Wow. Arsenal have just very comfortably beaten West Brom by way of 4 brilliant goals, to continue their return to winning ways. As much as we shouldn’t get too carried away – 3 points is 3 points regardless of the nature of the performance – it is important to give credit where credit’s due. We played our best, most creative football of the season so far. I can’t think of any player on the pitch who didn’t put in a really commendable performance. It was exactly the kind of result needing to bring some confidence and swagger back to the team. Here is how each of the lads got on…
Leno – 7/10: Had very little to do in truth, but made a couple of important saves when called upon. It takes a great keeper to go ages without seeing any action, and still be on his toes when he eventually does. His distribution I thought was also very good considering the conditions.
Bellerin – 8/10: Bellerin may slowly be starting to change my mind. It’s a real shame that his yellow card got him called off early as a precaution, because he was playing excellently getting the ball to Saka. That’s what I thought was most impressive; the amount of times in that first half I saw him win the ball back, carry and get it forward quickly to the feet of Saka or Lacazette. Fantastic.
Holding – 9/10: Another superb performance by Holding. I was thinking of giving him an 8 but remembered, he did register an assist so gave him some extra credit. He was so composed on the ball. So casual in the way he handled any West Brom attackers trying to apply pressure. He defended brilliantly as well, knowing exactly when to commit and when to just sit off and jockey for position. Maybe Arteta will eventually want a new right sided centre back, but Holding is proving that this certainly does not need to be a priority.
Mari – 8/10: Again, superb. He didn’t get an assist unfortunately so didn’t quite match Holding’s rating. His performance was stellar as well. He could carry the ball forward amazingly and always made the right decision in terms of playing out from the back; sometimes keeping it short and fast, but showing great competence when he opted for a long ball (especially when the snow had started to settle).
Tierney – 10/10: I’d love to see if there are any Spurs fans left who still reckon they’d have Reguilon over Tierney. One cannot get in the Spurs team, whereas the other is one of the first names on the team sheet for Arsenal. I don’t think there are enough ways to praise him for this performance. He was practically playing left forward. Could have had a couple of goals in fairness, but WOW let’s talk about the one he had. A brilliant run, all by himself, and a wonderful finish on his weaker right foot. On another day he would have ended this game with a couple of goals and 3 or 4 assists as well. Easily my MOTM.
Ceballos – 7/10: I thought he was fairly average in the first half. At times he was a tad sloppy and he didn’t seem to be playing with an abundance of confidence (sat just in front of the back 4 most of the time). In the second half he was vastly improved though, taking on his many and getting us up the pitch every time he got the ball. I don’t think he is good enough to solve our creativity issues long term, but I wouldn’t be complaining if Arteta wanted to sign him permanently to be used as a squad player.
Xhaka – 7/10: Whereas Ceballos was lethargic in one half, then electrifying in the other, Xhaka put in two coherent and solid displays. He did his job which was to cover for Tierney and help us build from the back. He was showing off his great passing range as well to help start the creation of chances.
Saka – 9/10: He just gets better and better every week. He reminds me of when we had Alexis Sanchez in terms of the way he actually looks dangerous and frightening every time he touches the ball. He is so direct it’s brilliant. He looks after the ball tremendously too. His goal was jaw dropping. The play between him, Lacazette and Smith Rowe was like watching vintage Arsenal again. Similar to Aubameyang’s goal against Leicester a couple of years ago. Pepe is going to be hard pressed to get himself back in the team.
Smith Rowe – 9/10: This guy has really answered our prayers. My thinking is that if Arsenal as a minimum can get in one quality deep lying playmaker like Aouar, with this guy in the team that is not the end of the world. Based on his last few games, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arteta and Edu decide that there is less of a desperate need for an explicit number 10. He has been so creative. What I particularly love to watch is his quick feet in tight areas. Arsenal haven’t had a player like that since Sanchez or Santi Cazorla, and it’s why we seemed so potent tonight. This certainly promises to be his breakthrough season.
Aubameyang – 7/10: I was gutted for him to have not seen off one of those decent chances. People will I’m sure come out and have a go at Auba again. He is an easy target when everyone else was able to shine so brightly. But I actually thought his overall game was decent and tidy. He played a huge part in our 4th goal and was leading a lot of our counter attacks down the left hand side, helping to get the best out of KT. He just needs to find that confidence and he will be back to his best again.
Lacazette – 10/10: If Tierney hadn’t decided to turn into prime Roberto Carlos in this game, Laca was certainly on for my MOTM. He was heavily involved in everything good about the game. He took his two goals brilliantly, but I was actually more impressed by the his hold up play. With so much pace and youth around him, he’s crucial in bringing it all together. Let’s hope this game was how he means to go on for all of 2021 and we finally see the Lacazette that was balling for Lyon. I think signing Aouar would play a huge part in that.
Maitland Niles – 7/10: He had big shoes to fill based on Bellerin’s impressive performance, and he filled them very well. So composed and classy at the back. Began spraying some great passes from that right back position as well.
Willian – 6/10: The first 10 minutes he was on for were poor; he seemed sluggish and sloppy. However, in the latter stages of the game he began making things happen. Not bad, but nothing to get Bukayo Saka worried.
Willock – 6/10: Had minimal to do in fairness. Like Willian, not bad but nothing to get Smith-Rowe worried.
ARTETA 8/10: I think he got the selection pretty much spot on. At first I was disappointed not to see Martinelli starting, but it didn’t cost us anything and gave him some needed rest. Tactically he got it spot on as well. He saw the way Leeds were able to pressure West Brom and take advantage of their nervousness at the back, and clearly drilled his players well for that aim. The one thing I would say is, perhaps Pepe deserved to be brought on instead of Willian. Pepe perhaps does not deserve to start right now, but he definitely is closer to that spot than Willian in my eyes. Give him 25 minutes here and he could easily have helped make it 4 or 5. West Brom were back in their shell and Pepe would have been the perfect player to exploit that and get some confidence in the meantime.