Everton – Arsenal Afterthoughts
Never was the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ more appropriate: 45 minutes with Alexis up top and 45 minutes with Ollie up top made a world of difference. In principle, we all like the idea of three ‘free to move’ attackers up top, who terrorize the opponent and bang in goals for fun. But this is not something we just do by lining up very good players: and Mesut, Alexis and Alex are three very fine attackers indeed. It takes time and practice: players have to get used to each other, understand each other weaknesses and strengths and develop an automatic, telepathic understanding with each other.
The first half was very hard on the eye. Our midfield worked well and we had a lot of the attacking play, but as soon as we got near the box it was total mayhem. There was plenty of movement and energy levels were high, but many passes went astray – especially in front and behind the opponent’s ‘D’. We looked clueless and, most importantly, shapeless and like our attackers were put together up-front for the first time.
Of course, it did not help that we conceded a poor goal from a set-piece and that bad refereeing allowed the second one to stand. Just as against CP, when we also did not score in the first part of the first half after a dominant phase of the game, we conceded unnecessary as a result of bad defending of a set piece. There is work to be done there, but as the BFG is back now I am sure we will get on top this gradually.
I was actually quite shocked to see Wenger starting without OG up-top. I reckon he did this to save him for the most important game of the season so far – our second CL game on Wednesday (and not to ‘punish’ him for a bad performance in Istanbul).
I have tried to explain to fellow bloggers on BK why Giroud is so important to Wenger’s Arsenal on a number of occasions over the last few years. Ever since Chamakh was bought, Arsene has been meaning to have a ‘holding striker’, for lack of a better word, who enables midfielders and ‘wing players’ to get involved in our attacking efforts: this is vital to his next ‘Wengerball’ team. OG’s three top performance objectives are: level of effectiveness in holding on to the ball and cooperating with fellow midfielders and attackers, setting up attacks and assists, AND score goals – and in that order of importance. Most fellow Gooners judge OG’s performances in the reverse order… and that is where you are getting it wrong in my humble opinion, and why I understand, to some extent, your frustrations.
When Van Judas was injured for the first half of the season a few seasons ago, Chamakh played the holding striker role and we banged in 2.3 goals per game. In the second part of that season, and the subsequent season too, we managed about 1.9 goals per game, even though the traitorous ‘I will Always Be a Gunner’ grey-haired one was in the form of his life. We became dependent on him and all our attacking play was aimed at him: he delivered but as a team we were not scoring enough. Yet, under Chamakh’s attacking guidance, the team did very well, albeit with super midfielders in the team, like Cesc and Nasri, who knew how to put them away all right. And there is a hint for you all. 😉
Chamakh did not score enough himself and he could not deal with the criticism very well, so on comes Giroud from Montpellier. Giroud was an improvement of Chamakh, as he could play the holding attacker role really well, whilst also scoring more goals in the process.
It was amazing to see how much criticism was labelled at OG, and how little was aimed at the underperforming midfielders yesterday. Ox lacked composure and missed an easier chance than OG, Ozil was rustier than the Titanic, Ramsey’s boat was not floating and Jack is still missing the final sharpness. Yet, very few, to my despair, picked up how much OG changed the game for us once he came on. We had shape and focus again, there was directness to our play and OG was in the middle of much of it. Yes he missed a decent chance after being thirty seconds on the pitch…. unforgiveable! 🙂
Everton were very well set up though, and their double DM pivot made it really hard for us. But it was The Gunners and not the Toffees who travelled and played in Istanbul just four days ago, and who still had the endurance and energy to push on for the full 90+ minutes, and somehow overcome a 2-0 deficit – for the first time in three seasons apparently – and win not just an important point, but a lot of team spirit and belief in the process too. The latter is absolutely vital for a side with trophy winning amibitions!
I am convinced that if we had started with OG, and Alexis and Mesut (or Alex instead of Mesut) ‘on the wings’, we would have beaten the Toffees yesterday. With Sanogo still injured though, and OG in need of resting for the Besiktas cruncher, Wenger had not much choice but to try Alexis up-front. It did not work out, and he was right, however unusual, to revert back to plan A straight from the start of the second half.
OG’s reintroduction made all the difference: not because he is the prolific striker so many are longing for – far from it; it is because he gives shape to this team’s attack more than anybody else and he is vital in Wenger’s plans – for 2014-2015 at least.
Wenger knows he has a lot of work to do to get the other four attack minded positions effectively populated and to get the best use of a plethora of high quality midfielders and attackers. We still have two important games to come: Besitkas at home and Leicester away. It will take time to find our form again, but with the team spirit on display in recent games, I am positive we can get the needed results. And if we do beat both, we can look back at a very successful mini-start to the season, however unattractive and messy our football has looked at times.
Bread and butter first, the bacon and marmalade will follow soon. 🙂
Written by: TotalArsenal.