5 Conclusions from the Premier League matchweek.

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Olivier Giroud improves season on season: Olivier Giroud’s flaws are well detailed. He lacks pace which makes it difficult for his team to play on the counter. He’s not the type to create something out of nothing and his movement can be poor, at times. He can make some not very bright decisions-headbutting Nedum Onuoha in December against QPR. Cheating on his wife, getting caught by the papers, denying it and then apologizing as the teamsheet for a big FA Cup game against Liverpool was released (Arsenal having lost 5-1 to the same side a week before.)He doesn’t score in the big games. Or didn’t. This season, Giroud can boast of goals against Liverpool, Manchester City(twice) and United. Perhaps, that is the greatest testimony as to how year on, year on since he joined Arsenal he has noticeably gotten better. He might not be the greatest striker in the world but he’s better than given credit for.

Santi Cazorla is without peer

Watching Santi Cazorla over Christmas, I remarked “Santi’s Santa”. The gifts he has given out in nutmegs, assists and goals since December has been joyful to watch culminating in the nadir that was his display against City. He has functioned in a largely unusual role: as the second midfielder dropping deep to conduct Arsenal’s attacks. He’s safe in possession and has developed the workrate to go with it. He’s also an extremely durable performer failing to sustain an injury since he joined Arsenal in 2012. As the narrative centered on who the better Latin flavored player was between Alexis Sanchez and Kun Aguero, it was surprising that more wasn’t made on the little contest between David Silva and Cazorla.

Kompany needs to step it up

Vincent Kompany is undoubtedly one of the more articulate players around and conducts himself well as a leader for both Manchester City and Belgium. However, it’s been a long held belief that, were Kompany Mexican with a dodgy accent he won’t be as feted as he is. He makes more errors than a high profile defender should. He constantly jumps into tackles he shouldn’t and then gets upset when disciplined for it. That there was even any debate about the penalty conceded was absurd: Kompany made no attempt to play the ball, opting to block him off. A cynical move asking Mike Dean to make an obvious decision. Note also that his attempt at bursting forward with the ball was what precipitated the attack to the penalty.

The Belgian was lucky not to get sent off and one can’t help but feel that he needs better in the coaching department.

Wenger finally has a Plan B

For so long, Arsene Wenger has been derided (rightly so, at times) for his refusal to adapt. The background to this being that he was so underwhelmed by the 2005 FA Cup final where Arsenal without Thierry Henry packed the midfield and parked the bus eventually winning on penalties. He can adapt his team selection at times (playing Nacho Monreal over Kieran Gibbs when defensive solidity is required) but the criticism was that he had never done enough. Seemingly in a bid to overcome the poor record in big games. Since 2011/12, Arsenal’s record against City, Chelsea and Man Utd stands at P21, W2, D7, L12 with 44 goals conceded. Arsenal opted for a counter attacking approach, keeping the midfielders deep and ensuring the full backs weren’t as far forward as they usually are. Francis Coquelin was Javier Mascherano esque in his play, Monreal refused to cower whilst Giroud defended from the top. Gary Neville captured it best when he said “I was wrong” referring to his prediction that Arsenal would flounder a week ago. The 35% possession is the lowest Arsenal have had in a game since Opta started collecting data. 16 corners conceded. This approach highlights how efficiently a team can be when there’s a common focus and desire to buy into the game plan. Santi Cazorla might have been the man of the match but teammates like Coquelin, Monreal and Giroud had reasonable shouts too.

Grasping second chances

Last week, Adrian Clarke one of the more underrated pundits around wrote a sensible article highlighting how recent events captured the importance of second chances in football referring to the recent success of the likes of Ryan Mason, Harry Kane and Francis Coquelin. Coquelin’s performance highlighted this. Brought back from a loan spell at Charlton, he has added a degree of bite and feistiness to Arsenal’s midfield. Le Coq won 7/8 headers, 5 interceptions, made 11 clearances and had a pass success rate of 87%. Robbie Savage pointed out on Match of the Day how when Arsenal scored the second, Coquelin’s first instinct was to calm his teammates down and tell them to play smart. Arsenal might just have stumbled on the true heir to Gilberto Silva.

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