Post- match thoughts: Arsenal v Man City.
Today’s match was totally spoiled by referee Dean at the very start of the game. Koz should have known better, but who would have thought he would be given a red card by Dean on top of conceding a penalty?! I cannot believe that an experienced referee can opt to give a straight red and a penalty for the same offence in one of the ‘Super Sunday’ matches, so early in the game: what a total disappointment! Letter of the law or not, it was very harsh on Arsenal; and what should have been a fair and fantastic battle between two ‘footballing’ sides became a damp squib.
Arsenal, already out of sorts without its anchor, Arteta, as a result of a muscular injury, found it hard to adjust to the new reality of having to play with ten men, and MC smelled blood. Despite the introduction of Mertesacker, who usually helps the team to keep organised and focussed at the back, Arsenal were unable to bring some necessary organisation to our defence after Koscielny was sent off. By the time Vermaelen and Mertesacker had restored some order, Arsenal were already 2-0 down.
All game we struggled for control and shape, but we will never know how we would have fared if Arsenal had been able to play with 11 against 11 for the entire game. With Theo centrally up-front, it is so important that at least two midfielders push higher up the pitch to find him, or one of the two wingers. The surely knackered Cazorla struggled once again to put his stamp on the game, and to give us shape and focus from the key position that he holds. I find it unbelievable that Rosicky remains on the bench at the moment, but enough has been said about that!
Jack battled all over the pitch, and was so desperate to conduct our play from the back. But the players in front of him did not make the runs needed for him to pick them out, and without any proper wingers we were predictable and ineffective. Shall I say it again: Jack is enormous for us and our best on-field leader.
It was good to see that he did not have to fight on his own today. Vermaelen recovered strongly after the first 30 minutes and was immense in the second half. The same can be said about Sagna who played like the old warrior again, and what a beast he was for us today!
Diaby was very rusty and in my view it was a mistake to play him in Arteta’s role after such a long absence. The deepest midfield position is such a crucial position, both in terms of shape to the team and protection of the back-four, and I reckon it would have been better if Wilshere would have played there today; with Diaby in the more open role normally occupied by little Jack.
It is so hard to evaluate Theo’s performance today, especially as we played with 10 men for almost the entire game. As I have written in previous posts, I don’t believe we can play with Pod on the left and Theo in the middle without proper wing-play from the right. It was disappointing that Wenger had to take Ox off, and I believe it would have been better to take Pod off instead.
However, Theo’s inability to come for the ball in the air, and even on the ground, and to shield it so our other attackers and midfielders can come closer to the opposition’s box was very evident today. And when you play with ten men, this is an absolute necessity in my view.
In hindsight, it would have been better to take either Pod or Ox of for Mertesacker and replace Theo with Giroud. The Frenchman would have given us more support in my view.
I was not impressed with Theo today, but then I was also disappointed about the lack of shape in our team for most of the match, and the poor support we gave him; although having to play with only ten men had a lot to do with this, I reckon.
The sending off makes it a lot more difficult to give a fair verdict of Theo’s performance, but I reckon Wenger will be scratching his hair tonight on what to do with regards to his formation and strike-force, going forward.
Once Kompany was also sent off as well, which probably would not have been a red card if Dean had not given Koscielny one earlier, the balance of the game, which had evened out in the second half, turned towards us, as we pressed more consistently for a goal. However, regular misunderstandings between the players, and a lack composure by a number of individual players in front of goal, meant that we did not manage to score, despite trying very hard.
We should be encouraged by the second half performance, despite some of the shortcomings of our team as described above. Dean spoilt the game though, and I hope he will not get away with it this time.
Written by: Total Arsenal.