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Gunner Thoughts

Goods, Bads, Uglies, but Huge Response and 3 Points Are All That Matters

It was an incomplete performance but a second half filled with so many impressive aspects that Arsenal score three and get all three points at Villa Park.

It was a day in which most players showed the duality and complexity of judging a full 90-minute performance. It was a horrible first half showing resulting in only 2 shots against an Unai side that was shredded in their first 45-minutes versus Manchester City. But if the second half performance was something we had to wait for, it was was worth every sickening second.

Fans all over were caving under the pressure as their eyes were filled with lethargic play, sloppy movements, poor defensive work, and two Aston Villa goals that felt all too easy. “This never felt like a win.” “I don’t think we are going to turn this around.” “A point feels like a godsend”. Well the team rose to the occasion emphatically, as if they recognized the stakes sat before them.

Some would argue it was the definition of an incomplete performance, and there is a leg to stand on there. But after losing to City, unable to capture those moments of brilliance, it was electric to see Arsenal correct their course by possessing a will to plug away – even with tired legs. 

It was their third match of the week and it came with a small dose of desperation in the context of this season’s title race; if not in terms of the point tally, in the matter of this young team’s mental energy and belief they can keep themselves ahead.

To not be at our best but come back twice and complete the moment in extra time for all three points and demonstrate a great second half – that HAS to count for something in the morale column, right?

There were goals in this match Arsenal didn’t take again. There’s defensive plays to make that they didn’t make. It took too long to get into the thing full-blooded. But 20 shots, 5 big chances, and 4 goals on 3.14 xG tells a story of consistent opportunity creation and a team fighting to seize and earn a win.

Odegaard offers a perfectly example of a performance filled with duality. He was often too deep in the first half, not finding those spaces and seams between the lines that Villa will give teams; he missed a must-score look late in the game, but across 90 minutes he creates 7 chances, 2 big chances, gets an assist and is arguably the Man of the Match. 

Zinchenko another clear case. He’s being ridden incredibly hard by fans that have become hyper sensitive to every step he takes, but perhaps has earned breathing space after a splendid second half response. He was sloppy in the first half and has a role in Arsenal’s first goal concession, but it’s clear he’s being asked to carry an immense burden with both Jesus and Partey out. He’s now expected by Mikel to be a serious contributor to Arsenal’s control in the midfield and attack down a floundering left side. Seeing him get a second goal felt incredibly rewarding as someone with complete belief in him.

Jorginho deserves a real mention here as the player stepping in for Partey. He requires that Arsenal tweak Xhaka and Zinchenko’s role to allow him to be him, but with that ability he looked as composed and solid on the ball as you can ask. His shot off the bar and eventual own goal winner is outstanding. He also stepped into the space in front of him all game to get involved and keep the pressure on Aston Villa. He completes his passes, keeps things ticking, and has done everything you’d want a January signing and Partey-relief player to do.

If you sat down and ran through the entire lineup, top to bottom, you’d probably be capable of offering goods, bads, and uglies for just about every player’s performance. But when the chips are down and the whole thing feels on line the, it takes a whole lot of heart and sometimes a gritty, grinding performance fly you back into form.

“We have to take some lessons today,” said Arteta after the win, “because especially in the first half, we didn’t do all the simple things right and then we give them the chance to score those two goals in a really simple way. We talked at half time, if we raise the individual standards and start to do what we have to do, we’re going to win this game. And they went out there, which is difficult, and won it.”

Arsenal propelled themselves back into first which set up the second phase of the day. Manchester City draws late to Nottingham Forest, they drop two points, and immediately settle back into second place. Heading into a very promising run of of fixtures on paper, with the slow return of influential players on the horizon, there is plenty to feel better about heading into next week which feels as important as ever. The response to the response, of course!

Arsenal have hushed many of the people that said they would never be back in first again. They’ve quieted their own fans that called game over on their season. They’ve refilled the sails with a swell of wind. And they are BACK. ON. TOP.

And, hey, everybody go plant a tree today in honor of Forest’s big result. #GoGreen

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