02 October 2014

Gunners 4-1 Cimbom: Özil central= Welbeck unleashed!

This was just what the doctor ordered. Özil, played through the middle, reminded us of what he can deliver when properly deployed. Welbeck, offered service, showed us what he can deliver. True, we should have run all over Galatasaray: we were at home, after all, and Gala are a shambolic lot at the moment, hampered by the Super Lig's own rules regarding foreign players (only eight allowed in the squad, only five allowed on the pitch for domestic matches) and suffering from managerial miasma. Nevermind that for now. We needed a win from the match, and so we seized it, throttled it, briefly let it breathe for a moment, and then throttled it until 'twas dead.

Let's get the unpleasant business out of the way first, shall we? Woe is Woj. Despite a decent if uneventful 61 minutes, Szczęsny decided to barge off his line to snuff out an attempt from Burak Yilmaz, apparently forgetting that (a) we're winning 4-0 and have little need for any heroics or histrionics at this point and (b) he should have learned his lesson back in February when he did the same against Arjen "I don't dive; it's just that gravity is especially fond of me" Robben? Meh. He'll miss the trip to Belgium to face Anderlecht. So be it. It will give Ospina a chance to shine, which he did quite well enough already against Gala, turning away at least three scoring chances in the 30 minutes he played. On short notice. After having to concede on a penalty that Szczęsny committed. Not bad for a keeper who might still be shrugging off the previous week's loss to Southampton. In a season already long on trying to figure out just how to replace injured players, I welcome a hearty debate on one where we might have actual options.

Now that that's sorted, we can turn our attention to the sexier, more-scintillating side of things. I wrote a while back that Welbeck is capable of reminding us of none other than Thierry Henry. If he can turn in a few more performances like this one, well, that comparison will hold a bit more water. Three times, Welbeck scored very Henry-esque (Thierrian?) goals. For the the first, he ran into the box onto Alexis's through-pass and slotted past the keeper from close range. For the second, he snatched up a loose ball, headed it forward, outran the defense, and again slotted home. Even his third goal reminded me of Henry; this time, it was Ox who threaded the pass into the box and Welbeck, perhaps tired of slotting and curling, nonchalantly dinked it over the out-charging keeper to earn the hat-trick. However, rather than hold the lad up to a standard that few if any can reach, let's leave it at this: having scored four goals, Welbeck can now play with a bit more freedom.

Speaking of pressure, I can think of at least one Turkish player who must be relieved at today's result. Of course, he's actually German, but his Turkish roots persist: Mesut Özil. Long has he labored on the left, turning in desultory performances one after another. On Wednesday, he had a chance to play a more central position even if it was in this abominable 4-1-4-1 that we've been playing. Seeing that Santi was playing a more withdrawn role might at first provoke consternation until we remind ourselves that he is among the only truly two-footed players in the squad and is, despite his diminutive stature, a dogged and determined dribbler and distributor. If we have few options but to play him in the more-defensive role in order to play Özil through the middle, fine. Özil showed that he was more than up to the task, delivering the assist to Alexis but also offering five key passes. Five. What is a key pass, after all, but a clear path to goal that the shooter doesn't convert?  The lesson is clear enough that I hope that even Arsène will heed it. Time will tell...

In the meantime, it was relaxing to see us seize an early lead, all the more so while watching Chelsea labor to a 0-1 win at Sporting CP, Man City suffer a 1-1 draw at home to Roma, and Liverpool stumble to a 1-0 loss at Basel. Of course, I fully support each club's quest to finish second in its respective group, all the better to draw out their continental entanglements while undermining their ambitions in the Champions League and the Prem.

In the shorter term, of course, we have a few days to savor the victory before traveling to Stamford Bridge, where an undefeated Chelsea awaits. It's a fixutre fraught with peril, summoning as it does the grim spectre of Mourinho, the 6-0 scoreline, and, of course, Cesc in blue. We've despatched Gala efficiently enough; now, we go into our sternest test of the season. It's not for all the marbles, not in these early days, but there are quite a few of them to play for. Let's enjoy the spoils of Wednesday's triumph a little longer before diving back into the fray.

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