After a hard fought draw against PSG which could honestly have gone either way, Arsenal supporters, myself included, were really looking forward to seeing what the Gunners would bring to the table today. A match at the KCOM Stadium normally brings a lot of goals for Arsenal, and today was no different.
Their passing was on point early on, and to be fair, Hull were playing some good football as well. The big difference was in the final third, where Arsenal clearly had the better options. Although that doesn’t always result in victories, today it did.
Fifteen minutes into the match it was noticeable that even with Alexis playing as the lone striker, Walcott and Iwobi were actually getting in behind the Hull defenders. Unlike what happened against PSG, the game plan worked today because there was plenty of movement in the final third. When that doesn’t happen, we end up with performances as we saw on Tuesday in the first half, where it was all very predictable and simple to defend. Today, well today was a completely different story.
Walcott seems to have learned how to make runs in behind, although his passing and decision making is still questionable at times. On the opposite side of the pitch, Iwobi showed us that he’s still the better option ahead of Ox.
When It Works, It’s Beautiful To Watch
It won’t work against every opponent, but when it does, it’s very enjoyable to watch. Fluent passes, everyone is moving, and it all happens fairly quickly. Put that all together and you have yourself a nightmare for defenders.
Credit to Arsene Wenger to sticking with his strategy although he got a lot of stick after Tuesday’s match. If there’s one thing we can say about Le Prof, it’s that he doesn’t give in to pressure, regardless of what direction it comes from. He feels confident that a front three which features Alexis as the focal point will work, and that’s exactly what we saw today. We no longer only have a plan A ladies and gentleman.
Theo and Iwobi came inside, got down the line and got in behind, with the Chilean dropping deep to organize play and at times draw out defenders. That was no more obvious than when Arsenal scored their third goal. Alexis collects the ball about 30 yards from goal, Walcott speeds by the central defenders, and a perfectly weighted pass leaves them chasing shadows. Had it not been for another inspired Jakupovic performance, Theo could have had two goals.
Mustafi & Koscielny Looked More Comfortable
Their first match together against Southampton had it’s bright spots, but you could also tell that they weren’t used to playing together. Today, although Hull aren’t the most prolific attacking team in the world, it was enough to see that they’ve grown together. Mustafi looks to be the aggressor, while Koscielny can drop off, but, that changed at times throughout the match.
Pace and determination are two key attributes that they both bring to the table, which wasn’t the case when Mertesacker featured along side the Frenchman. Along with that, everyone praised BFG for his ability to read the match, and it looks like maybe it’s a German thing? Mustafi anticipated a number of passes today, and he was there more often than not to clean up a bunch of potentially dangerous crosses into the box. He won 70% of his duels according to Squawka, and his pass accuracy was 91%. Not bad!
What I enjoyed most about Mustafi’s presence today was that he had no problem with yelling at his teammates when they failed to track back. There was a play down the left side where Iwobi didn’t track his runner, and the German made sure that he got his attention.
Arsenal have been criticized for some years now given their lack of leadership on the pitch, and even if Mustafi is far from being the skipper, it’s good that he’s willing to give someone an earful. This is a team, not a group of individuals. If you mess up or fail to do your job on the pitch, you should be made aware of that.
Iwobi Making Life Difficult For Ox
Two assists for Iwobi capped off a good performance, but he could also have had a goal, had it not been for the slight touch from Alexis for Arsenal’s first. The Nigerian looks to be more mature than his age would suggest, and that’s going to be a problem for Ox.
He’s composed on the ball, he’s not afraid to let it fly from distance, and his passing accuracy is consistent.
A great reaction save on Tuesday kept Iwobi off the scoresheet against PSG, with Alexis following it up to level things in Paris. Today, Iwobi had another great strike, and Jakupovic came up with a miracle, only to see Ozil send a certain goal over the crossbar.
As long as Iwobi continues to keep it simple, Ox will find himself watching from the bench more often than not, and to be honest, at this point, I’m not disappointed as long as things keep ticking along.
The only criticism of his play is the lack of defensive hunger. Santi’s yellow card in the first half is a result of Iwobi allowing Elmohamady to jog right by him down the right side. Had he actually made a defensive effort, that more than likely wouldn’t have happened. Again, he’s still young, but if he can improve on his defensive duties, his future is bright.