The team still isn’t clicking, the top players still falling short. It was a good win though. Arsenal played their pretty football and the chances missed moved into the realm of hilarity.
Both strikers scored, which was crucial. Although they would like to believe they proved a point by scoring in each half, the reality was a handful of fluffed lines that can’t continue if this team is to move forward. An elite striker gives Arsenal six in those types of games. Alexis showed promising early signs but faded as the game went, still finding his way back to dizzy heights. Ozil had some nice, brief influence spread throughout, whilst Santi controlled almost everything from the whistle. He was very good. But for me it was another polished display from Francis Coquelin – and my player of choice for consecutive weeks.
There’s not too much difference from last week, you know the drill. We don’t concede, the game looks and feels solid, hearts are pumping at a healthy rate, it’s largely due to Coquelin. The french midfielder has made that spot his own, aided by a shocking transfer window. Shocking? Well, shocking in the terrible sense, because it’s of no real surprise. Arsenal have become a staple of embarrassment with regards to club management. More embarrassing than Giroud’s sitter, Theo’s incredibly lame header? It’s hard to say. All I know is that a football team with this many ridiculous traits won’t ever hit the big time. I thought we’d abolished the comedy following consecutive cup wins, but it still rears its unsavoury head all too often. Coquelin remains a positive aspect of the early season. Yes, early, and I’m already boiling along nicely. Theo’s opening goal was a prime example of the difference Coquelin has made to this squad. Before Coquelin, we probably don’t win that loose ball because our twinkle-toe footballers don’t have the aptitude for it. It’s a different story with him in the holding role.
Bang. He’s straight in there, on the ground, steaming through the player and stealing the ball. That’s what Arsenal need more of, not from another fancy new 6ft giant, but from the other players. Anyway, Francis wins the ball, ‘wins’ being the buzz word, he wins it, and dishes it out to Ozil who simply lobs it over the Stoke defence and Theo takes it very well. It was great goal from Theo, that’s his strength, that’s what he’s good at, that’s when he is electric, none of this passing around the box malarkey. Two passes, two touches from Walcott, and Arsenal tore Stoke apart. Begs the question why this is not our standard approach, because all this passing around the box has become dull, it looks fancy, but it’s so tame.
Looking at the league table you can’t be too negative. It’s amazing to think how annoyed some Arsenal fans are at the moment, myself included, but I don’t think it can be helped, and on the back of that transfer window it’s justified. The fans have been cheated. People will harp on about ‘supporting your team’ etc… and they are right, you must, but what I don’t accept is this blind positivity for the sake of saving face. The type of fan who sits smug-faced when Giroud gets a hat trick against someone in the bottom ten: ‘I told you so.’ It’s boring. It’s become a crime to criticise your team and under-performing players for fear of damaging their precious morale. It’s ludicrous. It’s worrying that people worry about the self-esteem of footballers. They are paid thousands upon thousands to perform. They should rightly be criticised when they don’t.
Back to Coquelin, who still remains the stand out performer thus far. He’s a rock. We can’t live without him. It’ll be a stormy period when he starts missing games through fatigue or injury – probably both. Our defensive midfield problem isn’t even a difficult scenario. There’s absolutely no need to replace Coquelin with someone better, or even on the same level. His reading of the game, anticipation of danger, is impeccable. Fresh legs is all that was needed. But until then, until his eventual decline, we can enjoy the flurry of solid performances from our French fighter. A shining shield in a soft team.