Narrative buster in North London as Solid Arsenal defence give the Gunners a platform to go toe to toe with unbeaten Liverpool from the opening stages. Third time I’ve seen us in the flesh this season, and it’s hard to describe the improvement from the opener when City strolled past us in second gear and the home crowd were very agitated and worried. The highlight in this game was undoubtedly when Torreira made a series of crunching tackles and people all across the stadium broke into a spontaneous guttural roar of approval. Like a colleseum of an olden age we were roaring on our fighters and it had nothing to do with fancy flicks or deft passing.
Rob Holding, the 2 million man from Bolton is coming of age, and forming a solid understanding with WC winner Mustafi. With Lolo about to return from injury our central defence is looking good. Throughout the game the backs covered for each other, with timely tackles and good covering positions. At no stage did Liverpool get into a groove and look like dominating proceedings. Leno made some great saves, and some horrendous flaps. But he got the luck overall, with the exception of the Liverpool goal which he pushed onto the heel of Holding and then into the path of Milner. Against the run of play and really not reflective of the first hour’s balance of play.
The big improvements have been the defence and midfield with Xhaka in particular fulfilling his potential more and more. I wonder how much both has to do with our 5’5” Uraguyan silent assassin? He is the constant outlet for defence and link man into the wings and allows Xhaka to move forward. Last year we built our midfield around Xhaka and Ramsey/Wilshere. This current pairing is a much more stable base and with Guendouzi only 19 we can be bullish about the future of our midfield.
If I had to pick one player who the crowd were frustated with I would have to say Mhkitarian was that player. Although he didn’t do much wrong, and came close with a header, he lacks a dynamism that Iwobi possesses and was no surprise that was Emery’s first switch. To see Iwobi get the assist was satisfying, he really has changed perceptions of him. Auba had opportunities but never really clicked, it was a strange choice nonetheless to see Ramsey come on for him. When Welbeck came on for Kolasinac and Iwobi dropped into LB we seemed a bit unbalanced and where the equaliser was coming from was not clear.
The Goal was pure Lacazette magic. Attacking an Iwobi ball into his feet he got Allisson committed then turned and powered a lovely shot into the far corner. A great piece of individual skill and very just reward for the team. Thus the game ended tied at 1-1. Probably a fair result but I would say we will take more out of this performance. The crowd has a real appreciation for the team and its efforts. A renewed passion is back in the Emirates and we can build on this game. 13 undefeated now. Close to the top of league and still improving.
As we filed out of the Emirates, there was a real sense of being on a journey moving in the right direction. Where Unai can take us, who knows, but it’s going to be a fun ride. COYG.