West Brom 2 – Arsenal 1: Le Coq hurt, Old Spaniards Tilting at Windmills; Positives

Will be VERY tough to find. 

 

Note: Total Arsenal was unable to see the match so this is 17HT with a match report–and an attempt with the positives…

At the risk of mixing a metaphor or three, the squad was already down to bare bones but now the cupboard appears completely bare.  Have we bottled our best shot–in years–for a legitimate title chase and now find it bone dry–or worse.  Feeling around for some ‘easy’ points today at West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal found nothing but dust.

Metaphors all mixed up, lets move onto the blame game.

It’s all comes home to roost; we saw it coming and fingers must be pointed.  Everybody knows that Arteta was done (Santi too…) and that we needed more in attack.  (Joel Campbell in pink boots?  Please…)  Wenger stood firm and this is the result.  Out, out, out…

If such narratives give you comfort, who am I to stop you?

Me?  I prefer to analyze the match and move forward.  In many ways, at least in my opinion, what else is there to do?…

Personally, I liked the line-up, the same group, except Bellerin in for Debuchy, which scored the equalizer vs Spurs, Campbell on the bench if we need a goal.

The game started with both teams pushing the ball at pace and pinging it around the fast pitch nicely.  It turned, however, on a naive mistake.  Francis Coquelin, perhaps trying to show that he could pass quick, sharp and over distance with his left foot, gave it away, flew in and got it back from one WBA player but then came in hard to try and recover the resulting 50-50 from another.  Bad decision (x2, at least) and he’s done.  Early reports sound like it’s ligament damage.

Still, Arsenal, on yet another perfect Ozil set-piece, took the lead via Giroud’s head.  In truth, neither team was completely dominant to that point but there was some technical superiority to be enjoyed watching our 4 Spaniards (Bellerin, Arteta, Cazorla and Monreal) stroking it around near the center circle.

West Brom, to their credit, responded well and looked to get the goal back.  A very poor call by referee Clattenburg (on Arteta) gifted them a free kick.  Instead of taking it quickly they sent men forward and scored through Morrison’s perfect volley from a difficult angle over Cech and into the far corner.  Bellerin was wrong side of the scorer and Arteta was unable to make up enough ground as the free kick came in.  1-1.

Buoyed by the goal, the Baggies were unafraid to score another.  This time it was Rondon feeding McClean who pushed through the inside channel on our right and then, pulling the ball back (with no target available), Arteta reached out a shoulder (or arm) to put in the own goal.

By the letter of the law–had the handball been seen–it might have been a sending off.  Instead, after Arsenal started the 2nd brightly, Arteta limped off, having likely re-injured the calf muscle which has plagued the Captain for over a year.  Mathieu Flamini was called in as our 2nd sub.

Before that, on another Ozil free kick (won by Alexis), Jonas Olsson absolutely flattened Giroud in the box.  Such physicality, I guess, is what makes the English game so enjoyable.  It appeared a stonewall penalty to me.

After the sub, Arsenal pushed hard and looked by far the more dangerous team.  Alexis on the right had moments of individual brilliance and forced several half chances and scrambles in the West Brom penalty area.

Getting to the hour mark, Arsene Wenger went ‘all-in’ and made his last sub, bringing in Joel Campbell for Kieran Gibbs.  Moments later, after more fine work from Alexis, now on the left, Santi Cazorla played an inch perfect pass over the top for Campbell past a stranded defender.  Surely this was the equalizer.  Instead, when it was easier to score than to miss, Campbell’s bright pink boot did just that.

Arsenal were dominating play but the best chance probably belonged to the Baggies.  From a corner, Jonas Olsson rose over Flamini and headed onto the bar with the ball bouncing straight down and onto, rather than over, the goal line.  The spin on the ball kept it out and Cech was able to gather the resulting put-back from Saido Berahino who had actually come from an offside position.

It was a huge let off encouraging Arsenal to fight on.  In the 83rd minute, Alexis won a penalty when Chris Brunt held him back slightly.  Relative to the earlier penalty shout the infraction appeared mild.  It looked a pen to me, and perhaps it was a cumulative decision from Clattenburg.  Regardless, Santi Cazorla stepped up to take it but slipped on his standing leg and put the penalty over the bar, the left leg actually deflecting the penalty kick taken with his right.  Santi prides himself on his two-footedness, but this, surely, isn’t what he had in mind.

There were chances in the final moments of the match, but it was not to be.  Three points dropped, and, perhaps worse, two defensive mid-fielders lost to injury.  An afternoon in the Black Country indeed.

It will be even darker times in North London.  Without looking I’m sure that already the internet has exploded and the sky has fallen.  We play again on Tuesday in a must-win match vs Dinamo Zagreb; our slim hopes for advancing in the Champions League resting not only on getting that result but on Bayern Munich beating Olympiakos in the other group match.  At least after that one we have until Sunday before traveling to Norwich City for our next league match.

While the nay-sayers–especially those who have not enjoyed the past decade under Wenger–will be having a field day with the I-told-you-so narratives.  I actually can see some positives.

Despite extreme misfortune and some missed calls from the referee, our players really kept at it.  Even when the away end went dead quiet the fight, particularly from Alexis, never stopped.  His energy simply amazes and football, for him, is clearly a game to be played at full tilt.  Sure, I’d like him to look up for his teammates just a bit more, but maybe that head down attitude means he’ll give the same incredible effort regardless of scoreline or (now) our spot in the table.

If his example can lead our small and very wounded group into a siege mentality they may just be able to keep together (even as a portion of the support would like to blow it all apart), take the matches one at a time, and, slowly but surely, get us back onto a stronger footing.

Things do not look good but what is the alternative?  Griping about the moves we should have made in the summer, the inevitability of injuries and the personality flaws of the manager-notably having too much faith in his players and not spending sufficiently for new ones–are not for me.

The turning point of the match–and perhaps our season–was Coquelin’s ill considered challenge.  Perhaps Wenger should have known that Le Coq’s style of play (or lack of experience) would make him an unreliable fitness risk.  Still, trying to buy a player to compete with him would have been very difficult if playing time could not be guaranteed.  Questions, of course, will also be raised about older guys like Arteta and Flamini (both who have already lost time this season to muscle problems) as his back-up.

Similar questions could be asked about our squad further forward.  If Wenger knew Danny Welbeck would require surgery surely he should have bought.  Theo Walcott, after looking very strong leading our line and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose goal won us the Community Shield in pre-season, were options.  Both, of course, succumbed to injury in the Capital One Cup loss at Sheffield Wednesday.  Should Wenger have anticipated those injuries or just avoided playing them in the league cup?  The answer probably depends on how you feel about the manager to begin with.

For those looking to lower their expectations that match might have been the first strike against our hopes for the season.  Today’s match, surely is a 2nd.  I’ll give our lads a 3rd before calling them completely out.  Probably too generous, but so it goes.

A better approach might be to check in with those teams who were supposed to run away with the title.  Chelsea sit on 14 points (they were able to sneak past Norwich 1-0 today) while Manchester City lost, at  home, to Liverpool by a 4-1 scoreline.  We are actually now level with City on Goal Difference.  Maybe the key to happiness is worrying less about Arsenal and taking some delight in the failings of others.  Surely Gooners aren’t going to concede the league to Leicester or ManU–teams we’ve beaten by 3 goals apiece, quite yet… No, let’s give it to ‘Pool now that they’ve got a proper manager…

Imagine if the team had the support fully behind them–even in these darker moments.  Close your eyes and try it.  Or vent those frustrations (writing helps me…) and then try it.  Who knows, you might still fancy our chances.

I do.

by 17highburyterrace

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13 Responses to West Brom 2 – Arsenal 1: Le Coq hurt, Old Spaniards Tilting at Windmills; Positives

  1. StopTheWengerSpin says:

    I must admit your positivity – not about an isolated result – is truly impressive. anyone who can still make allowances for this man ( Wenger ) who stubbornly persists in holding on to a cherished belief that a paper thin squad will be fine -because we dont want to block such and such a player and that injuries are not a fixed and permanent FACT in a sport that involves physical contact, endurance and supreme physical exertion – deserves some respect, or the finest psychiatric help available. I dont want Wenger out but i want him to wake up from his coma and acknowledge reality and get with th eprogramme, not to spunk gzillions or pounds on the next wonderkid, but to strengthen where EVERYBODY bar he can see we are weak and go out on a high. And if he persists on the well scripted and most patronising and insulting list of media tripe that will be wheeled out again match after match, then he must say goodbye, not for a replacement that will gurantee sucess but a replacement that will at least have something new to say that isnt a hollow rhetoric that is proven to fail. Two FA Cups are fantastic and well played Mr wenger, pleas wake upWenger and tke the real steps needed that will sadly not allow you to hide behnd the usual list of excuses and lets see if all those thousands of football games in charge have actually taught you anything. His questioning of anyone who dares comment on his managerial record who hasnt been in charge for at least a thousand games is as downright insulting as …… lets see …….. me asking Mr Positivity here how much he pays year in year out for his season ticket ?

  2. Martin Wengrow says:

    Excellent blog.

  3. AB says:

    Hi HT. The voice of reason again. There is no disguising, today was a massive disappointment. We missed opportunities, were too open in defence, and have lost more players to injury – all on top of 3 points lost. But every team has to allow for a number of sub-par performances, and poor rub of the greens, in each season. This was one for us on both counts. Would we lose that game more times than not, if the circumstances were repeated? I believe not. We dominated the game, but couldn’t finish off our glaring chances and messed up at the back.

    An attritional win would have been a great boost for us today, but would have made the rest of the season no more certain for that, beyond giving us the extra points. The loss today is just that, and no more; and just means more points have to be found elsewhere. The same applies today, even more so, to City; who are no more out of the chase after a thrashing at home than we are after a stumble away.

    On to the next game. Forget the might have beens from today. The only lingering concern is Coq. And if he is to be out for a while, lets see who is back in the coming days. The Flam:Ram pivot is not one that gives me too much concern against any but the strongest opposition. Let’s not get too down, but reflect on where we are in the league, in a season where every top place remains wide open.

  4. njk84sg says:

    Guys,

    See how Flams brought stability in defense.
    Flam Santi pivot is the second choice.

    With so many clear cut chances and a couple of one on ones, we just could not score the second goal. Look at how Wenger responded, and Santi and Joel missed when it is easier to score.

    Disappointing, but looking back kudos to the home team. Wasting time after the second goal was scored.

    If Rambo is ready for the next game we will want him back on the right, and Alexis back on the left.

    JK

  5. njk84sg says:

    Its now night here, when I posted my above comment it was in the morning, local time, and no comments in between.

    It’s been like this lately, but I feel the need to add on to what I needed to say.

    Taking reference from Star Wars, I want to clone 4 or 5 Alexis, which will score us plenty of goals in yesterday’s match. That’s me dreaming. He never looked like needing a break, even when he played 2 international matches during the break.

    Ok, a few other first teamers played the international games for their respective country too, but Alexis looked like he had a full week of rest. The rest played well, but none as sharp as Alexis.

    I feel that El Capitan is in the wrong place at the wrong time. And no, he has yet to pass his expiry date. A few more games, alongside Flams or Le Coq, will do him well, after he is back from his calf injury. Ok, I might face a few roadblocks with my comments here, but I will tackle one by one later on when they come.

    Now to the injury crisis situation. If I am Le Prof / Le Monseiur, I will act quickly to bring back Issac Hayden from his loan. And maybe Iwobi or the lad currently on loan in Rangers, if they can be recalled.

    The reason why I put this forward is due to the shortage of players in the central area, and we need to address the situation urgently. Flams/Santi pivot is all we have left just in front of defense. I cannot imagine if Santi pulls a hamstring and Rambo is not 100%.

    I stick to my mental strength philosophy for the lads. We need everyone to think and work a little harder like Alexis, and that is when we really can win games. For a while now we saw what Alexis is made of, but without everyone to think like him we will fall short.

    Cheers,
    JK

  6. AB says:

    Really is quiet out here? Not sure what going on. Usually the one up side of a poor result is plenty of advice on what to do about it. Not even that today. And what’s happened to Gerry? Normally one of the most regular contributors. I’m in no position to complain as an occasional myself these days. Hey ho – no one up to discussing yesterday’s game?

  7. Pony Eye says:

    We discuss in hope but hope is at a premium at the moment. Trust me, I have gotten hold of a wild hope and it tells me that we’ve still got the materials to firm up defensively and score lots of more goals despite our injuries. The wild hope whispered to my ears our interim line up;

    —————Cech————
    Deb——-Per—–Kos—–Mon
    ————Gab—–Ram——-
    Bel———–Santi———–Ozil
    —————-Alexis————-

    My wild hope told me OG is a clog in the wheels and that his goals are actually a poor reflection of the number of chances the team creates. He warned that we play the smaller teams like Zagreb too cagely but that even more than that we think too cagely. He says ” Don’t be afraid to think more creatively otherwise the season will slip away very quickly”. I believe him. And how I hope we believe him.

  8. allezkev says:

    Very good, balanced post 17…

    There doesn’t seem any point in ranting and raving about a lack of summer signings.
    In my perfect world Arsenal would have signed Arturo Vidal…

    But I think it was about this time, last year, when we had our last injury crisis, and Coquelin was recalled from Charlton Athletic…

    As mentioned above, it might be prudent to recall Isaac Hayden from Hull City.
    He is, after all, a bonafide defensive-mid, and we’re gonna miss that particular asset in the weeks and months ahead…

    Not sure if Hayden is the answer?
    But then I wasn’t sure about Le Coq…

  9. Ab says:

    Pony Eye. You are right, we still have strong options; and the art of management is to find the right combinations in adversity and exploit them. I don’t altogether buy your arrangement here, as the Ozil:Giroud combination seems to be one that is working, whilst other aspect are not. But who knows – I certainly don’t pretend to! The return of Hayden, assuming this is a contractual option, might be prudent; and if Coq is out for a couple of months, then surely we must do this if Wenger has any faith in Hayden at all. It would be sweet indeed if Hayden did a Coq for us!

    We have missed Ramsey hugely in these last few weeks, and need to get him back and firing again quickly. I hope Campbell gets another chance in the coming week too; if he doesn’t then January could well be the end for him. Wenger’s reaction to his miss was understandable, but suggested something near breaking point. A shame if so as I still think he could do a job for us.

  10. Cheers to those who enjoyed the match report… Writing it helped me cope with the disappointment of the situation which really seemed like Murphy’s Law on steroids. I’m on the move this weekend so only a short one here…Hopefully TA pops in sooner rather than later.

    Looking at the NewsNow this morning the injury to Coquelin sounds like it’s a season ender. Really bad when you consider it’s a 50-50 near the center circle. Ramsey will have to come in and do a job and Santi will have to recover from the slip on the pen. That’s your center MF pairing going forward, I think, though maybe Rambo on the right and Flams in the middle will need a go.

    On the plus side, none of the teams in the league look very convincing (Totts and Pool have to now think they can get in the hunt…) so maybe there’s time to rebuild and get a few back from injury. The Ox might yet get a chance to show he too can contribute and, surely, Campbell will get further opportunities. Gabriel and Chambers maybe too… Who knows?… Tight at the back, goals going in when we push forward. It’s not a complicated game…

    First Dinamo on Tuesday night to turn the tide back our way (while Bayern does their work vs the Greeks) then Norwich next Sunday. For me, it’s very much OGAAT–and hoping our fit players can step in and take their chances. But that’s just me. I can understand the urge to blame and point fingers and say it was all quite predictable, but, on the other hand, it really does seem like a LOT of bad fortune. Does it matter? Not really. Just play the matches…

    Cheers, again…

  11. njk84sg says:

    Guys,

    Something to stir the brain cells to get them working.

    I felt Le Coq injury was not as bad if it was just a 50-50 ball, but i thought i saw a kick from Yacob at the end of the situation, which left Le Coq in a crumpled mess.

    I am for Hayden to be recalled. He is the next best.

    Cheers,
    JK

  12. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hi fellas… Paging TA, paging TA… We could use a little commentary from our fearless leader… I figured you’d be back at it here on a Monday, but maybe I was wrong… I’m out for the day myself but will put the final touches on a match preview and publish it tonight…

    In the meantime I found a few comments from new posters and ‘approved them’… Not exactly my view of things but good to hear some others…

    I definitely am wishing the team was deeper and that we could compete more thoroughly on multiple fronts. I was at that horror night up in Sheffield so I can see why supporters get riled when less than fully competitive teams are fielded. In the end it’s a consumer choice. If you don’t like the show, you have to stand up buy refusing to buy the ticket… (In my very humble opinion, of course…)

    I can also see the logic behind the longer term approach (of management) and just how crazy it would be to try and match ManCity’s approach to the financial part of the game. Reform is needed, I think, with maybe loan rules being the very first thing to be examined. It’s got to be that or actually designating loan clubs as “affilliates” like the minor league system we use over here for baseball. Beyond that you would guess salary caps or something…

    Until those sorts of changes start to happen, Wenger’s approach is probably what we’ll see. Certainly ownership doesn’t seem to mind… As such, grasping at straws–or Isaac Haydens–seems reasonable. Of course, do we know how he’s been playing, if we have the sort of loan deal which will allow a recall, etc., etc., etc. Can people even pick him out of a line-up? If you (JK) have been watching a lot of Hull City and he’s actually been playing and been playing well enough to indicate that he could do a job for us and you know we can get him back…Well, you’re a better man than I… If so, tell us more…

    If not, any old (or young) warm body probably isn’t the answer. AW says it will be Chambers (behind Flamini) for the short term… To me that means Rambo on the right. (Campbell probably as a desperation sub only.) I agree with the poster who is critical of Alexis… He looked not very effective and actually an inhibiting factor for Bellerin’s forward game on Saturday. The less said about Hector’s defending on the day, the better, I fear…

    I’m still angry at Le Coq for getting himself hurt on a stupid 50-50 in the middle of the pitch. To stop a goal?–that I could live with… Yes, yes, I know, these things happen, but you have to be smart about when to risk yourself… Let’s keep hoping our better players warm up properly (I guess I’m still angry with Theo, too…) and don’t take similar silly chances. Full focus on the game in hand, but knowing that you cannot help your team from the physio-room, I think, is important…

    Enough–from me, at least–until tonight…

  13. TotalArsenal says:

    Hello 17HT and other FFGs! 🙂

    Thanks for doing the match review under difficult circumstances, Seventeenho. It is a good and fair read and I salute you for it.

    I started a comment on your post and some of the comments made… but then it started to look like a post…

    So..

    New Post New Post! 🙂

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