Every game deserves a few words and so we must speak about today’s little disaster against the Chavs in our very own home of football. I don’t really want to do it, but it has to be done. I had a feeling it could go this way so I am not very surprised. The Chavs had nothing to lose really and we had something to prove, and that against a team that we have struggled against in the last few years. It was not going to be easy.
I had hoped we would start with a few changes to the first eleven we used against Stoke but it was not to be. It was a big game for Elneny to make his debut and I understand why Wenger will have opted to only have him on the bench. Wenger did not want to risk Alexis either it seems, so he also started on the bench. An Alexis start would have given us all a boost, no doubt about that. Was Wenger too cautious? Well, hindsight is a beautiful thing and who knows whether it would have made any difference today.
I don’t think we need to feel too bad about this loss. I said yesterday it is not a six-pointer but just three points, and I also felt that this game would really suit the Chavs rather than us. What did they have to lose? Nobody had high expectations and then it is a lot easier playing against a team like Arsenal; and that there is plenty of quality in that team should not come as a surprise to anybody (and all their first teamers were fit…). Man City dropped two precious points against the Hammers and that means today’s loss will not hurt us too much. Anybody who believes we should become the all dominating champions this season is deluded. It will be a hard fight right till the end and if there is anything to take from this game, it is the fighting spirit we showed when the going was tough.
The reality is that the Mertesacker sending off and the subsequent Chavs’ goal killed the game. We were not able to turn it round even though we – especially Flamini of all people – came close a few times to equalizing for us. I reckon Per made a bad call but he was also left horribly exposed: the one thing we should never do to the BFG. The referee was entitled to give red to the German but a better one would not have done this at that stage of the game and in such an important ‘top-teams’ encounter. Before we could reorganise our defence and adjust our tactics, we conceded a simple, poor goal and things were looking badly for us.
I wanted our players to stand up and be counted, and I have to say that some did very well at this. The full backs, Koz, Cech, Ozil, Flamini and Rambo never gave up. The Welshman lacked finesse and composure at times but at least he fought for the shirt till the end. With OG rightly taken off to play the counter-football game in a 4-4-1, Theo, who had badly under-performed in Pool and Stoke, was given a big opportunity to shine for us. Sadly, it was another underwhelming performance by the one who wears a magic number on the back of his shirt.
The introduction of Alexis made a big difference and with a bit more luck we could have taken a point from the game. He drove us on and connected our midfield with our attackers for the first time in the game. He was clearly not fully match fit but that did not stop him from fearlessly taken on the Chavs time and again. Ozil and Rambo also started to play a lot better once Alexis had entered the stage and this bodes well for the next few games.
It is very disappointing to lose once again against the Chavs but we have bigger fish to fry. We are not going to win this Premier League easily but we still have a great chance to do it. Our main competitor is Man City and they now still have to play Pool and the Chavs (both away?) whilst we both have the same number of points. With a number of big guns returning, we can get back to a winning run of games and there is all to play for.
Given the fighting spirit today, I reckon there is every reason to stay behind the team and keep believing this is our year. Many non-Gooner football supporters and pundits believe that is the case, so let us not spoil it by letting our self-doubt take us off our mission.
Victory Through Harmony!