Now let me begin by saying that I like Arteta and he is a good player. The game against West Brom was a difficult one by all measures. I still think it is a game we could have won had we had taken them as seriously as we did Napoli, especially in the first 15 minutes. We were in complete control but looked like we were toying with them, rather than trying to score, unlike against the Italians. Anyway, credit to the team for winning the point in the end.
We have been playing very well, up until we met with the baggies. So what changed? In my opinion, it is the fact that Wenger has forced Arteta back into the team, without really looking at the balance. Against Napoli, we needed a double pivot to neutralize the threat posed by Hamsik, and it worked perfectly. Against WBA however, forcing Arteta alongside Flamini had a number of negative effects. First of all, it meant that Ramsey and Wilshere were pushed out wide. Wilshere had a shitter of a first half and it is only until he was brought back in the middle that we began to feel his presence.
As for Ramsey, we know he’s played wide before. However it has its downsides. Firstly, on the wing his movement is somewhat limited, and more so when playing in front of Jenkinson. This is because Jenko always bombs forward so Ramsey had to do a lot of covering work which in the end shackled him. Secondly, his influence and energy in the middle of the park which (dare I say) has been one of the main reasons we have dominated games, was sorely missed. You see Arteta is very good at reading the game and calm it down from deep, but lately it seems that’s all he’s good at. Do you know that against WBA he attempted only one forward pass in the opposition’s half, which was intercepted? All he does in pass sideways.
Arteta is no where near as good at dispossessing players as Ramsey and Flamini are. That’s what has made that partnership so good. Flamini will sit in front of the back four and Ramsey will support him when needed but then bomb forward and cause havoc on the other end. Ramsey also presses the ball very high (to great effect) which helps us win possession in very dangerous places. Both Flamini and Ramsey have a tenacity that neutralizes physical opponents. Yesterday you saw how we were bullied in the middle. Let’s not forget Ramsey’s goal threat is neutralized when he’s played out wide. Given his form, had he been played where he’s supposed to, he could and probably would have won us the game.
Second of all, bringing in Arteta gave Flamini the license to roam forward and this gave Sessegnon the space he needed to really terrorize us, which he did. When Ramsey and Flamini play together, they both know that Flamini protects the back and Ramsey moves forward. And because of Ramsey’s incredible engine, it works even when we are under pressure. Arteta just sits deep. This meant that Ozil was largely isolated and was therefore crowded out and neutralized. This made West Brom’s defending very easy. With Wilshere and Ramsey out wide, Mulumbu just needed to take Ozil out and they had a handle on us.
Flamini was the one (of the defensive two) going forward and let’s be honest, he’s no Ramsey. He had a few shots on goal which he hit straight at the keeper. Ramsey would have done much better. Even putting all this logic aside, if there’s a player who this season has earned the right to play where he feels most comfortable, it’s Aaron Ramsey. This game was very similar to the one we played against Marseille, except in that one Ramsey was played through the middle and won us the game.
To conclude, I will reiterate that I have nothing against Arteta. The thing is with the form of our three central midfielders (Flamini, Ramsey and Ozil) it is unfortunate but he is the one to lose his place, at least for now. I feel that we showed great character to salvage a point. That said, this is a game that could have gone either way and that shouldn’t be the case. If West Brom were better goal scorers, we could have lost. There’s a saying that goes ”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The team is anything but broke so changing one of its fundamental elements will only disrupt a flow that has been steadily building over the past few weeks.
On the plus side, Spurs were humiliated yesterday. COYG!!!!
Written by: Marcus.