Arsenal, perhaps for the first time this year, were seriously impressive in dispatching Everton this weekend.
Pace, power, great interplay and, crucially, end product.
The performance bore all the hallmarks we have come to expect from an Arsène Wenger side. In a season looking set to become the biggest ‘what if?’ of all time*, we can only wonder what if we had produced a performance like this two months ago.
Because, let’s face it, even just two months of Arsenal playing well this year might have made a crucial difference in this season’s title race. That’s despite the fact that aside from a few weeks last autumn, we have largely stunk the place out.
We don’t deserve to be Premier League champions, but we could easily have been so.
Actually, a friend at work still thinks we could be. But he’s a Leeds fan.
You’d think he, of all people, would have learned about extravagant dreaming, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, we are where we are. I suppose, in the words of Thom Yorke, it feels very much like “We are standing on the edge” of the Arsène Wenger reign. At least for the majority of the fanbase.
I think we’ve talked about that enough over the last fortnight though, so…. So, where was I?
Optimism? Optimism, yes, that!
Focus on the positives
It will take more than one, Arsenalesque, Champions League elimination performance to sway me from my belief that Arsène should go. It will also take more than one, admittedly hugely encouraging, win in the North West.
However, it would be good to focus on some positives from the last week.
I don’t want to go overboard, but, Mohamed Elneny’s mid season arrival seems, at a stroke, to have given us a midfield again. Which is nice, nearly four months after Santi Cazorla got injured.
A midfielder who can move, pass, pass and move, tackle, shoot from outside the box and even score goals, what a treat!
The memories of the fairly dysfunctional Ramini axis are fading fast and if the Coquelin Ramsey disaster is fresher in the memory, it is only just.
*Obligatory Daily Cannon podcast plug klaxon *
As Matthew Wade pointed out on this week’s podcast, the acquisition of Elneny raises some enticing possibilities in the midfield area. Particularly with Santi – oh Santi, how we have missed tú! – and Jack Wilshere now close to fitness.
Elneny looks a certain starter at the moment, so I’m intrigued to see which of last season’s very own odd couple miss out.
Another positive has been Danny Welbeck.
In fact, for a while there, it was beginning to look as though Danny was going to prove the only positive of what has been a thoroughly dispiriting second half of the season. His work rate and pace has never been in doubt.
However he has come back very strongly and, looking a bit more composed than I remember, he’s nailing down his place in the first team with each week that goes by.
That isn’t to write off Olivier Giroud, but I think there’s a stark difference between what he is physically capable of compared to the Longsight gunslinger.
This was really highlighted in our last two games.
Welbeck’s ability to play one-twos with those around him, I suppose, isn’t much different to Giroud’s. It’s just that, rather than creating chances in this way, he’s getting on the end of them and, crucially, sticking the ball in the back of the net.
So, totally different then!
In truth, Giroud seems quite a depressing alternative to Welbeck at present. I was left with the impression after Barcelona that I don’t really want Giroud starting games for us anymore.
His limitations are too big for him to become the truly great striker Arsenal want. To put it another way, he seems a bit… well, Bruce Banner to Danny’s Incredible Hulk impersonation.
Watching the irrepressible Alex Iwobi really taking it to Barcelona in the Nou Camp, I had another realisation; call it a moment of clarity if you like – I never want to see Theo Walcott start another game for Arsenal again. Especially not in our midfield.
If you’re going to use him as a back up to Danny Welbeck, okay fine. But he shouldn’t be starting games in midfield, because he really can’t offer anything on a consistent basis. Yes, on his day, he can be utterly destructive, but his day comes around once every three months.
What’s the point of that?
We’ve had ten years of Theo now.
In those ten years, he’s not managed to get past 100 goals despite his finishing supposedly being one of his strong points. Indeed, he’s only broken double figures once in those ten years which, even allowing for injuries, is pretty shocking.
Essentially, Theo covered his arms in tattoos to try and trick the world into believing he’s a warrior when he is actually a milquetoast.
Happily, the elevation of Iwobi and, indeed the fact that recently Joel Campbell and even a suffering Ox have been preferred to Theo on the right, hint at an end to the Theo nightmare.
We should, I think be a little wary of cracking the hype machine up on Alex the younger just yet. His elder namesake provides us with a catalogue of evidence that the promise of youth can often fade with growing maturity.
That said, I haven’t given up on the Ox yet and I don’t think anyone else should – yet. As for Iwobi, the composure and brightness of his play in both games played in the last week (two away games in less than 72 hours) are hugely encouraging.
And didn’t he take his goal well?
I’m very, very excited to see more of this young man. We’ve got to have something to look forward to next season, haven’t we?
* What if Spurs weren’t continually being given dodgy penalties; what if referees weren’t continually bottling penalties for us and red cards for the opposition; what if Vardy and Mahrez had been a little less brilliant; what if Cazorla hadn’t got injured; what if Arsène Wenger had found an outfield player (or two) good enough to improve the first team squad last summer…. Ah, the heady smell of regret!