Anderlecht – The Review
The title of the preview ended with – ‘Arsene should refocus’ : to anybody who saw last night’s game, it was more ‘deja vu’?
It was a repeat of the Hull game: not in exact detail, but neither opponent got that crucial two goal lead. More by luck than judgment it has to be said, as both could have got that breathing space that would have secured all three points, had they just had that extra bit of quality and experience up front.
Anderlecht were robbed. This crime in day time would be smash and grab, at night time, burglary.
We entered their ground and stole all three points.
Why do we not feel like celebrating? We are well on the way to getting out of the Group stage of the Champions League … for the 13th time after all! In the cold light of day, the game still looks as bad as it did in real time? Yes, the points are very, very useful in the greater scheme of things. But nothing can paper over cracks this large?
So for the inquest.
Personally, and for those who watched the same TV channel as myself, I saw what Paul Merson saw when the team and line up was announced. He said the balance was all wrong, as he ticked off the names of players who like to get forwards, possibly leaving Flamini and the back 5 to defend.
Refocus??? This problem was highlighted with the heat map last time, where 7 of our players were shown to have spent the average time crowded into a small central to right area of the box.
So more of the same could be expected?
Good grief, Jack Wilshere actually left Alexis Sanchez on the deck when they tussled for the ball, and there was another player within touching distance too.
Why does this happen? Perhaps because of the 5 players ‘who like to get forward’, and none of them want to stay wide?
A blind man and his dog could see that. So we not only lacked width, we lacked balance too.
Our only wide players were the full backs, which left us exposed at the back …. because of so many ‘like to get forward’. Calum Chambers was left for pace by both Anderlecht’s left sided players, and worryingly, he instinctively goes to grab them back. I am amazed that he did not get a card for it.
Throughout the first half it was unbelievable how this young Belgian side could get into decent positions, only for lack of experience or quality to fail when it mattered.
Meanwhile, we had no such excuse on those grounds, as we barely got an opportunity ourselves. A combination of lack of movement, causing a delay in passing, plain poor passing, and poor execution were our downfall. Santi Cazorla with the latter, when he received a great cut back from Alexis in front of goal, and skied it into row Z. Mind, this is only highlighted by the fact it was probably our clearest opportunity, the rest were squandered long before they got to the box.
If we were going to use our players that ‘like to get forward’, you would think that when we got possession back in our half that the counter attack should have been on? Merson summed it up at half time when he said:
‘It was as though everybody was waiting for somebody else to do something. Nobody wanted the ball’
Two examples: Mertersacker is inside our half. He is looking to make a pass forward. For I don’t know how long, he crept forward, and forward, to well inside their half …and not one of the (expletive deletives) could be arsed to offer themselves!
Second example: Monreal, coming out of defence, midway in our half, plays a perfectly respectable pass, cross field to Flamini … inexplicably, he stepped over it to leave it for Chambers on the wing without looking … and the Anderlecht guy behind him gratefully took and ran straight at our now exposed centre backs.
You could expect to see less in a Sunday League game?
We came out a bit brighter in the second half. Passing and moving it a bit quicker. But it did not last.
We should give an awful lot of credit to this ‘inferior team’ whose club had not won any of their previous eleven CL encounters, and lost the previous five …. but THIS team, of 2014, were a well disciplined, enthusiastic, collective of youthful endeavour with plenty of ability, and soon things were back to the way the first half penned out. So much so, on 50 minutes I worked out that I would have to wait 15 minutes before the first substitution, and started counting down the minutes …
Oh goody, they’ve scored! Subs on … Err No, and no reaction in our players either!
Chamberlain for Flamini.
Excuse me. Did we not do this against Hull, and end up crowding the box even more?
Campbell for Welbeck.
This is different, and unfortunately for Danny Boy, no surprise. I suspect that because of the crowded box he had little room to operate …. and too often, he was second to the ball anyway.
So we press, they counter. They press, and look better than us to be fair. They hit the bar. Martinez made a couple of good saves. We had a shot on target.
Podolski on for Wilshere. To be honest you could have taken any of our midfielders off earlier and it would have been an improvement.
The first thing Podolski did was indicate ‘two up front’, to Alexis I assume, as JC had spent his 10 minutes moving in off the right wing. Effectively for the most part, as his passes were getting through, even if the recipient did not always do the right thing with it: hence my comment in the previous paragraph.
This move unsettled the Anderlecht manager, so he took off his best attacker, and replaced him with a defensive midfielder. Mistake or not, who knows?
We were suddenly more urgent, focused: still a little disjointed, but giving it a go.
Then we had the 89th minute a surprise combination.
Chambers had a clear run down the line. Crossed it in full stride … over the heads of the near post guys … over hit or a repeat of the chip to Gibbs coming in late in the Hull game? Who cares. Gibbs hit it cleanly into the far corner.
Only Ox urged the players to cut the celebrations, as he carried the ball back for the restart.
1 minute 45 seconds later, Gibbs with space on the left, put in a super far post cross for Alexis to chest down, and despite a slip he was first to the ball, turned, fired in a low shot across goal which hit a defender and shot out to the waiting Podolski. If he controlled it, and it looked very much like he did, it was magical because the ball dropped about 6 inches from his left boot … and the next second it was bulging the roof of the net.
Heartbreak for Anderlecht.
We would be wildly celebrating if we had played the 90 minutes like that instead of just 9.
We did not and this is why a victory feels like a loss?
A couple of after thoughts:
Is Wilshere’s suspension ‘a blessing in disguise’, as we have now rescued two games when Wilshere has left the pitch?
Is it too soon to say we are missing Mesut Ozil?
I am sure you get the connection in the above.
So go and discuss it endlessly ….
Then regroup and support the players.
Written by: Gerry.