Three very valuable points and seven out of nine over the last week. These are the hard facts and the rest is relatively unimportant. It is now all about survival, getting in the top-four, and build further over the summer.
However, our performance today against 10-men Fulham was an absolute pain to watch. Of course, it is our third game in a week and all that bright light makes one a bit tired…… but we made this so hard for ourselves and we looked so much like a team who played together for the first time; something we have witnessed more than a few times this season. It remains a mystery to me!
Arsenal’s extra man advantage meant we could not leave Arteta and Ramsey to sit back a bit and absorb pressure – something we have done regularly in recent away games – but that they needed to play higher up the pitch and keep Fulham locked-in at their own half.
Both the Welshman and the Spaniard have given a lot for us against the Canaries and Toffees, and it was clear that they did not have the same level of energy, composure and discipline as they did in recent games. But regardless of this, it was also once again evident that both players slow our play down and struggle with the creative, attacking side of midfield play; and for me, they were the main reason for our inability to stamp our authority on the game today, once Fulham were reduced to ten men.
I believe both players are very valuable squad players and especially Arteta deserves to be a first team starter again this season, but with Diaby being Diaby and Wilshere and Rosicky currently struggling with having the continuous health and stamina for such demanding positions, we are a bit light in midfield at the moment.
And it showed badly today. With Sidwell out, we should have dominated the midfield and worked gradually and systematically towards scoring our second goal, but we remained shapeless and clueless for large parts of the game.
It also did not help that our wings are not working at the moment. Santi and Theo did not stick to the wing enough to give the necessary width to our game, and they also did not link up with their FB’s enough to give another dimension to our football. It is starting to look like our wings have become a dirty, infested area where no attackers want to be. This will need to change.
Most of our attacking play was focussed centrally, and was rather very laboured, slow and predictable.
We also witnessed again Arsenal’s difficulties with passing round the ball. How often do we see effective triangles between our players? We used to play close together and pass our way towards the box, centrally or via the wing, but now players do the opposite: as soon as a pass is made towards somebody in space, the passer runs away; leaving the recipient with very few passing opportunities behind. This is sooo un-Arsenal like; it is unbelievable!
The lack of passing, combined with some bad first touches throughout most of the team, and the absence of courage to find quick and risky through-balls – especially Arteta and Ramsey seem allergic to taking a bit of risk in their passing – are making us look very mundane at the moment. In a game like this, where we played a team with a man less for eighty minutes, it really showed up.
And I don’t think this will change again this season. Rosicky tried his best to add some quality to our play, and Cazorla always adds something, but as a team we looked laboured; lacking invention, imagination and thrust. Jack made a positive contribution but it was also not enough to regain composure, purpose and control over the game.
Luckily, the BFG had an inspired day both in defence, and especially, up-front, as his header at Fulham’s far post, from Koz’s ‘assist’ made all the difference.
Giroud and Szczesny conspired to give it almost all away in the latter stages of the game: the former by getting himself sent-off, albeit harsh, and the latter by spilling the ball from a safe he made from a free-kick which led to a goal, which luckily but rightfully, was ruled offside.
The performances of both Koz and the BFG were one of the very few positives today as they managed somehow to keep a clean sheet for us today.
We are now in a paradoxical situation where we play well below-par at times but still collect seven out of nine points during a pivotal week for us. It would be foolish to count on our luck continuing for the remainder of the season, and with Giroud out for at least one game – unless his card gets rescinded – Arsene and Steve have their work cut out to somehow get this team to play with purpose, thrust and invention again.
Written by: TotalArsenal.