One could get use to this.
A recent criticism of Arsenal has been that they just haven’t be the team they are so often described as. Even as commentators say “they’re often guilty of just trying to walk the ball into the net”, most fans in the past few seasons couldn’t be blamed for pausing to think “... since when?” Often stilted in attack, stumbling over easy competition and making life hard on themselves have been more a hallmark of Arsenal’s play than free flowing, decisive attack and control of a game.
However, as the 20th anniversary of Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal celebrations get underway, the team has decided to throwback to the glory days of total football and become the scintillating force once more. (Geez, it feels good to use that word again. Scintillating.) Their 2-0 victory over FC Basel is utterly flattering on the visitors as Arsenal carved up the defense regularly and almost at will. It was dominance in its essence and signs of a team full of confidence.
You aren’t going to find much ugly, at the moment.
Theo Walcott. If the winger keeps putting in games like this, someone is sure to write a long piece about his strengths and weaknesses, leading up to his reinvention this season. (Hint, hint.) Walcott has been nothing short of sparkling of late, now adding a scoring flare to his solid play with five goals in seven games already. He had seven all last season. His second goal of the game was pinpoint perfect precision to finish a brilliant bit of team play. More than that, his defensive work has been excellent and is linking well with his teammates. He’s looking like a can’t miss player right now for club and country (finally!).
It could also be a factor of playing well with this guy:
69% - Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 11 of Arsenal's last 16 Champions League goals (4 goals, 7 assists). Talisman. pic.twitter.com/Ic15JV56Ur— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 28, 2016
The Özil-Cazorla-Xhaka Connection. I could write paragraphs about the work Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka did yesterday but instead:
Xhaka deep, and Cazorla advanced, next to Özil.— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) September 28, 2016
There really very little to improve on this picture.#passmap pic.twitter.com/j7PWHr5VIE
Clean Sheet. While be utterly dominant in attack, Basel was not without their brief threats but overall, David Ospina and his defense dealt with it calmly, despite having long stretches of nothing to do. Keeping focus when only playing one competition, albeit the Champions League, is impressive. Almost as impressive as Ospina’s reaction fingertip save in the second half to keep it a two goal advantage. It looks like a different keeper than the one tossing the ball into his own net last year and, for now, justifies Wenger’s confidence in him.
Tomas Vaclik. It’s rare that we feature an opponent in this list. It’s rarer that a goalkeeper could be in a 2-0 loss and still be considered MOTM. (Most just smoke in the shower and are never heard of again.) But Vaclik had a brilliant game and can take cold comfort that he did just about everything he could to keep Arsenal at bay. The Czech keeper had a bagfull of great saves and didn’t put a foot wrong. Without him, Basel would have seen their goal differential be sunk, something that may help them when it comes to third place in the group. He also would like to move to the Premier League. A few more of those performances and he just might make it.
The Basel Defense. They had no answer. Manager Urs Fischer lined up a five man defensive line and played like there were three of them. Thoroughly overwhelmed, it was not a team that offered up a stern challenge and were fortunate to have the game end at 2-0.
Taking their chances. It’s hard to criticize, but it really should have been so much more. Alexis, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi all had great efforts on net and failed to find the back or the target. Its largely just quibbles for if the team continues to produce chances at this rate, the goals will happen, but they’ll be battling with PSG for top spot and every goal helps their case.
Alexis Sanchez’ Ego. He’s done everything for Arsenal this season. He’s taken the centerforward spot and Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez are going to have to wait for him to take a breather until they can get a shot at it. Alexis has been everything this season. But I wouldn’t bet against him getting up on the ugly side of the bed this morning for being straight up robbed from a hattrick or more last night. It isn’t negative but, having played a bit of striker myself, it gnaws at you. It’ll pass.