Happy St. Totteringham’s day to you. It was also made sweeter by the knowledge that 4th place is now safe. That certainly makes this one of the most enjoyable weeks of the season.
The football itself wasn’t great, but it didn’t have to be. Newcastle never really turned up as a team and there were enough individual mistakes to make this a comfortable win for the Gunners. Throughout the game it seemed like their players were trying, at least on an individual basis, but Pardew’s side failed to generate any form of cohesion in attack or defence. Sporadic moments of quality, coupled with Arsenal’s average performance, kept the game close for a while.
It was nice to see Arsenal score from a quality set-piece. Krul should have done much better but you can’t take anything away from Cazorla’s delivery or Koscielny’s desire and deft touch. In general, I enjoyed various variations on corners and free-kicks. The movement of players in the box and the pace and angle of delivery were mixed up rather well and often resulted in threatening moments. Hopefully, this won’t be a one-off.
There was still some tension in the air till the second goal went in. It was a clear off-side but I doubt anyone will argue this game would have had a different result had the flag gone up. Giroud has to finish some of those type of chances. I don’t know if he can improve on such details but it’s pretty clear that he will struggle to have a long career at the top level if he keeps missing as often as he currently does.
The second half seemed like a formality. Özil’s cross for the third goal was superb as was the French striker’s header. I don’t fully understand why Giroud doesn’t score more from more headers. He has all the attributes to contribute with his head in the box – to score and set up goals – but Arsenal haven’t really used that strength well and he’s come up short on a few occasions when the service has been good.
West Brom – Three points will still be good
Arsenal no longer need any points as far as the League table is concerned. Finishing 3rd is highly unlikely and 4th is in the bag. Nevertheless, winning the last two League games should still be a priority because it will affect momentum going into the FA Cup final and possibly even the preparations for next season. Imagine finishing 10 points above Spurs after all that was written during the last summer and at the start of the season.
The Baggies are not theoretically safe yet but they should most probably survive. It’s been a strange season for them because the individual quality in that squad is definitely better than the League position and points they’ve achieved. It’s partly reflected in the fact that they’ve drawn 8 of the 11 games against the top 6. Chelsea, Everton, and Spurs failed to beat them this season. Arsenal could be next on that list if the Gunners don’t turn up with their A game.
I find them quite unpredictable. They’ve scored some impressive goals but overall they’ve also struggled to put the ball in the net, even against the smaller teams.
Amalfitano has a bag full of tricks while Berahino has skill as well as pace. They can be troublesome if they get a chance to run into space. Sessegnon – remember the hype last season? – is another useful player for counter-attacks but has had an underwhelming season.
For the most part, Arsenal’s biggest defensive challenge in this game will be to minimize opportunities for runs in behind and avoiding isolating defenders in n-v-n situations. It should not be too hard as long as the midfield remains focussed and diligent.
Breaking down their defence is not always easy but they’ve conceded over 1.7 goals per game on an average in away games and have only one clean sheet in games against the top 8. Arsenal should break through as long as they are patient but persistent. Spaces should arise in front of their central defence and behind the lines if they push up. With Ramsey, Cazorla, and Özil clicking well in recent games, I’ll be very surprised if the Gunners don’t create some quality chances.
With the pressure off in the League, it’ll be great if we see Wenger’s side going out on the pitch to enjoy their game. Sometimes that can unshackle a team, particularly one that is so reliant on combination play.
The manager might be tempted to make a few changes to his starting line-up to see how some players fare. But given what I’ve seen from Arsene over the years, I have a feeling he will go with a very strong starting eleven so that they develop some rhythm building up to the Cup final.
We might see,
Szczesny – Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Arteta, Özil, Ramsey – Cazorla, Giroud, Podolski.
It seems Sagna has picked up an injury. Wenger does, at times, use injury as an excuse when he’s leaving a player out, but I don’t see the point in deliberately dropping the French full-back unless he’s in negotiations with another team and not completely focussed. It would have been good to see Sagna complete the season with his impeccable professionalism. Will he be left out for a couple of games and then brought back for the final? That’ll certainly be odd. Hopefully, it’s really just a minor injury and nothing else.
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