Per-lexis Scores and Coq Dominates as Arsenal Ease Past Hull
Arsenal 2 (Mertesacker 20′, Alexis 82′) – Hull 0
The first Sunday of the year started with an awesome Thanksgiving Service at the RCCG City of David and I followed it up by attending a function at an office colleague’s place. After drinking several shots of Jack Daniels (mixed with coke) and playing a crazy game famously known as ‘conce conce’ in this part of the world, I checked my watch and realized that it was 7.00pm. 30 minutes into Arsenal’s game!!!
If I was the fast superhero, Flash, I wouldn’t have bothered myself, but when I got home, the first thing I saw as soon as I turned on the TV (waited for DsTV to scan, this shit takes forever) was Theo Walcott fire a tame shot wide. The Walcott I know before the ACL injury would most certainly have buried that chance. More on him anon.
After browsing online to check the lineup, I’d realized that the club’s chronic injury situation didn’t allow the manager to rotate as much as he would’ve liked but there were some fresh legs on some playing positions. David Ospina got the nod ahead of Wojciech Szczesny as the Cup keeper (this probably has nothing to do with Szczesny’s shocker at St. Mary’s), Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Matt Debuchy were given breathers with Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin getting some playing time. There were a lot of familiar faces in midfield and the conundrum of the striking situation was resolved with Alexis Sanchez spearheading the attack with Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott, yes, Theo Walcott on the flanks.
Despite the fact that he clearly struggled in the entirety of the game, it was very refreshing seeing Theo Walcott on the pitch after such a long time out. Come to think of it, the last game he started a game was the FA Cup third round against Tottenham exactly one year ago. His rustiness was on display, especially with the chance he skewed wide and his inability to control Francis Coquelin’s lovely diagonal pass. He got replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 76th minute and there was a concern for the substitute when he had some more injury problems to contend with. With more games under his belt, Walcott would get into the full swing of things and his goals would be vital for the Gunners in the run-in for Champions League qualification. I’d even fancy putting him in my Fantasy Premier League team.
As for the goals, they were classic stuff. Per Mertesacker finally got some use for his beanpole height as he rose the highest to head home the match opener. Funnily enough, his last goal before yesterday was that famous header in last year’s semifinal against Wigan. If he jumped this way against Liverpool, who knows if Martin Skrtel would have gotten that equalizer. As for the match clincher, it was just Alexis Sanchez being plain ol’ Alexis Sanchez. Getting the ball from a teammate, he took on his marker, picked his spot and curled the ball home. It was glaring that the Chilean needed some rest and immediately he scored he was replaced by Chuba Akpom. He actually would have scored earlier when he rounded the keeper and thought his goal-bound shot was only going in only to see a Hull defender clear it off the line.
What can I see about Francis Coquelin’s performance? Oh my, that chap is a beast. He was spot on in breaking up play and his distribution was marvelous. He almost crowned a lovely display with what would have been a lovely assist for Theo Walcott but the winger wasn’t in the same wavelength with the Coq. Is he the answer to Arsenal’s defensive midfield woes? I think not but I would credit him for his performances since his loan move to Charlton was cut short. With Mikel Arteta still nursing injuries here and there and Mathieu Flamini having his own fitness issues, Coquelin will have to seize his opportunity and do his bit to impress the manager.
Coquelin’s performance showed how the 4-1-4-1 tactical setup can actually work well if an domineering enforcer (like Nemanja Matic) plays in the anchor role in front of the defense, breaking up play and feeding the more creative midfielders to do their thing. Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla played in the advanced midfield roles and they attacked with freedom, neglecting all the defensive duties to the French anchor man. With this in mind, I’d prefer to see a William Carvalho rather than a Morgan Schneiderlein or Sami Khedira.
Bar the injury concern to the Ox, it was a game that checked all the boxes for the manager as he managed to rotate the team a bit and still get a cohesive performance. At least, this win will build some confidence ahead of the arrival of those goons and brawlers from Stoke-on-Trent.
The public holidays are over in Nigeria and I’m off to work.
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