How things panned out at the Emirates over the weekend, and the major talking points.
England’s team of 2015 marched on, picking up another 3 points with almost effortless ease, as goals from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud sealed a comfortable victory for the Gunners, who have now picked up 30 points from 36 this calendar year. Liverpool were able to grab a late consolation via a penalty by Jordan Henderson, but it was too little too late for Brendan Rodgers’ men who are now 7 points off the top four. Let’s look at the 5 main talking points –
- Francis Coquelin is the man
With only 16 games under his belt this Premier League season, life has taken a U-turn for Francis Coquelin. Loaned out to Premiership side Charlton Athletic in October, his Arsenal career seemed all but over. As fate would have it for him, he was prematurely called back owing to the injury crisis Arsenal were battling against at the time, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since his induction into the starting eleven on the 26th of December against QPR, Arsenal have won 12 out of the 14 games they have played, picking up 36 points out of the available 42. Coquelin has had a forward pass accuracy of 82%, having won 45 tackles and having made 48 interceptions in these 14 matches. Indeed, in the match against Liverpool, 2 of his interceptions paved way for Arsenal to score 2 of their first 3 goals. Few can argue that he has piped Nemanja Matic as the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder. What remains to be seen is if he can replicate this form, consistently, over the course of the next couple of seasons, and be the answer to Arsenal’s defensive woes.
- Shad Forsythe is Arsenal’s Dr. Fixit
The American has undoubtedly been Arsenal’s best buy of the season. On 3rd April, 2015, every Arsenal first team player took part in a training session, for the first time since November 2005. The new Arsenal fitness coach has worked wonders at the Emirates, as several players have come back well ahead of schedule after injuries and several others are displaying new levels of fitness altogether. This has allowed Arsene Wenger to choose from a wealth of attacking talent this season, and there is only one man who deserves all the plaudits.
- Gary Neville was spot on about Simon Mignolet
Remember when football pundit, Gary Neville, was ridiculed for finding fault with Simon Mignolet’s incessant ‘crouching’ position leading to Phil Jagielka’s stunner, back in September?
Turns out he was spot on, as usual. Crucial saves in big matches, that sometimes go unnoticed by the naked eye, win you as many matches, as crucial goals by your strikers. On Saturday, Mignolet’s faulty starting position led to Alexis Sanchez pumping in a scorching outside-the-box goal; Arsenal’s third in 8 minutes, as the match seemed to be wrapped up by half time. Had Mignolet managed to get a glove to it, which he should have, Liverpool would have gone in at the break only 2 goals down and the possibility of a comeback would have been very much alive. Simon Mignolet has a long way to go, to match the technical qualities of De Gea, Courtois and Lloris and this obvious gaping flaw in his technique is something he needs to rectify at the earliest.
- Liverpool’s Champions League dreams are all but over
Champions League will seemingly not be returning to Anfield next season. Liverpool are 7 points behind nearest competitor City, and though their remaining run of fixtures is much easier than both Manchester clubs, they do face a stiff task with an away trip to Stamford Bridge in May. With 7 games to go, Liverpool will be hoping for Manchester United and City to drop a few points, and it seems that the red half of Manchester is more likely to do that. United face City this weekend, followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge the following weekend, and another tough away test at Everton at the end of April. In May, United will welcome a visit from an in form Arsenal and a trip to Selhurst Park to face Alan Pardew’s resurgent Crystal Palace. Apart from the Manchester Derby, City’s only ‘difficult’ fixture comes with a trip to White Hart Lane in May, but with their recent run of form (only 3 wins in the last 6), Anfield will be singing the ‘You Never Walk Alone’ anthem with a faint glimmer of hope.
- Arsenal’s efforts seemingly in vain
Arsenal fans could be left with a bittersweet taste in their mouth, yet again. They could go on from here and win all the remaining 7 games, but all Chelsea need to do is secure 15 points from their remaining 8 games. In this period, Chelsea will face United, Arsenal and Liverpool, and Crystal Palace as well, but it seems very unlikely for them to lose the plot at this stage. Whatever be the case, like always, this Premier League title race will go right down to the wire.