Arsenal 4 – 0 Standard Liege
Easy victories are built on hard work and last night’s win was no exception. Everything about the opening 25 minutes was measured; the pressure applied, passing and of course, the goals.
And three outstanding finishes they were.
Brazitalian Gabriel Martinelli’s sublime angled header for the first will be in our top 10 goals of the season, no question about it. He isn’t a centre-forward apparently; with that header, he produced a passable impersonation of one. His second, curled around the defender, underlined his eye for goal from any angle.
Meanwhile, Joe Willock’s goal proved Johan Cruyff’s adage is right: “Football is a sport you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment; not too early, not too late.” Digging the ball out of his feet, he reacted quickest to the deflection from a Liege defender. It wouldn’t be the last time
Twenty-one minutes on the clock and it was a question of damage limitation for the visitors.
Whatever problems we have in the elite competitions, cup football is proving remarkably agreeable to the second string. Does it mean they are knocking on the first XI door? In some cases, yes.
All eyes, however, were on the returning defenders. Hector Bellerin led the side with some aplomb while Kieran Tierney looks more and more like the best signing we have made at the back since Sol Campbell arrived on a free.
It’s easy to eulogise after nights like last night, to flippantly suggest swapping out half the Premier League XI for this XI. Reality? Well, that’s somewhat different.
Or is it?
Three defenders deserve a run in the first XI: Bellerin, Tierney, and Holding. None of the current incumbents is better than that trio, to begin with.
You saw the game last night, how well we played. Squandered a few chances and genuinely should have scored more. Dani Ceballos’ debut goal was worthwhile, if not for the aesthetics, but certainly, for the determination he displayed in beating everyone to the ball.
And definitely for Martinelli’s exquisite chip over the tallest goalkeeper in the world.
There are a number of questions emerging from the performances. Ainsley Maitland-Niles put in a decent shift. A couple of mistakes, a couple of nice touches; not earth-shatteringly good but squad member good.
Reiss Nelson probably had his best game so far and is definitely at that ‘young player plateau’. Again, nothing to make Emery think he must be included in the XI but certainly progressing along those lines.
Willock, a goal to his credit, continues to show his abilities, with some strong and purposeful runs, driving defence into attack. There is, surely, a place in the Arsenal starting line-up for him. Which Emery seems to agree with…
But none for Mesut Ozil. Twitter, that bastion of common sense and dignity, was ablaze beforehand with the righteous bringing down brimstone and treacle on Emery for his treatment of the German. What that treatment was is never explained. Not picking him is the only thing anyone knows right now.
We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Is there a feud behind this? Is Emery just sick and tired of the little ‘illnesses’ Ozil continually has? How is Mesut training? Trying his hardest? Doing just enough?
Certainly there is a hint of an application problem. Post-match Emery said “other players deserved [to play tonight] more,” which says a lot. Others are showing they are hungry to play. Ozil, it seems, isn’t showing the desire Emery wants.
The Spaniard clearly warmed to that theme when he talked about the weekend.
He needs to continue working. Tomorrow we have training with the players who didn’t play, and on Sunday we have another match, and we are going to decide the same. Our target is to win on Sunday against Bournemouth, and we want to carry on our same way in each match.Mesut is told to get his arse in gear
I don’t know if Ozil will play on Sunday. Certainly, after missing the last two games it’s hard to see anything more than a place on the bench for him.
Of course, Emery is by no means an angel in all this. He had plenty of trouble at PSG with troublesome players, e.g. Thiago, Ben Arfa and Neymar; he didn’t win with the latter and was bloodied by the former pair.
He’ll win this one because it is in the club’s interests to divest itself of Ozil’s contract and I’m guessing completely here, Raul is backing him. Edu, too.
What is abundantly clear is that Ozil’s Arsenal career is over; the fat lady is gargling, ready to send him on his way this winter. Or next summer. Or whenever we can find some other sap to take on his wages or even part of them.
But the night wasn’t about him, it was about the ones who played. The next test for them comes at the end of October: Vittoria at home, Liverpool away.
The question is which of the experienced players will be guiding them?