3 Things to Take from Newcastle v Arsenal by AG
Ozil is Crucial
Despite having 74% possession and 22 shots on goal, it was painfully obvious that Arsenal were lacking killer creativity in the final third. The ball was moved around from side to side as if the players were shirking from the responsibility of picking the lock, a role that Mesut Ozil is more than willing to take on. Having created 12 chances this season with 60% of his passes being forward, he also assisted our only real goal of the season so far.
But more than this, also evident was a lack of options available to the Arsenal players when in possession, having to settle for square passes to teammates occupying the same space. What Ozil brings to the Arsenal squad better than anyone is his ability to increase the number of options. Whether it’s his level of vision allowing him to pick out players others can’t, or when not on the ball his awareness and ability to drift into space and make himself available. That is what Arsenal were lacking most of all today, options. It led to predictable and slow attacks that Newcastle very nearly managed to completely contain.
LoLo is Becoming a Leader
Not only was Koscielny superb in the air against Newcastle, his tracking of runners and reading of the game allowed us to operate without too much fear of a counter-attack. But, we always expect this from one of the BPL’s best centre backs. Where he stood out today was his desire to take charge and make an impression on the game across the pitch. Arsenal’s most dangerous attacks (including the goal), came from moves that started with Koscielny driving into the final third and delivering a drilled pass to the edge of the box. I noticed him do this at least three times, and every time the resulting attack represented a more real danger to the Newcastle goal than our true attacking players could muster.
While Santi may have been captain today, it was Koscielny who came across as the one who wanted to move Arsenal forward and take charge. He is becoming a commanding figure in this Arsenal set up at both ends of the pitch. Gabriel also looked sharp today, I expect him to really put pressure on BFG this season, although I do think Mert’s voice is something we miss when he’s not there.
Walcott is Lost Up Front
On his day, there is no doubt Theo Walcott can shine up front, as he did against West Brom last season. However, today proved that through the middle, he is a one trick pony. Sometimes it may prove to be a trick that the opposition can’t handle, but against Newcastle he looked lost. He barely touched the ball (18 in total), and spent the entire game separated from the build-up play, sitting on the last shoulder of the defender waiting for a through ball to latch on to. Arsenal are often criticised for crossing when Walcott’s up front and then switching to through balls once Giroud is brought on, but this is not a coincidence. When Giroud came on, rather than sit 10 metres from the action and wait, he got involved in the build up, often coming short to receive the ball. While this may mean he doesn’t score as often, it forces the defence to come higher, creating space to allow through balls to be made. If Walcott wants to receive through balls, he needs to learn how to operate within the build-up play as a centre forward, not be a bystander. The change in tempo in the final third was immediately noticeable when Giroud came on, it also increased the number of options I mentioned we lacked during the game. Walcott looks lost and uncomfortable operating as a striker. Still think we need a new striker to convert more of the chances that Giroud does get, but for me he gets the nod over Walcott every day of the week. To start at least.
For what it’s worth my MOTM would have to go to Kos or Coquelin. Monreal was fantastic in the second half, THAT first time pass especially. I’ve seen websites give it to Ox but I thought he was poor, gave the ball away far too often and looked like he’d run out of ideas whenever he got the ball. Hopefully a new striker (not necessarily a star but another option), and a fit Ozil will see Arsenal improve and push on. I think the mentality is there this year.