Well that was a disappointing game and outcome. We sat deep and invited pressure, with the aim to beat the Spuds on the counter. Prior to the game I was very much for us sitting deep and playing compact, and I praise Wenger for doing so. And initially it paid off handsomely, as we scored a goal from a sharp and incisive counter – with a lucky deflection off Giroud’s leg, mind you – early on in the game.
Playing so deep and compact and with such little possession of the ball, is still quite alien to us. It is not the Arsenal way and we should not expect us to be brilliant at it straightaway. Yes it worked against the Northern Oilers last month, but it did not work against the Southern Oilers earlier in the season. I am pleased that we are playing deeper in these sorts of games, though. Many of us have wanted this for a long time, and although we lost against the Spuds, and overall deservedly so, it was still the best tactics against them. We will learn our lessons from these encounters and get better at playing deep and compact in order to win games on the counter.
And the one thing we need to analyse is how the team was unable to release the pressure they were under and did not counter more effectively. The easiest thing to do is to say that such and such were not good enough or had a bad day, and that we missed such and such, etc.
There is merit in some of the criticism some of our players got after the game, and yes we missed the likes of Theo, Alexis, Wilshere, Ox, Rosicky and Debuchy yesterday (all not in the starting eleven). But the players on the pitch were all very good and many of them were key in getting three points in Manchester recently.
Our prolonged inability to break through the pressure line of the Spuds needs analysing and then we need to get better at this through hard work in training. We just cannot expect Arsenal to be brilliant straightaway at what is an unnatural way of playing the game for us. The Spuds’ manager outsmarted us in midfield and Wenger was unable to break it in the second half. This can of course happen, and let’s not forget the referee had an absolute shocker, allowing them to foul us without consequences and handing out yellow cards to our players willy-nilly.
Yet we had chances to take the lead again after they had equalised, and football is, whether we like it or not, still a game of chance and luck to some extent. And for the same money the BFG would have earned us a penalty for what was a very silly foul on him. Wenger is also right in stating that both goals against us were bad defensive mistakes.
But the best team won and we have another game in two days; and except for the title, there is everything to play for, with the Northern Oilers just seven points away from us in second place. The boys will learn from this encounter and the next time we apply similar tactics against a strong opponent away, or even at home, we will be better at it.
Eight positives from the game:
- Mertesacker lead his defence very well and he read the game perfectly. Sitting deep and playing compact really suits Per and he handled the pressure very well. The Spuds had chances but many were shots from outside the box as the defence was able to keep the Spuds away from getting inside our box. He was not helped by a lack of discipline and protection from our right-sided players – Bellerin and Welbeck – and yet he made a number of vital interceptions and clearances stemming from danger from the Spuds’ left wing.
- Coquelin was solid and tenacious, and most importantly in such a heated derby, disciplined and composed. He protected the back-four very well and was able to match the Spuds’ energy levels during most of the game.
- Ozil scored another fine goal: three in three now, and that is just the part he needed to add to his game at Arsenal, as he scored just five goals in 26 PL encounters last season. He got outmuscled a few times, but more than once through a foul on him. Mesut suffered a lot from our inability to play the ball out of our defence and therefore was not always very effective on the day.
- Monreal was up for this and there was no way through our left back. He was tenacious and aggressive and played a very professional game for 90 minutes.
- Our starting tactics for the game were spot on, and for me this is a big positive this season. We showed them too much respect and were unable to release the pressure enough in the second half, so, as per the above, we need to improve further. But our compact and deep sitting approach to these sort of games is a welcome, necessary change.
- Ospina handled the pressure well and his focus was strong throughout the game. His early Kane safe was crucial and he was never intimidated during the game. But he is also quite small, and I wonder whether this was the main cause for him parrying the ball back into the danger zone on a number of occasions when dealing with shots from outside the box. He was lucky to get away with this on more than one occasion and I reckon a taller keeper would have been able to tip the ball that led the Spuds’ equaliser over the crossbar. But his composure and energy were brilliant and as such he kept us in the game for a long time (but not without a healthy dollop of luck).
- We have only one more hard away game to go this season, as we played at Pool, Everton, Chavs, Northern Oilers, Saints, and now Spuds already. We are in strong position to push on towards the second spot but key is to keep momentum going.
- Alexis will be back soon. 😉
So let’s not despair but see it as a big learning opportunity for the boys and Wenger. The biggest enemy of momentum is lack of self belief, and the best way to strengthen our belief is by winning the next game. OGAAT! 🙂
Bring on the Foxes on Tuesday.