Sheffield Wednesday – Arsenal: 3-0
Well, that was not what we had hoped for. It was great to meet up with 17HT, his wife and son and they especially deserved a much better performance from the Gunners. It was the poorest away game I have ever watched Arsenal play and Arsene will have to think again about finding the balance between giving the experienced bench warmers a game and allowing the youngsters to shine. I was all for the balance weighing towards the experienced players but only if they are hungry and willing to match and exceed the opposition’s tempo and desire. This was not the case and I don’t think it was due to a number of individuals not giving their all but rather a lack of chemistry and clear attacking strategy in the team.
We clearly missed a playmaker midfielder in the team yesterday. With Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky and Arteta out we are down to our bare bones in terms of experienced options. Ox, as predicted, was given a chance in the hole, but he limped off after just five minutes. It is a real pity that we were not able to see him in action and I reckon Ox will not get many more opportunities to properly announce himself as a first team player. There is money sloshing around at Arsenal and Ox holds an important position, and I just don’t see him making the much needed progression. Sadly (genuinely) his time is running out fast.
No playmaker and a lack of a busy and powerful box to box midfielders meant that Giroud was totally isolated. He tried hard to get us going but was simply powerless. I am sure Wenger saw this too, and with bringing on the unknown to me Bennacer, after yet another injury to a first team player, he tried to change it, but to no avail.
I am a big believer in the importance of Arsenal matching and exceeding the opposition’s energy and desire to win. And when we go to the cold and wet North, we need to be even more determined to win at all cost. I understand to some degree that the senior players cannot easily do this, given the lack of importance of the League Cup, but we know from past experience that the youngsters are far more eager to give their all and come out victorious. We probably did not play enough youngsters to get the balance right against the Owls. We were cautious and slow and their was no team chemistry, and whoever prepared the team tactically for this game did not do a great job.
Sheffield Wednesday were disciplined in their formation and kept well to the team drill – nothing spectacular, mind you! They did not allow us any space and time in front of their ‘D’ and kept forcing us wide. Our wingbacks and ‘wingers’ had very little chemistry and they did not get enough help from our central midfielders to produce the much-needed quick and penetrative triangles. The result was a slow and predictable approach to our attacks and the Owls were never in danger of losing control at the back. I have seldom seen us so toothless in our attacks.
We conceded some poor goals, and especially the second one – a training ground goal – was the result of abysmal defending by the entire team. I did not see the third one and have yet to find the courage to watch the TV footage of the game, but from a distance it looked like we were all over the place.
It is a game to forget from a footballing point a view. I liked the composure of Bielik and thought Kamara had some good spells, Iwobi had a few nice moments and the full backs kept going till the bitter end, but that is about it.
For the home crowd it was a real party and I have to applaud them for their noise and support to their team. They thoroughly deserved to go through and I hope that one day they can get back into the PL, as a city like Sheffield should have a representative in the top league imo.
I will leave it to 17HT to give us his impressions of the game, either through a comment or a separate post.
Finally, I had a really nice surprise in the morning. Whilst enjoying my cooked breakfast at the Royal Hotel in Dungworth, I got to speak to the parents of Ben Sheaf. They were naturally disappointed that their son did not get involved in the game but gave me some great insights into our youth setup and background of Ben’s development at both West Ham and Arsenal. At 17, he is still young but making great progress and I for one will keep a closer eye on him from now on. He is a creative, attacking midfielder but can also play as the holding midfielder, and what is not to like about those sort of players….?! 🙂 He is supported by two enthusiastic and proud parents, and that goes a long way. Keep working hard Ben and you’ll get there! 🙂