Against Norwich, in the first half especially, it was evident how well Arsenal’s attacking trio of Gervinho, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott has gelled. With Norwich seemingly trying to cut Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey out of the game in the final third, it was down to the wingers and van Persie to create things, and they certainly did that.
In the first half, Arsenal could have had a hatful of goals, if not for poor finishing, and the majority of these chances were due to the fine work of Gervinho and Walcott, with van Persie linking up with the wingers, providing the perfect foil for them. Gervinho caused many problems for Norwich defenders with his ability to wriggle away from close markers with ease, while Walcott used his space to stretch and worry the back line. The two of them, along with van Persie, combined brilliantly to tear Norwich apart and it was a wonder that Arsenal didn’t have four goals in the first half – at least.
Arsenal have been searching for a replacement for Alex Hleb for a while, and thought they’d found one in Samir Nasri. However, Nasri was not direct enough – although Hleb didn’t seem to like shooting, he would often be quite a direct player, only opting to pass instead of shoot. Now, they seem to have a new Hleb in Gervinho. He loves to ghost past defenders in the final third and is a vital part of Arsenal’s new more direct style. While he can be erratic, especially in his finishing, it seems obvious that his assists at least will be a big contributor to Arsenal doing well this season.
Now, they seem to have a new Hleb in Gervinho. He loves to ghost past defenders in the final third and is a vital part of Arsenal’s new more direct style.
As for Walcott, he has often threatened to come good but always faded away after a good run. The tweaks Arsenal have made this season in terms of becoming more direct suit him down to the ground though – he is required to use the space created by his team mates to run past and behind defenders, instead of having to play a part in the intricate build up play. Basically, he’s playing as more a wide forward than a wide midfielder, which is perfect for him. Playing off van Persie, in the form of his life especially, is perfect for Gervinho and Walcott. He’s a highly intelligent player, and is always available for a quick one two with either of them, as well as being there to apply the finishing touches to their crosses. Not only that but he often turns provider for his wide men – it was his fabulous ball which set Gervinho in on goal, only for him to spurn the chance.
At first this season Arsenal’s forward play had been slightly awkward and not at all cohesive, which saw them struggle. Now they’re playing with much more freedom and enjoying their football, and it’s clearly working well. It takes the pressure off of the midfielders too, Aaron Ramsey in particular, leaving them free to do their jobs while the forwards do what they do best.
Arsene Wenger had insisted his side just needed time to gel as a unit and he may well have been proven right here. The Gunners seem a completely different side now, and are climbing the table quickly. Long may it continue.
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