Last time we did this the complaint was that people want me to go first so that they can have their “Rosy-coloured-glasses” on at the end? Ha! Ok, I can handle it.
Before kickoff everyone was excited to see the new guy, Özil. Every social media site, every newspaper, and every one of my friends were talking about nothing but Özil but I was looking at the team sheet and having a small heart attack.
I guess the Özilhype is well deserved because the player is absolute class as you saw when he took down that pass and turned it into a goal. He’s direct, he’s top top top quality; he’s all the things that we’ve been told we had for the last 5 years but really didn’t.
And even I have to admit that there’s a reason why everyone keeps comparing him to Bergkamp. Özil has that rare ability to see the play develop before everyone else and know exactly what he wants to do with the ball before he gets it. He plated up more perfect chances yesterday than I could count (3 –Tim) and but for Walcott’s poor form since signing “da ting” could have easily racked up a hat-trick of assists.
But what Özil’s introduction to the squad and all the hype around him should do is show the board and the boss the importance of spending money. Not just for the quality spending brings but also for the lift it gives everyone around the club. The fans are flying high right now and that’s the kind of atmosphere which makes sponsors drool. I’m not being funny here in saying that Özil’s price-tag made headlines but the real story is that despite the huge sum paid to Real Madrid, I think Arsenal will still make a profit this year.
I think that because even if they gave Real Madrid 100% of the cash up front, Arsenal almost certainly still increased turnover by more than the £42m they paid! That’s right, the new shirt deals and the increased television revenue more than made up for the price of Özil. That means that Arsenal have to be the only club in world football who can have a total net spend of £35m in the transfer market, still turn £15m in profits (in other words not actually spend any money), and have their supporters singing the praises of the management team as if they pulled off some grand coup.
You only need to look at the squad yesterday and see that there are going to be real problems at this club over the next few weeks. Arsene already rushed a clearly unfit Özil into the starting lineup because of an ankle injury to Santi Cazorla which Wenger said will keep the Spaniard out until the next International break. Not only that but every single Arsenal fan, even the “Rosy” ones cried out in terror when Giroud looked to have picked up a knee injury. That’s because Giroud is Arsenal’s only fit forward.
I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings but it is absolutely shameful that a club like Arsenal, with £150m in the bank would go to Sunderland with this bench:
Lukasz Fabianski 21
Thomas Vermaelen 5
Nacho Monreal 17
Emmanuel Frimpong 26
Ryo Miyaichi 31
Chuba Akpom 37
Serge Gnabry 44
I saw that bench yesterday and nearly spit out me Bovril. Arsenal are going to be playing twice a week for the next two months with a squad which cannot suffer any injuries up front or they will be forced to play Chuba and Serge — which sounds like a Georgian oompah band.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have a forward who can’t score (Walcott) a defender who flies into tackles needlessly (Koscielny), another defender who should have been sent off for a last man foul (Sagna) and frankly it looks like the same old Arsenal to me just with the addition of Özil.
Oh, and Ramsey. He’s looking good this year. I’d like to think all of our criticisms finally got him to learn to be more direct. Now if someone could have a word with Wilshere, he’s hanging on to the ball too much. Best to just pass it to Özil.
Buy buy buy! Arsenal played an actual football match yesterday and all some people want to do is have a moan about the bench. Let’s talk about buying in January, you know, when the window opens.
Until then, injuries are going to happen, you can’t have 6 center backs lying around doing nothing so maybe some reserve players will need to be slotted in and make weight. That’s how Wenger’s been doing this for as long as I’ve followed Arsenal — did you know that during the Invincibles season a fresh-faced Gael Clichy started 15 matches for Arsenal. It happens, you deal with it, I’m sure the boss has a plan to buy someone big in January.
In the meantime we have football to talk about.
Speaking of the Invincibles, am I the only one here who thinks Wenger is assembling the Invincibles Mk. II with Özil as the new Bergkamp?
See, it’s not just so much how Özil’s touch to take down the pre-assist from Kieran Gibbs was Bergkampesque. Nor that like Bergkamp, he already knew what he wanted to do with the ball and then simply looks up to get Giroud’s exact coordinates and plays a perfectly weighted ball in to Giroud. It’s that Arsenal’s opener yesterday reminded me of the way the Invincibles used to play. I watched the 49ers DVD the other day and was struck by how many of Arsenal’s goals were scored either from the counter attack or were started by a long first pass by a defender.
When I think of “playing football the Arsenal way” that’s what I envision: quick, vertical football, played with nimble players who are thinking three passes ahead of the defenders and that’s what Özil brings to the team.
And just like Bergkamp’s first season at Arsenal it’s going to take a few games for his teammates to catch up with him. Walcott in particular seemed to be surprised by some of the passes Özil made for him and tried to rush his shot or went for the default: power. Once he realizes that Özil’s passes give him more time than he thinks, we should see the goals start to flow.
Like they have for Giroud. How can you not be happy for Giroud? He struggled last season putting away the gilt-edged chances he got. This season he’s not only scoring in front of goal he’s also getting early goals for Arsenal, which is yet another feature of that Invincibles team, they often got off to a quick start and then could sit back for the rest of the game and hit the opposition on counters. Which is what we are seeing again this year as Arsenal have held leads against all the teams we’ve played against except Aston Villa.
Yesterday, Arsenal were nearly undone parking the bus, however, when Koscielny went in hard for the ball, failed to win it and Adam Johnson went to ground like a foreigner, or an Englishman playing for Sunderland, take your pick. Atkinson was thoroughly fooled by the Englishman’s dive and gave the penalty.
As an aside I have supreme confidence that Koscielny will improve on his tendency to dive in to tackles in the box. This is a player, remember, who works on every aspect of his game and has improved steadily over the last three years. Fear not positivists, Koz will come good (just like Ramsey has).
You could tell that the penalty shook Arsenal’s confidence and Sunderland nearly got a second goal when Jozy Altidore held off Sagna and scored beneath Szczesny’s legs. Atkinson probably got that whole thing wrong, if it was a foul, he probably should have played advantage, or if not then perhaps sent Sagna off for the foul which denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
But the problem is that refereeing in England has become so wildly inconsistent that no one knows what to expect when they watch a match. In the earlier match Man U were awarded a penalty for a foul which clearly happened outside of the box and all of the pundits admitted that the foul occurred outside the box, but still said “for me, that’s a penalty.” Which.Is.CRAZY. It looks to me like matches are being refereed from gut instinct rather than an application of laws and that is just ripe for problems.
In the end, who knows what would have happened if Atkinson had gotten all the calls right? He didn’t, and plenty he got wrong against Arsenal, and Arsenal won anyway and I’m not going to worry too much about what his influence was or wasn’t on the game.
Because for me, Aaron Ramsey won Arsenal that game. He led the team in pretty much every statistical category from passes to tackles to goals and the two goals he scored both prompted me to a standing ovation. Just sublime skill. With Flamini behind him providing a stable platform Ramsey was free to roam, which plays right to his strengths.
But really Flamini was the unsung hero. Flamini didn’t put up eye popping numbers but he provided defensive insurance behind the more creative players like Ramsey and Özil. I can say from experience that I always feel more comfortable as a midfielder with a solid defender behind me. I think that’s why Ramsey led Arsenal in tackles, he could get stuck in and take the ball; that’s why Ramsey led Arsenal in goals, he could bomb forward a bit knowing that Flamini was behind him to mop up the mess.
Flamini also takes away some of the heat from players like Ramsey and Özil. Lost in the sublime performances of Ramsey (most improved player or most improved player of all time?) and Özil was the subtle graft of Flamini, getting under the skin of Steven Fletcher to the point where the Sunderland forward could have gotten a red card for his clear retaliation foul on Flamini after the two of them squared up, he got nothing, in fact Flamini ended up with the yellow later in the match.
In the end, though, I’m not going to moan about the referee. All that matters is that Arsenal saw a great debut from a player who was operating at about 50%, got two stonking great goals from a player who has spent most of his time at Arsenal being maligned by the moaners, and that Arsenal topped the table.
TOP OF THE TABLE, BABY!