Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City
It was far from a vintage performance but that doesn’t matter. Three points sends us to the top of the Premier League albeit briefly. Indeed, the way this morning is shaping up, Chelsea will be back there by the time this post goes live. Oh, and Mesut Özil scored with a header.
Charity begins at home they say and Lee Mason, in Arsène’s view, was charitable in his decision to give the visitors a penalty. It’s fair to say that Wenger is the only one who doesn’t think it was a penalty;
“It was not a penalty, I was surprised”
Xhaka’s bodycheck was a foul; the only surprise came when he didn’t get his second red card for the forearm smash across Allen’s face.
The ‘Welsh Pirlo’ later bodychecked Hector Bellerin before skewing his shot wide; similar foul, different reaction from the referee. All we ask – just as our fathers and grandfathers before us – is that the referees apply their judgement consistently. If they do that, most of our complaints are specious but Mason is one of the worst offenders in that sense. Every time he officiates, it’s the same routine.
If his donation was the penalty, my There, that’s my donation to charity: magnanimity in the face of victory.
One Ton Theo From Totteridge
The weight lifted from the young man’s shoulders with his one hundredth goal in club matches, his 95th for Arsenal. Walcott was a key contributor to the victory, lively and inventive and putting in the performance levels in recent games which we’ve missed.
When the equaliser came, it was beautifully simple. Alexis’ perfectly weighted pass found Hector Bellerin whose cross was met by Theo with a perfectly timed run. Simple and catching the goalkeeper out with a well-executed near-post flick. Simple is often best.
He and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are in a groove at the moment and long may it continue. The issue in most people’s minds is that we’ve been here before and suspect that the form of one or both will dip at some point. That’s something the manager and players have to address.
What’s been impressive is the way they link together with the headline acts of Alexis and Mesut Özil. Barring an injury crisis or tiredness, it’s hard to see any of them not starting the next few games. Which is harsh on Lucas Perez, who I thought ought to retain his place in the side following his Basel hat-trick but unquestionably, Arsène got his team selection right yesterday.
Country Music Isn’t The Only Thing With A Twang
However, the victory came at a price. Shkodran Mustafi looks like he will be out for three weeks. The manager confirmed that in his post-match press conference,
It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench and I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.
on the timeframe for Mustafi’s return…
Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas!
It’s a concern only because he has been a lynchpin at the back this season. The trips to Everton and Manchester City are intriguing from a team selection perspective. Both are incredibly vulnerable at the back but for different reasons. The Toffees have been undone by stereotypical forward play in the last couple of games while City were ruthlessly punished on the counter yesterday and by Chelsea. Does Arsène play Giroud on Tuesday and then Alexis on Sunday?
At the back, he has a similar problem. Gabriel is definitely going to partner Koscielny next weekend so does he ‘protect’ the Brazilian and play Holding on Tuesday or is Per Mertesacker the answer for one of the games?
Mesut Özil & Jack Douglas – Never Seen In The Same Room Together
Years ago, I think it was Kenny Sansom who did a good Norman Wisdom impression. Maybe Ken still does; keep well.
Mesut certainly does a great ‘Jack Douglas with a pint’ routine. While Alexis goes home, the maestro practices his juggling skills with any small object before watching Carry On Abroad over and over. It paid off; the looping header finish really makes the impression his own.
That gave us the lead, apparently the sixth time we’ve turned a deficit into victory. As Wenger said, that’s more than a coincidence. It’s a worrying trend as well. While Arsène is right to accentuate the positive of turning games around, there will come a time when that doesn’t happen. By then, it’s too late to address the problem as it has cost you points already. There’s a balance to be found and our hesitancy is a little disturbing.
The winner came from Alex Iwobi, who like Theo and Ox has been on the receiving end of criticism recently. It was well-taken and I suspect, welcomed by a young man who ought to score more often. Maybe this goal lifted the millstone he has worn?
We shall see. I was wrong about the Chelsea bit. Just about beat their kick-off against West Brom! I’ll be surprised if I’m wrong about them returning to the top of the table though!