So What Did We Learn From Arsenal’s Win Over Wolves?
Arsenal returned to league play last Thursday with a hard fought victory, over hosts Wolves. Unfortunately that win for all its good was overshadowed by the discussion centered around Michael Oliver’s very silly red card.
For the most part Arsenal looked a solid team, especially off the ball as they managed to frustrate Wolverhampton by locking down key passing areas, forcing them to depend on transitional play and individual skill. While the result was harrowing and possibly too close for many Arsenal fans, the Gunners managed to keep the the opponents down – as long as we don’t talk about the disallowed goal.
Oh, the joy of a goalscoring forward
It seems silly to beat a dead horse. . . again. . . but, we all saw those two chances by Lacazette right? The first a chance created off of Saka’s silky, weaving movement was amazing. The second from Ødegaard’s vision, position and excellent passing helped create a chance that a veteran like Lacazette should at least force a reaction from the keeper.
And while Sa did well to make himself big for the second chance, it was clear what a relief that second goal scored in either of those chances would have given us. It’s another log on the fire as we lament not having a real goal scoring threat in the central area. Arsenal (the team and the fans) crave someone who puts these chances away, at least 2 out of 3 times. At some point in the hunt for top 4 Arteta is going to have to make some hard decisions IF the chance for top 4 is at threat. At a minimum he could moving Pepe centrally and using him as our center forward. Who knows what a team and a manager known for sticking to their guns out of principle will do.
The team gambled in the window. It wanted a real transformational player in that center forward role and is banking on that person being available this summer. With all the results going their way, the chance for top 4 is becoming more and more in their hands. Let’s hope their gamble pays off.
Ready for a central midfield upgrade?
I don’t want to be negative after a win, but this is the time to look at ourselves and look at the teams we compete with for 4th place and ask ourselves if our midfield is modern enough to go the distance. While Wolverhampton is a good example of a team with a somewhat weak central midfield, over reliant on the brilliance of Ner and Moutinho, many of our direct competitors have identified our central midfield as an area to exploit.
This game saw us with a midfield pairing on yellows, consisting of two players who both recently had been unavailable for selection because of exactly because of red cards. We all know what we are going to get with Xhaka. For all the criticism, he still has value and there is some stability he brings when he is one the pitch. The problem is the consistent threat of him not being on the pitch. There are also the technical issues like not being able to take a ball on the half turn or to be a press-resistant midfielder. It is a role a more natural and athletic 8 would fit. In addition to the central forward the team will need, this has to be the most important roster fill for the team this summer.
When trying to assess the most important player for Arsenal right it wouldn’t be hard to select few different options. Lacazette, while impotent in front of goal, is instrumental in how we want to play and especially to linking play. Saka looks to be much more confident, and clearly enjoyed not being the outlet for every attack. In his 19 minute cameo, Rob Holding did brilliant in soldifying Arsenal’s low block after Martinelli’s send off. But the most important player on the pitch for me, was Norwegian wonder Martin Ødegaard.
He looked to be everywhere, dropping deep to help switch play, popping into pockets of space to act as a passing station, as well as taking care of the ball with some serious silky dribbling. He’s not the most defensively adept player, but he consistently tracks back – and on more than one occasion he managed to block an easy passing lane, or press the ball holder forcing them to release it early. Who doesn’t love a silky offensive midfielder who contributes on both sides of the ball? Only thing he needs is a license to shoot. We know he can hit them.
Michael Oliver’s sending off of Gabriel Martinelli continues to highlight once again the idiocy of Premier League refereeing. Sure, in isolation, you can make the case that each foul was a caution but doesn’t a player deserve to know they’ve been cautioned the first time? Martinelli has no idea he is under a caution and commits what we’d all agree to be a silly foul to give a way if you knew you were under a yellow card already. But if you don’t have a yellow card, you may call that a professional foul to break up play.
Week in and week out, it seems we are privy to examples of why the refereeing in the Premier League needs to be overhauled. While we know the art of refereeing is a subjective, we need the calls to be consistent in at least the match and have cautions and cards meted out consistently. That simply isn’t happening and until it does and other tweaks come into play, fans are going to continue top be upset by poor calls and what many think is bias against their team.
Arsenal host Brentford in a week’s time. It was the game that set our 2021/22 campaign off to a tumultuous start.
That match serve as a test, to see if we’ve learned from the time passed.