Supporting Arsenal can be very frustrating at times, and that includes for those, like me, with a glass half full approach to our club’s chances to win silverware this season. The boys did not do us proud, but it was not for a lack of willing or passion. It is hard to put our collective finger on what is going wrong right now within the team, and I am interested to hear what our fellow BKers have to say.
Wenger left two out of our spine, with both the BFG and Giroud starting on the bench. Many fellow Gooners have been asking for this for a while; Mertesacker is deemed too slow and Giroud is just not a world class striker, they say. Both have been lacking in form and effectiveness, so I can understand why Wenger decided to freshen up the team. Unfortunately, the replacements did not do our manager’s confidence in them any justice. I am convinced we would not have conceded either of the first two goals with the BFG leading the defence, but of course it easy to say this with hindsight. There is a future for the Koz and Gabriel partnership, but, as they are so similar in style, height and character, it is not something we should keep trying out for the remaining eleven PL games. I still feel that we need an Adams/Campbell/BFG type to replace the German (gradually) and to play either Koz or Gabriel next to him, but that is for the summer. Yesterday’s central CB pairing cost us the game imo, and the DM pair of Coquelin and Rambo were almost just as guilty.
There are a hell of a lot of people who feel that Giroud slows down our attack rather than aid it. They want speed and penetration from our CF rather than the hold up striker role that the Frenchman has made his very own. Ollie has been out of form so it was justified to try somebody else in central attack, but we struggled to play our usual style against a Man United team that sat back and had only conceded five premier league goals at home all season. We still managed to ripple the net twice, so leaving Ollie out was not necessarily a bad thing. The thing is, and I have tried to explain this on many occasions, the Frenchman does so much more than score or create goals: he is our hub through whom we play our style of football; he gives us structure and allows the whole team to be more effective.
Theo is not that sort of central attacker, but Danny and Alexis could become one over time. I was excited about Wenger playing Alexis – Theo and Danny upfront, but it absolutely did not work in terms of dominating our opponent and being ourselves. Welbeck was bright and confident and that was one of the few real positives from this game. Theo AND Alexis totally struggled to have an impact on the game, and that left Danny and Mesut with too much to do. They still managed to assist and score two goals between them, which is something to cling on to.
But we also struggled to dominate the midfield and especially Ramsey was below par. For me clearly our best footballer against Barcelona, Rambo lacked composure and ingenuity to own the midfield and help Mesut to create gaps and opportunities. I am starting to believe that 17HT and PE might be right that we need Santi to return as soon as possible.
Le Coq is also still not 100% at his best which further weakened our spine – with Gabriel and Theo already below par.
But what was most disappointing, other than conceding such soft goals, was the lack of plan and cohesion in the team, and Wenger’s apparent inability to put this right during the game. There was no lack of effort but we just did not look like a team that knew what they were doing. We oozed a lack of focus and belief that we could dominate the game and come out victoriously by hook or by crook. The naturally introvert Ozil led the team as much as he could, and I loved him for it, but behind and in front of him was no real leadership and dominance. Given the fact that we played such a young and inexperienced MU team, that is pretty poor. I have no doubt that the midweek disappointment was still lingering on within the team, as it is hard to get over such a blow to the individual and collective confidence, but that is still not a good enough excuse.
The BFG and Giroud are big players in terms of giving structure and character to our game of football, and leaving them both out, rather than one or none at all, really affected us yesterday. You might not like them, and there is indeed some scope for getting better specimen, but they are both currently very important for the identity and effectiveness of our football. They are also on-field leaders.
Theo is not somebody who dominates a team but is there to pounce on an opportunity – just like Podolski was; without any doubt Walcott is going through the deepest career low at the moment. Alexis is the lone wolf who lives of his hard work and incredible hunger, but he currently runs around like he just had the snip: still horny but utterly incapable to score. And, for me, sexy Alexis’ current impotence is the single biggest worry for winning the title.
I have a feeling that the BFG was too down/ low on confidence, after his soft give away of the second goal, for Wenger to play him in this (still) big fixture, but I am hoping he will be back against Swansea and Spuds. I am also hopeful that Arsene will reintroduce Giroud as our (holding) CF and play the most inform mid-wingers; and there is a big case to leave one, or both, of Alexis and Theo out.
But what is needed most of all is a Churchillian team talk by Wenger or Bould. It is still not too late to win the title and if we win the next two games we are back in the saddle. I have always said that we do not have a team that will win the league with superiority but through a bumpy ride right till the end, if at all. I am less confident we can do it, but we are not out of it by any means.
So let’s be having that inspirational team talk, something down the line of Churchill’s:
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival”.
Up the Arsenal and Victory at all costs, Fellow Gooners!
By TotalArsenal (know at work as ‘Victory’ 😉 )