Lucas as an inside forward on the right, and Belotti up top.
I think this is our most complete performance yet. Although the scoreline doesn’t necessarily show that.
Arsenal 3-1 Burnley
Alexis smashes home a loose ball just 6 minutes in, and we don’t look back, peppering Burnley’s goal with shots and creating several very good chances. The next goal comes after 23 minutes with a beautiful Lucas free kick, dispatched from 30 yards. Somehow it’s only two at the half, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen.
The second half starts in the same fashion, and yet our third is another free kick, this time from Santi Cazorla after 55.
3 minutes later the game changes as Coquelin goes through the back of Ashley Barnes for a straight red. He was in the middle of the pitch, offering no threat, and we were 3-0 up. It’s the stupidest, most needless red card I’ve seen for a while.
Predictably the rest of the second half isn’t as good as the rest of the match, but we play okay with ten men, although Barnes snatches a consolation in injury time.
Ozil watch: He plays fine. 7.1, no assists.
Next up is our final Champion’s League group game, home to Viktoria Plzen. Though we need to win to be assured of top spot, I roll out eleven changes. We’re Arsenal, so even if we top the group, we’ll probably pull PSG out of the hat…
I really don’t play Walcott as a target man, he gets changed to a poacher before kick off.
Arsenal 3-0 Viktoria Plzen
Another very good performance, with plenty of good chances created. Xhaka excels as an Advanced Playmaker, completing nearly 40 passes more than anyone else on the pitch.
Elneny gets the ball rolling after 11 minutes, converting a penalty he won himself. It looked a bit soft. Franck Kessie slams the ball into the post from range after 19, but then deservedly gets his first Arsenal goal on 31 minutes, spanking home a great half volley from outside the box. He’s playing in the Coquelin role (don’t shoot, and yet…). We waste a couple of chances before half time, but it’s comfortable.
The second half is a similar story, but the only goal comes from Theo Walcott, finishing a lovely Xhaka through ball to cap a good display in his first appearance as a striker for me.
We win the group by three points with Juve sharing the spoils with PSV in their last game. Our reward is a tie against Sporting Lisbon. It could’ve been easier, but I’m glad to have avoided PSG and Napoli. In the other groups, Man City, Barcelona, Dortmund and Atletico Madrid are all knocked out, and Spurs and Leicester both win their groups.
Back to the league, and it’s Swansea away. Kessie continues in place of the suspended Coquelin, and Belotti gets another shot up front, although he seems to be a bit of a supersub specialist.
Swansea 0-1 Arsenal
Ugly game. Neither side creates a great deal, but Belotti bangs in a knock down from Mustafi at a corner after 16 minutes. We weren’t very good, and I’m worried the tactical changes are pushing the previously excellent Sanchez to the fringes. Still, it’s 3 points in a game “real-life” Arsenal probably would’ve lost…
Ozil watch: a 6.8 irrelevance.
The final game for this part is a trip to Hull, which is always a good time.
Hull 0-3 Arsenal
Don’t believe the scoreline, we weren’t very good. Fortunately, Hull were crap.
Olivier Giroud converts a cross from each full back, the second of which is a thumping header won over the challenges of two defenders. Very little else happens in the first half.
The second half is worse. But Ramsey adds a third from a Giroud tee up to make things look good. In terms of positives, Giroud obviously has a great game, and the back four perform well. Gabriel wins nine key headers apparently, and Monreal and Debuchy provide attacking threat, which is good because the midfield offered very little. Sanchez and Lucas suck again.
4 games, 4 wins. 2 great performances, 2 pants ones. I’ll persist with the new tactic for now, but if it comes to choosing between Alexis or Ozil playing well, I’ll be choosing the former.
I’m also considering a more streamlined approach to my writing. Perhaps featuring only the important or particularly noteworthy matches. We’ll see. Everton at home next…