Confidence Restored as Gunners win the Battle of Goodison Park
Everton 0-2 Arsenal
There was something about that mid-week loss to Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Arsene Wenger’s men were probably aware of the fact that qualification was going to be impossible after that dismal first leg performance but they gave it a go and played to the best of their abilities. Despite the poor efficiency in front of goal and school boys that led to the Barcelona goals, you could feel the confidence flowing as Arsene Wenger fielded a revitalized squad bereft of those underwhelming performers like Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, that rightly deserved their places on the bench.
With that wisdom, the manager opted for the same squad that played at Nou Camp and many wonders what cult hero, Joel Campbell, was going to do to get into the team. This also meant that the onus was on the players on the pitch to do what was required of them and the goals from Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi justified the manager’s selections of them over Giroud and Campbell. Yes, Alexis Sanchez is still struggling with his form but he still managed to get an assist on the day.
What impressed me about yesterday’s performance was the solidity the team had at its spine. David Ospina was relatively untested and suffered a nasty knock but Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista ensured that their goalie was to have a hassle-free day. Both defenders took turns on who was going to put Romelu Lukaku in their pockets as the Belgian hotshot was quite for the entirety of the game. Nacho Monreal and birthday boy, Hector Bellerin did their bit defensively and offensively, with the young Spaniard lofting the pass that led to watch proved to be the match clincher.
Then what can I say about this…
Boy! The Coq is back! Since his return from injury, the Coq had struggled and people started questioning whether his exploits of 2015 was a fluke but it was good to see the Frenchman issue a reminder to his critics that he’s still the real deal. Then there was Mohamed Elneny, a gem of a player at Arsenal. The Egyptian covered every blade of grass at the Goodison and always made himself available for a pass. The best thing about that Coqneny combination was how they kept complementing each other and their positional discipline was top notch.
Up front, Welbeck made himself a nuisance to the opposition defenders and he harried them into making errors. His own moment of glory arrived when he latched onto Sanchez’ pass, rounded the goalie and dispatched the ball neatly into the net. Had that ball fallen to Giroud, he would have lashed it straight at the keeper or out wide. To justify what I was saying, Giroud had such a chance late on and he found the side netting with his effort.
Iwobi showed his improved and naive side of the game but I would take nothing from what was a brilliant solo individual effort to score his first senior goal for the club. After receiving a cross field ball from Bellerin, he did so well to wade off a more physical Funes Mori before playing the ball through the goalie’s legs. The player is focused and has stated that he’s enjoying the moment.
This win has gone a long way to restore some measure of confidence to the team and the players will go into the international break with some optimism. Leicester’s narrow win over Crystal Palace didn’t help the team’s title hopes but there is still some glimmer of hope for everyone associated with Arsenal.
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