Dortmund v Arsenal
Let’s be honest now, I am not sure there is a side in the Premier League that would have withstood the battering we took last night? There are several who would have had more success on the counter attack than we did, including our next opponents Aston Villa. But hats off to Dortmund: Klopp had them up and ready. Every player was on board with what had to be done, and they were fit enough to carry it off.
From an Arsenal perspective, disappointing doesn’t cover it. Part of that problem lies with our high expectation for this season, and some results have given plenty a reason to believe it was in their grasp. The easy win in the Community Shield, taken at face value, it might. The truth was a little different? The resurgence of Wilshere and the 4-1-4-1 formation in the previous game against Man City gave hope of a similar line-up to do the business against a far better opponent.
Again the reality revealed flaws. The few opportunities that people saw of Bellerin pre-season, agreed with Arsene Wenger that he was ready for the step up? This was confirmed on the vote ‘Who will make the most impact this season’ (from the academy), and 62% had made Bellerin the clear winner ahead of Akpom. Regulars of this site will know I have been longing for Bellerin to have some game time, as I am a great fan, but my vote went with the 2% realists who see more coming from Isaac Hayden than young Hector. To me, he is a natural born winger who can tackle. That does not make him a right back, no matter how much Arsene wants it. He will always commit to whatever was asked of him, as he did last night, and if he is asked to go in again, he will not hesitate. But without any premier league minutes under his belt, it was asking a lot … but he will learn from it, not shirk from it.
I am beginning to think that both Per Mertersacker and Ozil are still mentally adjusting to life in the league, and only their experience is getting them through games. Such a contrast to the confident decision making that we saw last season, that is barely recognisable now?
Here again, the expectation level from our new signings, which certainly has had its bright moments; but to gel as a team, the cracks start to appear, and the optimism quickly fades away?
How to take positives out of a game when only one player came out unblemished by error, is difficult. But history tells us that Arsenal do bounce back. The Villa shock result last season is a good example. This was certainly a wake up call in every department. Not an easy fix this time, without assistance from our manager?
Most of our problems stem from poor decision making, under extreme pressure it has to be said, but it is not a good enough excuse. We know who they are, and the stats back this up.
Bellerin we can give some leeway to for the above reasons, and despite being up against it, he made second highest passes behind Wilshere, and 13 of the 19 in the final third.
Szczesny has no such leeway when dillydallying over a clearance that could have cost us another goal, as he is a repeat offender! He did of course pull off some superb stops which saved us from real embarrassment.
Mertersacker, normally the safest of player to play out of defence, but time and again passes were being intercepted. He did make several headed clearances, but also was caught up-field, and no matter how hard he tried, the lack of pace to get back was revealed to all? We were chasing the game in the second half, to be fair, but why were so many bodies committed to attack with seconds to go before half-time? Poor judgement call again, by somebody?
Koscielny really put a defensive shift, and if it wasn’t for the misplaced passes, he could have taken MOTM in a canter. There were just too many of those, but he comes away in credit overall?
Gibbs was probably the pick of players playing to their form. 2 from 2 in tackles, and made a great run into the box to lay on a guilt edge chance for Welbeck, who just hasn’t got that edge of an instinctive striker (at the moment) to take a half yard step back so the ball would fall to his feet. Instead he got tangled up in trying to adjust and missed the opportunity. Gibbs had another opportunity in the box, but that too was not to be. He made 6 interceptions too, so he at least is near the top of his game. However, he was involved in the attack down the left, just before half time that led to the first Dortmund goal. Quick as he is, from that deep he arrived just too late to be in a position to tackle Immobile.
Wilshere was left trailing in that breakaway, and allowed that multi cup winning (NOT! ex manager) Souness in the studio to moan at him for not making the effort. Ignoring the fact that Wilshere is not a Gibbs or a Bellerin, having only a short burst of pace, not a 35 yard lung buster? He did have the highest number of passes, in a game of low figures, at 49, but only 1 successful one in their box? He did win 5 of his 6 tackles which showed his battling qualities against overwhelming odds, but it was a far cry of the promise of the previous game? He started to show his brittle side towards the end, and got a needless yellow card for a stupid foul. On a bad night, he was one among many who failed to live up to expectation.
Arteta? If I am kind, I would say he almost matched expectation, in that he was the wrong choice, (if there was a choice?) in the wrong position, weakly supported by the wrong players .. and that goes partly towards my expectation of him being too slow, and he failed to reach that level. It is almost like he has aged 3 years since the end of last season, and he is now looking like a player well on the way down. But to be fair to him, he should never have been put in the game of high speed tackling? The 20% pass failure rate for that position says it all?
Ramsey, for a player who often hits the 100 mark for pass completion, but a lowly 39 tells you how far below his best he is? Going forward he did set up a chance for Welbeck, but a single positive in a game of this magnitude is what he is struggling with?
Ozil, what can I say? Our main creative midfielder only had 23 passes, and only 3 in the final 3rd???
We are not going to win many games with that kind of service? He tried both wings, ran deep on Bellerin’s side, got booked for a none-tackle, but totally ineffective in anywhere it mattered.
‘Houston, we have a problem’ …
Alexis, industrious? hard working? These are the words we have come accustomed to associate with our super hero. 6 successful dribbles out of 9 sounds great too. Poor first touch does not gel so well? He was dispossessed 5 times, and several passes/touches led to turnovers, and crucially this would be at a time when we were attacking, and thus vulnerable to a counter. Part of this is probably down to the gelling process with team mates, and that has not had time to work through? But maybe there is a little clarity appearing in the rose tint department? He has got to get on the same wavelength or his talents will be wasted too?
Welbeck, sods law he will be second behind Ozil for the biggest criticism, but again, he can be given some leeway. If Arsene had any doubts about signing him, it is probably because he requires a different service to OG, and they may unlearn all they have been doing for the last two seasons? He is not OG, and he probably never will be? However, confidence can do wonders for a striker. He came into the side full of it, but that near miss against Man City probably took the edge off it. Here again, he had a chance to put one in at the far post, but body angle, or not twisting the foot back enough, made this attempt squirm wider than the other. These things will come.
Where is Thierry Henry when you want him, because he is just the player to help him in this department? He will come good, but in games like this, the pressure for every attempt to succeed is immense.
Cazorla, should have made a difference if it was Ozil that was failing? I have to say, he was on 5 or 10 minutes before I remembered he was a sub. He was never going to save the day because the game had gone by then.
Ox looked lively from the off, and forced a corner almost immediately. But like Santi, the good ship Arsenal had already taken on board too much water, and its movement was sluggish.
Podolski came on with only ten minutes left, and got one driving run into the box, but the keeper was out quickly and it spilled out for a goal kick.
So that was my view on individual performances. Now for the collective?
Formation: Was this to blame?
While they notionally lined up in a 4-1-4-1, it never remained that way. For pretty much the first 30 minutes we were compressed into a 4-5-1 defensive position, with only Welbeck high. The flurry of early corners, and hasty clearances that led to yet another loss of possession, it was more all hands to the pump, rather than a clearly thought out plan. So that part cannot be put down to the formation?
Going forwards, when we started to get a foothold in the game, for the most part it broke down as we crossed the halfway line. However, following a very good build up, a missed chance which resulted in a throw in to us in the final third, we had 8 or 9 of our players in their half? Only Koscielny and Szczesny at one point in ours. So when we lost possession, and Immobile set off, Kos was about 5 yards ahead of him, Mertersacker had just crossed the halfway line about the same distance back but nearer our right-hand touchline, and Gibbs, who was guarding our left flank just inside their half. He had a good 10 yards to make up. Wilshere also joined the chase, but barely caught up with Mertersacker. The climax came when Immobile reached the box and it looked like Kos had it covered. Gibbs was right on his heels by now, and if the striker had run to the byline he could have got his tackle in. As luck would have it, a bit of a bobble off Immobile’s knee that took it away from Gibbs position, but the striker used that to get ahead of Kos to score.
A real sickener on the stroke of half time, but you have to wonder at the thinking of so many bodies involved in the attack. If Gibbs, who had been involved in the early part of the attack had dropped back inside our half, Kos might have been that bit deeper? Who knows?
The second half started how the first finished. Immobile chipped a great ball on to Aubamayang, who split the two CBs, and Szczesny came out and slipped at the vital moment. PEA also nearly went down himself, but just kept his feet to slip the ball into the net before Kos had a chance to recover.
From then on we did not look that threatening,… only threatened.
Szczesny came out to make a flying header with the full knowledge the collision with PEA was unlikely that he would be the damaged party, but once he had launched himself into the header, there were no brakes in mid air.
Kos also nearly did himself a mischief, colliding with a goal post in an attempt to avert yet another goal. Only the usual 65 minute subs did lift our attack somewhat, but we continued to look vulnerable. In fact, Mik the prick, having got himself booked in the opening few minutes for a blatant dive, seemed to be so intent scoring, it screwed him up completely. There was one breakaway where they were three on two… our two CB’s … he chose to shoot, high and handsome. Like I said, what a prick!
There are so few positives coming out of the game, except the one from history. Is this the giant kick up the backside that shakes this mental lethargy out of their system?
We have to hope so, but what is baffling is that so many had a poor game?
Perhaps it is simple case of trying too hard. Certainly with Ramsey we have seen it all before. He was even doing those heel flicks again?? Wilshere cannot lift the team on his own. Alexis too needs to settle more. Mert needs to get his calm, dependable head back on. Ozil needs a quiet corner somewhere and completely regroup. Arteta really needs to face up to life on the bench, especially after January? Will Walcott return bring a shape to our attack, when he returns? Will Chambers hold down the RB slot, and not get moved sideways for a crisis CB role? Will somebody give Hayden a run out before he is called into full time action?
The only ones who can prove some of the answers will be out on Saturday against Gabby and his gang of thugs….
The reality of our form looks pretty bleak, but we have a few fresh bodies to throw into the mix, so like last season’s blip, our season starts now.
Keep the faith.
Written by: Gerry.