An Alexis Sanchez strop can’t mask a good weekend for Arsenal.
So; the fear of the ‘dead cat bounce’ proved unfounded.
After a bright start (or at least a bit of huff and puff) Swansea never threatened once Olivier Giroud kept his purple patch rolling with a poacher’s goal. While the team may lack a little fluidity with the burly Frenchman up top, it’s pretty hard to argue with 13 goals from 18 attempts and a goal every 71 minutes.
With the opposition immediately on the horizon likely to deep in position and defensive in approach, it would be a boon if his injury at the weekend is as minor as it first appeared [Edit: It is].
That said, we do finally have the luxury of options.
Our temporary successor to Giroud for ‘biggest diva’, Alexis, has already replaced the Frenchman as first choice number nine. However, for our early season false-nine-esque approach to be successful, we do need runners and creators on the flanks. Happily Iwobi seems to have returned to a bit of form following a dip, and our other striking options give us plausible options in the Walcott winger/striker role in the right, as well as up top.
Lucas Perez has in recent weeks resembled the player we hoped we were signing. Despite an almost total absence of right foot, and occasionally suspect first touch, he has an aptitude for buzzing around the dangerous areas of the final third, and an instinct for different kinds of goals to our other front men. While one has to question whether he has the physicality or touch of a lone front-man, he as proved in recent weeks that he can certainly fulfil the tactical role of goal threat from out wide.
Elsewhere we have the return of a certain Mr. D. N. T. M. Welbeck Esq. As someone who presents a diversity of tactical options, his availability is exciting, but must be tempered with a little caution. That said, with winnable fixtures on the immediate horizon, we are at least in a good position to get him up to speed in time for potential storm clouds in February and March.
With the front line looking in good shape despite the ongoing vagaries of the form of one Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, re-discovering form in central midfield is vital.
Happily, albeit against fairly accommodating opposition, the Xhaka-Ramsey axis is showing signs of growth. Against Swansea they dove-tailed intelligently, aided by Ozil’s ability to link play from deep or be the men breaking beyond. Xhaka’s ability to play passes from deep seems to take a little pressure of our long-serving Welshman, who certainly seemed less prone to forcing the play, and also to drop deep to allow Xhaka to take up more offensive positions.
According to @wozthegooner on Twitter, the Ramsey/Xhaka pivot has played a grand total of 312 minutes as a pair, in which time we’ve scored 13 goals and conceded two. While this includes recent weaker opponents, it suggests that collectively they can makeup for the creativity lost when Cazorla was struck down.
In defence, Gabriel at right back at least offers a certain defensive stability, even if it largely negates the attacking impact on that side of the pitch, and this of course gives Monreal greater licence going forwards.
With another 3 weeks until our visit to Stamford Bridge, there is some opportunity to make a little hay in clement fixture weather while hoping some of our rivals stutter.
Certainly it doesn’t do morale any harm to see the initially omnipotent Man City stutter again, at Goodison Park, or for their local rivals to share the spoils with Liverpool. This season offers relatively few ‘gimme’ games for the closely bunched top 6 despite the solid form of all but City, so any good runs of form present genuine opportunities to make gains on rivals.
Chelsea’s incredible defensive record since we sent them home with their tails between their legs looks formidable, but the potential de-stabilising effect of Chinese gold offers hope to the rest of us. It seems almost implausible that they won’t re-invest the astonishing few they got for Oscar, but of they don’t, they are only injuries to Costa and Hazard away from facing a much greater challenge. The same applies to the Kane/Alli double act down the Seven Sisters.
Despite the gloom after our recent downturn of form, and the joyous sticking in of the boot from Man United affiliated critics, we are very much in the thick of things, and if we can avoid key injuries for key fixtures, the title isn’t yet beyond us, despite ongoing concerns.