27 August 2018

Forget Laca. Forget Auba. When we need a goal, it's La Cabra!

Image result for monreal goal west hamLa Cabra has struck yet again, delivering a crucial equaliser that re-seized the momentum as we won us our first match of the season. His goal, coming minutes after Arnautovic opened the scoring for West Ham on a day when we looked just as likely to score as to concede. What's remarkable, though, about Monreal's fourth goal of 2018—third-best in the squad after Aubameyang (10) and Lacazette (6)—is that each and every goal that Monreal has scored for Arsenal has lifted us out of a draw or brought us back to level terms. That's a stunning stat that shows how vital Monreal has been going forward.

Before we get to the stats, I have to take a moment to apologise to Mr. Monreal. It was after his signing that inspired me to take to bloviating in the first place. To see him establish himself so firmly in our XI (and, sadly, to see that Gibbs has been sold to West Brom, relegated to the Championship) means I know even less that I pretend to know. So it goes.

At any rate, here's a quick rundown of those notable goals:

  1. 16 March 2013—scores to make 0-1 at Swansea. Arsenal win 0-2.
  2. 9 March 2015—scores to make it 0-1 at Old Trafford in FA Cup quarterfinal. Arsenal win 1-2.
  3. 23 April 2017—scores to make it 0-1 vs. Man City in FA Cup semifinal. Arsenal win 2-1.
  4. 1 October 2017—scores  to make it 0-1 vs. Brighton. Arsenal win 2-0.
  5. 22 October 2017—scores to make it 1-1 at Goodison Park. Arsenal win 2-5.
  6. 20 January 2018—scores to make it 1-0 against Crystal Palace. Arsenal win 4-1 (Monreal assited the second and third goals, but that's another story for another day).
  7. 30 January 2018—scores to make it 0-1 at Swansea. Arsenal lose 3-1.
  8. 15 February 2018—scores to make it 1-0 vs. Östersunds FK in Europa League knockout. Arsenal win 3-0.
  9. 25 August 2018—down 0-1 to West Ham, Monreal scores the equaliser. Arsenal win 3-1.
Not too shabby, eh? If not for the one loss to Swansea (goal #7), we could really go out on a limb to say that when Monreal scores, Arsenal win; therefore, we should simply redeploy the man as our striker and keep feeding him cross after cross after cross until, inevitably, he scores. Still, his habit of scoring vital goals should be overlooked. Of those ten goals, seven established a lead and three brought us back to level terms, and a record of nine wins, no draws, and just one loss from those ten games is more than you can shake a stick at. There's no secret to it; scoring first dramatically increases your chances of winning. Still, a fullback who can find a goal that often is a precious asset.

If we can sort out our defensive issues, which looks possible if Guendouzi can continue to impress and Torreira can stabilize the defensive midfield, this should afford both Monreal (and Bellerín) to get into those dangerous positions that much more often. The issue isn't so much down the flanks anyway. Where we're still getting exposed is through the middle—witness the goals scored by Arnautovic and Morata, both of which came through the heart of our defence, not to mention the numerous opportunities that Man City, Chelsea, and West Ham found down that same path—so let's hope that Mustafi, Sokratis, Torreira, Xhaka, and Guendouzi can bed in.

After all, with a bit more steel and structure through the midfield, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, and Lichsteiner should find more opportunities to cross, to assist, to score, all without exposing us to counters (fingers crossed).