Win at Hull suggests Arsenal forwards are running into form
13:31 19 September 2016
PA Wire/Press Association Images
September has been all about late goals and luck – and Saturday was no different.
Nonetheless, a vibrant Arsenal team dismantled Hull City 4-1 at the KCOM through an attractive performance full of intelligent movement, passing and creative intent.
It may seem strange to highlight that when Arsene Wenger’s teams have been renowned for such attacking elegance.
But the revelation from the Frenchman that his team simply weren’t ready for the start of the season, coupled with his stuttering side taking one point from a possible six at the outset, left many fearful.
Yet the superb performance in east Yorkshire banished memories of the hesitant start, mainly due to the collection of offensive players starting to click – and a sprinkling of fortune.
Of course, Arsenal being Arsenal, victory headlines and introductions for laudatory match reports from the press box could not be penned until as late as the 83rd minute – marked by Alexis Sanchez’s second goal – despite Wenger’s side playing against 10 men for 50 minutes.
But it is hard to escape the stirring notion that the Gunners have a battalion of forwards marching into form.
Take Santi Cazorla. It was good to see the Spaniard showing cojones with the late penalty against Southampton at the Emirates earlier this month, and showing ‘illusion’ – as the Iberians say – when he came up with a little something unexpected by firing his spot-kick down the middle.
It was also good to see the Arsenal player showing evident joy in his celebrations against the Saints – which also gave observers an insight into the burgeoning esprit de corps that this particular group is engendering.
Cazorla was exuberant again on Saturday as he buzzed with enjoyment in his work. Crucially it was allied with a willingness to work hard, track back and stuck in.
If he was a little lucky not to pick up a second yellow early in the second half following a clip on Robert Snodgrass – yards from the benches and officials – it was only because the referee may have confused his undoubted ‘morbo’, an indecipherable Spanish football phrase referring to dark arts, with combativeness.
For it was hugely instructive to see Santi – smiling happy-go lucky Santi, who had already taken one for the team with a first-half booking by cynically clattering into the rampaging and rather large Ahmed Elmohamady – avoid a sending-off for two fouls preventing Hull from making inroads.
Because if someone as attack-minded as the 31-year-old can supplement his creativity with hard-edged defensive discipline, this season may appear far more promising than it did a month ago.
Ditto Theo Walcott. After a disappointing year it was heartening to see a vastly-improved performance at the KCOM, where his pace was harnessed into efficiency through clever off-the-ball running and dangerous crosses.
Walcott also scored after a sumptuous backheel by the exciting Alex Iwobi, whose undoubted talent appears to be matched by his maturity in accepting the team overrides individuality.
As for luck, Sanchez knows all about that. While it was satisfying to see another Gunner show character in taking a penalty, Wenger admitted he could not explain why Cazorla was not given the opportunity to continue his run of two successful spot-kicks.
The Chilean missed and could have been vilified if his team had failed to win. Yet instead he was lauded for two goals and a lively performance which, if still not at the rhythm and fluidity of his pre-hamstring injury days, still suggests that level is approaching.
Having also netted a late equaliser firmly against the run of play at a noisy Parc de Princes last week, this was more evidence of fortuitous late goals and a huge slice of luck.
As Arsenal ease into their stride with a confluence of attacking play with an end product – and good fortune – observers are hoping such a favourable combination continues.