Kai Havertz makes critics look silly again after Arsenal heroics provide perfect Porto boost

Kai Havertz’s fourth goal in as many games saved Arsenal against Brentford and once again silenced his critics following the surprising £65m summer transfer from Chelsea

Kai Havertz succeeded in making his critics look silly once again following latest Arsenal heroics.

 

Frankly, we’ve been spoilt rotten with the big wins and goals galore, it was about time that Arsenal gave supporters a nervous evening with another last-minute winner. Last season was peppered with them and the first half of the season featured a number of its own too.

Kai Havertz was of course the man of the evening and once again receives the plaudits for his winning moment. However, the Emirates Stadium was a buzz with support and an attitude which certainly needs to continue building toward Tuesday – perhaps Arsenal’s biggest game of the season.

With that in mind, it was so important to get the win and go top of the table before both Liverpool and Manchester City face off at Anfield. From the night before, however, there were plenty of successes and some frustrations that we need to discuss

Successes

Again, and again, and again

That is six goal contributions in four games, scoring in each of them, with this one being the biggest of the bunch. Ironically, it has not been his aerial presence which has been the biggest threat since finding top form. But it is welcomed with open arms as the German continues to make his critics look rather silly.

A firm lesson in perhaps not rushing to conclusions. Were supporters right to have concerns?

Without question, yes; especially as the confidence of Havertz was on the floor and performances weren’t what was expected of a £65million signing. However, when we now look at how the likes of £72million Nicolas Pepe integrated or £46.5million Alexandre Lacazette never necessarily made a consistent impact – Havertz is showing fantastic promise.

Showing steel

As mentioned, outside of the FC Porto away clash, Arsenal have made things look very easy and soared to the top of people’s estimations for the title. However, there was always going to be a challenge on the horizon which asked questions of the Gunners.

Perhaps when Declan Rice gave them the lead they didn’t expect the clash to play out quite like it did. With the mistake made just before the break, it brought back some of the memories of the gutting goal conceded to Liverpool last month.

Just like in that game, however, Mikel Arteta’s side rallied and with the help of an excellent Emirates Stadium crowd they were able to keep up the pressure and eventually, unlike in Portugal, they found the breakthrough. It showed mettle and steel which will surely come in handy in midweek.

A European boost

That was Arsenal’s eighth league win in a row and the only blotch on their post-Dubai forays is that unfortunate defeat in Portugal. When FC Porto come visit north London on Tuesday it is set to be one of the most exciting atmospheres of the season and Mikel Arteta said as much after yesterday’s win.

“Yeah but this stadium is going to have the energy that you have never seen in your life, because we haven’t done it for 14 years,” he said. “Bring your noise, bring your energy, your passion into that stadium and something beautiful is going to happen.”

The pressure will be the highest it has been, the expectation equally so. How this side perform and without Gabriel Martinelli once again – who football.londonspotted on crutches post-match – need to return a big victory.

Frustration

Not what Ramsdale wanted

I want to caveat this by saying I wholeheartedly agree with Mikel Arteta that errors are part of football and it is how you respond to them which will define you. Ramsdale made two big saves, one from Ivan Toney and another from Nathan Collins which will stand as positive reference points of the performance.

However, it will be difficult for most not to remember the game for the incident which gifted Brentford their equaliser. David Raya has been hailed for his distribution and rightfully so as the comparisons are naturally made.

That said, it is worth reminding ourselves how fortunate Raya was that against Manchester City Julian Alvarez didn’t receive the same reward as Yoane Wissa. Ramsdale might have played his last game in an Arsenal shirt and whilst frustrated with how it went, should also be valuing the positive contributions which helped secure the three points – and an honourable mention for his celebration in front of the Brentford fans too; I am going to miss that if he leaves.

Refereeing angst

One thing Arsenal will not be relying on this season is much help from the officials. Thomas Frank attempted to claim that Kai Havertz should have been sent off for a dive prior to his header at the end, but considering the situation that would have been incredibly harsh – although, based on what had happened before that point it might not have been a surprise.

Paul Tierney, fresh off his ‘monumental error’ which gifted title challengers Liverpool the foundation for their winning goal at Nottingham Forest was on VAR duty for this game. First, he was unable to spot a clear foul on Leandro Trossard, pulled back and stopped from reaching a cross – identical to how Manchester City were gifted a penalty against Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

Then the tug on Gabriel Magalhaes. Yet again, nothing was given but thankfully by this time the Gunners had the lead and soon the three points.

22 days to go

That was Arsenal’s last league game until March 31 when they travel up to the Etihad Stadium to face Man City. With the Chelsea game postponed, despite their title rivals playing each other this weekend, it means that Mikel Arteta has the task of maintaining momentum and recovering form when the international break concludes in just under three weeks’ time.

 

There are positives for each of the three possible outcomes of the game between Liverpool and City. However, a draw would guarantee the Gunners’ position as league leaders for the duration of the time away from league action and with the title in their hands for the first time in many months with just 10 games to go.

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