Yesterday’s defeat against Swansea hurt less than the draw against Anderlecht, even though the former is a lot more costly. Somehow, I am getting used to Gunners-disappointment – I might even be finding some inner-peace around it all.
Yesterday’s team v Swansea (well done 17HT for getting it spot on!):
I thought the team fought hard and with discipline for a long time, and although our play was far from a compliment to the eye, I was still enjoying it. The goal, a well worked counter-attack between Ox, Wellbeck and the deadly Alexis, fell at the right time, as, of course, it was important to score first.
After that, it was a matter of either absorbing pressure and play counter-football or to keep playing on the attack in order to score the all important second goal. Key is to make a choice and stick to it….
This is easier said than done, especially after giving a three nil lead away against Anderlecht. Nerves played a big role and tactical indecision – on the pitch and on the touchline – proved to be very costly. It also does not help that the only defensive player on our bench is a young, promising, but highly inexperienced, FB: Bellerin. It became very quickly squeaky bum time, and it got worse. 😦
Ramsey had been ineffective: eager yes, but without focus and much control, which is so vital in the b2b/CM role (what was it, hey?). About time to dump the tennis shoes as well…. what is next: sheep and cow patterns?
Flamini, our man of the match by a mile, had been protecting the defence with an aggressive yet disciplined performance. For once we looked solid through the middle of our defence. But on the right flank we were vulnerable and there was very little we could do about it: the chink in the armour was gaping and our RB was imprisoned in his very own torture Chambers. Paradoxically, the opposite flank of Swansea was their most vulnerable area, so it made some sense to keep Ox on the right…
But Chambers, who simply has been playing too many games for a 19 year old, does not appear to deal well at the moment with speedy wingers who like to sprint to the by-line in order to cross into the box (I reckon fatigue is playing a big role here). His latest ‘Tormentero’, the impressive Montero, knew he had the better of the young Englishman and skinned him ruthlessly time and again. This is a real worry for our nr.2 RB, but more about this during the week. Ox still has a lot to learn defensively, and it is fair to say Chambers did not get much quality support from him; and the BFG is not going to help him much either when it comes to outrunning attackers.
Swansea’s equaliser was a chapeau-moment. The wall looked wobbly, but Sigurdsson’s free-kick was simply unstoppable. Nothing was lost yet; in fact, I was convinced we would bounce back from this. But Swansea smelled blood and their manager made the right substitution: the chink needed to be cracked open. Montero got the better of Chambers once again and produced a good cross into the box and a big, fresh CF, Gomis, is there to pounce home. It was reminiscent of a Drogba goal: Gomis out-jumped and out-powered the sorry looking Nacho and Ramsey, leaving Szczesny no chance at all.
We made substitutions and had the game lasted another half an hour we might well have drawn or even won it, but we all knew the game was lost.
I wrote about our soft underbelly after the Anderlecht game, and we all know we need to reinforce our defence and midfield in the middle with steel, speed, skill and character. So let’s not go over this again. The TW is 50 days away and we have a hell of a lot of games to play between now and then. And there might be no suitable players available come the start of the new year. Having said that, Flamini played well and the triangle of Flam, BFG and Nacho held strong for a very long time, allowing Swansea very little in the process.
Having watched Arsenal against Burnley live last week, I reckon we need to give more weight to the number of first team players we have been missing for a long period now. We looked ordinary for a large part of the game; in fact, I have not seen Arsenal lacking so much class throughout the team for a long, long time.
Welbeck really is nowhere near as effective in our team as Giroud. Chambers has to learn a lot to become as solid as Debuchy. Santi is significatly more limited in his attacking play than Ozil. Ramsey, out of form this season, is nowhere near as effective as Jack or veteran Arteta at the moment. Ox has moments of promise, but is still so raw and technically/tactically undisciplined compared to the ‘previously arrived’ Theo. Nacho works his socks off but is only half as good as tiger Koz.
This does not mean that the ‘stand-ins’ are rubbish: far from it! They are all decent to good players who would play well in a team that had very few injuries to their main core. Arsenal can cope with a couple of first teamers out, maybe even three. But there has been such a drop in overall quality over the last few months; and, in my view, this is down to the sheer numbers of injured first teamers. All teams have a core of first choice players, and if too many are injured, sooner or later this will show in their performances.
No Ozil, No Giroud, No Koz, No Theo, No Debuchy, and No Arteta and Jack for the last few weeks – easily £100-120m transfer value – is an incredible bloodletting for any team, and certainly for Arsenal. Too many stand-ins have been too much – or should it be too little – for the team, especially when we play them about twice a week as well.
To me this is the obvious problem – in combination with our lack of defensive cover, of course. Just imagine we can play the team below week in week out for a while, whilst adding a proper DM and a quality CB in January:
We would do a lot, lot better…no doubt about that!
The PL title is lost, but the season is not. The Chavs are rampaging on, and although I can see weaknesses in their team, we are not going to make up the 12 point gap this season.
We have to hope to see our team get back to full strength, or there about, as soon as possible. Add steel in defence and/or midfield in January, and see where we go from there.
In the meantime, Wenger and Bould have to work hard to get the current squad into a solid, confident unit which will see us through this challenging period. The international break has come at the right time, it seems. For once, no Arsenal football for a couple of weeks feels like a relief.
Written by: TotalArsenal.