Arsenal: 'great' centre-back partnership forming; midfielder has scan; Howe on Wilshere
Arsenal’s Blitzkrieg attacking play in their 3-0 win over Chelsea got plenty of plaudits, but their off the ball work was the adhesive that held the whole performance together. The Gunners pressed Chelsea from the front, and profited from some dozy distribution from the Blues back-line to counter-attack and cause serious damage. Counter-attacking, counter-pressing, offensive transitions; there are a whole range of expressions to describe essentially the same thing, and attacking quickly after regaining possession is a key part of the modern game.
Further back in the team, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi epitomised this front-foot approach, sticking to Diego Costa like glue. Jamie Redknapp in his Mail on Sunday column, said:
“Their centre backs have been too easily bullied in recent years by Didier Drogba and Diego Costa. On Saturday afternoon, Shkodran Mustafi wasn’t having any of it.
“He showed so much quality alongside Laurent Koscielny and for the first time in a long time it looks like Arsenal have found a great centre-back partnership.
“The pair are both quick and good in the air. They are strong in both boxes and will threaten from set pieces, too.”
It is definitely premature to use the word ‘great’, but the early signs for this new partnership are positive. Koscielny has sometimes found it difficult to pair up with another front-foot, interception based defender – partnerships with Thomas Vermaelen and Gabriel have been unconvincing. A Koscielny-Mustafi axis does enable Arsenal to play more of a pressing game and hold a higher line, a tactic that was out of bounds when Per Mertesacker was in the team.
Foreign defenders often get a brief hearing from ex-player pundits in England, with Koscielny derided in his first season in England, so for Mustafi to get such a performance under his belt will buy him some time.
Elsewhere, Wenger is sweating on the results of Francis Coquelin scan after the French midfielder limped off on Saturday with a knee problem. Arsenal fear it is a repeat of the medial ligament injury Coquelin sustained away at West Brom. This episode is further proof that football opinion is so volatile; a few weeks ago a majority of the Arsenal fanbase were mystified as to why Wenger was playing Coquelin instead of new signing Granit Xhaka.
Coquelin produced a barnstorming performance before his injury, and despite Xhaka’s undoubted class, he is a completely different style of player.
Finally, Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has said that Jack Wilshere can benefit from a change of atmosphere after moving from Arsenal on a season-long loan. The England international started the Cherries 1-0 win over Everton on Saturday. Howe argues that the rudimentary facilities on the south coast will be a welcome break from the comforting surroundings of London Colney, saying:
“He’s gone to a smaller club, he’s gone somewhere where there’s not everything here, there’s not everything done for him. It’s slightly old fashioned in the way that It’s like a step back in time for him compared with other Premier League clubs and I think he deserves a huge amount of credit for that.”
That is the sort of positive spin you would expect from Howe, but there is no doubt that Wilshere has taken a step back in his career and has it all on to re-establish himself as an Arsenal player. With every good performance from Wenger’s men, Wilshere drifts further and further from the supporters’ thoughts.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal
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