Sunday’s 2-0 victory against Southampton was enough to send us fourth and one point clear of Manchester United. Goals from Lacazette and Mkhitaryan halted a spirited Saints team who should have enough to avoid relegation. A lot can happen in a week. Last Tuesday we were fifth and on the brink of exiting the Europa league, but thankfully Emery and the team seemed to have steadied the ship. With 11 winnable games to go in the Premiership and a round 16 Europa League tie scheduled against Rennes we have it all to play for.
We lined up in my favoured 4231 formation with Leno in goal, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis and Kolašinac in a back four, Torreira and Xhaka in midfield, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey and Iwobi advanced with Lacazette up top.
I am not a fan of 343 which has been used heavily this season, mainly due to our injury predicament. The only benefit we seem to get from the formation is a dynamic Kolašinac at left wing back. It doesn’t offer us any increased defensive stability or threat from other areas of the pitch. The formation is heavily reliant on ball carriers in advanced positions, hence why much of the attacking burden has fallen to Iwobi in recent times. The balance on Sunday was far better with Xhaka back in midfield moving the ball smartly and Mkhitaryan offering a threat down the right that we have missed with him and Bellerin injured.
The opener came on 6’ when Lacazette finished a swift counter attack. Nathan Redmond had been put through with a simple ball over the top (when will we cut these out!), but was denied by a fantastic save from Leno. We then advanced swiftly down the left through Iwobi who’s cross found Mkhitaryan who then found Lacazette with a neat half volley.
The game was won on 17’ when Mkhitaryan calmly guided Iwobi’ s deflected cross past the impressive Angus Gunn. Lacazette pressed intelligently with intensity and caught Saint’s defender Stephens dithering on the ball to set up the attack. The Frenchman continues to set the benchmark for the levels of aggression and effort needed to win.
In summary, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan and Kolašinac were excellent and a constant thorn in Southampton’s side. Sokratis was also solid and I doubt we would have kept a clean sheet without him and Leno. It is vital we keep both of them fit.
Man of the match: Sead Kolašinac
The Bosnian was excellent and continues to be a menacing threat going forward. Only Lacazette had more touches in the box and on another day he would have had a couple of assists. If he can have five of these games away from home, then maybe we don’t need to bring in a left back in the summer
Sunday chaos, everywhere but the Emirates
It seemed chaos was in the air everywhere except the Emirates. Manchester City beat Chelsea on penalties to secure back to back League Cup trophies. However, City’s achievement was eclipsed by Chelsea’s bizarre substitution fiasco. Minutes before penalties, Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri attempted to replace goalkeeper, Kepa, with penalty specialist Willy Caballero, but the youngster refused to leave the pitch. I personally don’t think he meant anything malicious by it, but that is the last thing you need with discontent already bubbling at your club.
The Manchester Utd vs Liverpool fixture was also blighted by a set of bizarre events, with Man Utd losing three players to injury in the first half. The match that promised thrill, then withered into a game where both teams looked happy with a draw. Injuries have severely hampered our efforts this season, but we seem to be getting over them. Injuries may be the thing that halt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revival.
Next up: Bournemouth at home
On Wednesday we host Bournemouth at the Emirates. With Chelsea playing Spurs we have another opportunity to strengthen our league position relative to others. In our last seven league games against Bournemouth we have won five, drawn one and lost one. With a 100% home record against the Cherries I fully expect us to get the three points but it won’t be easy. Bournemouth have more goals from counter attacks than any team in the League and with the likes of Josh King and Ryan Fraser, the defence will have to be at it.
I think we will need at least two to win.