A BACKWARD MOVE BEFORE THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD???
I have never bought the idea of a team knowing how to win ugly. As I see it, a team never wins ugly but can win lucky. A defensive masterclass punctuated by a few counters to achieve victory should not by any stretch of language be described as ugly. Efficiency is beauty, not ugliness. When a team plays ugly it looses, or otherwise wins lucky.
When we suddenly lost Coquelin, Carzola and Sanchez to injuries we expected the worst as far as our title bid was concerned. There was an obvious drop in our performance level. The number of chances we were creating dropped while the chances we were conceding increased. Remarkably we kept pace with the front runners. Some of our performances were below par but we hardly took notice. After all we have made the great acquisition of knowing how to win ugly, a large section of the fan base kept singing. For those matches, as far as I was concerned, we merely won lucky and that kept me nervous about subsequent matches as luck is not a commodity that is secure in anybody’s hands.
Last Tuesday we played against the in-form Southampton. Alexis was back in the team as a starter, and Coquelin was on the bench and came in later as a substitute. For whatever reasons, our performance hit the height that had been lacking over the last two months. We created our 2nd highest chances of the season, just below that of our match against Leicester where we scored 5 goals. We made 22 attempts at goal, 21 of them from within the penalty box, 4 of those from the 6yds box. Southampton had only 3 shots on target, and their goalkeeper Fraser Forster was the MotM with a Whoscored rating of 9.9. Yet some of the fans had the temerity to boo the team. Truly, nothing succeeds as success, and nothing fails as failure.
While the score line left me disappointed, the performance of the team left me elated and I am eagerly awaiting our next fixture and our next, totally convinced that our team will keep giving repeat performances of the Southampton night. The odds are very high that no opposing goalkeeper is ever going to make that 9.9 rating again.
One thing that have shown up over the past 12 years is that Arsenal is poor when leading the pack, but great when playing the catch up. This must be a kind of mental fragility but as at the moment we use the weapon that we have. Five points behind the current table toppers, with two other teams above us might just be sufficient catch-up-stimulus to trigger that transformation, the timing of which could provide us the momentum to breast the tape ahead of the others. Maybe we are just acting the script of Chairman Mao Tse-tung who about 65 years ago described China’s economic transformation program’s collapse as “the backward move before the great leap forward”. That conjures the image of a bull about to charge.
I am bullish, but I know that there is still plenty of work to do. I doubt if there is any one of us that is not missing our brain box Santi Carzola. Him and Jack potentially will be available for at least the 7 matches of April and May, the final run-in games. That is a great cheer as Santi is the perfect link between our defense and our front attacking players. He is able to transmit the ball through the middle third with speed, creativity and precision. That is the kind of environment Ozil thrives on, Walcot too, Alexis all weather. Chances upon chances will be created, but then there are seven games potentially without Santi. My dilemma is whether Ramsey is our best alternative at the moment.
I applaud Ramsey on how he has held the fort admirably. Versatile, unyielding, Ramsey is at his best in the final third. That extra touch of his, is his technique for fashioning his creative play. He is every ounce an offensive player whose enthusiasm and monstrous engine permits an overflow into defensive matters. However as a box to box his transition through that vital middle third is slow. He lacks pace running with the ball, and he is not very fond of making the ball do the running. There is also, always, that extra touch and the turns in the middle third, that permit the opposition to get into shape in their defensive third. In the absence of Carzola and Wilshere in this order, do we have any one else that can do this job as well or better than Rambo? Arteta seems mysteriously erased from everybody’s mind. Let us do some recollections.
Deep lying playmaking was Arteta’s former role before he was converted to a DM because of a gap in our team. Without doubt Arteta is one of the most, if not the most, tactically aware player that we have. He understands roles, and that imbues in him the ability to perform the role with discipline. Technically he is quite gifted, and above all he reads the game very well able to understand the intricate field dynamics of time and space. His legs might not be very much there any more, but making the ball do most of the running Pirloesque and having Coquelin behind him might just enable him give us what we want, which is transmitting the ball quickly and intelligently through the middle third to our front players.
Another area of a concern is in our goal haul. The three teams above us have 20 plus goal strikers. We don’t seem to have one but we would have made up for that lack if we can have three players who could give us 35 plus goals. Giroud is one, Sanchez is another, and I feel the time has come for Walcott to go back to the wide right from where he regularly made two digit number goals as well as impressive assist figures. Welbeck is back to cover Giroud in the striker role.
These are just my tweaks to a team looking all set for a great run. Gunners let’s have your tweaks which, I suspect, must be plenty but limited to what we can do from what we have. COYG!!!
By Pony Eye