The secret to a happy life is not low, or even no, expectations but balance. Balance in everything: expectations, pursuit of your goals, effort, judgement, opinions… you name it.
The B-word is currently missing at the mighty Red and White. Arsene and his Gunners have lost it, big style! Is it a matter of playing style, tactics or quality of players or a bit of everything? You tell me. Fact is we cannot defend, and when we tried to compensate for this – as we did so admirably during the first half against the putrid Spuddies by sitting deep and play with discipline and compactness – we lost our ability to attack. We also lost our identity and courage through this strong tactical adaptation, but at least we remained in the game during the first 45 minutes.
Our midfield was Xhaka-Elneny-Jack. They did well to form a strong wall in front of our back four and disrupt the Spuddies’ game. You could argue we gave them too much respect and should have gone all out attacking; but as a strategy to get something from the game, I thought Wenger was spot on. Our defence lacked confidence so they needed protecting. Unfortunately, our three attackers – Ozil, Mkhi and Auba – had only their second game together; they struggled to find each other and needed more support from midfield.
Our midfielders tried to find the right balance, and especially Jack made some good contributions to our attacking play, but as soon as they left their strategic positions, the Spuddies had a chance to get at our low-on-confidence defence; and this proved to be costly even before the first five minutes of the second half were over. A ball was pumped into the box and there was half-moon-faced Kane to beat our sorry defenders. A goal straight from the Eighties: awful to concede – a bit like being killed by a pack of wolves in the 21st century.
After that the game became a horror-show and we have Petr Cech (and dollops of luck) to thank for saving us from further embarrassment. We finished the second half quite strong with one or two decent chances to take a point, but it was not to be. It would have been undeserved if Lacazette had scored in extra-time, but who would have cared about it?!
I can take the loss, but the way we have lost our balance in the team is really worrying. The proverbial is never far away from the fan(s), and especially our encounters this month/1 March with the blue side of Manchester may get very, very ugly. Can Wenger get the balance right again and rebuild confidence? I suggest he follows Leia Organa’s lead and ask for help from the ultimate master: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope”.
Cech – 8: iffy (re)distribution of the ball but never wavered when called upon.
Nacho – 6: part of a creaky unit. Worked hard.
Koz – 5.5: Worked hard but too much overcompensation. Needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.
Mustafi – 6: Worked hard but too much overcompensation. Also needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.
Bellerin – 6: Worked hard but neither a rock in defence nor force in attack. Still developing. Also needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.
Xhaka – 6: Looks more and more lost in our system of play: identity crisis? Good discipline in first half but neither a rock in midfield nor force in attack.
Elneny – 6.5: solid enough but nothing more yesterday.
Wilshere – 7: Played a very disciplined game in first half and tried to link up with attack when possible. A couple of key passes that could have led to a goal.
Mkhi – 5.5: Lost on the left and in the new trio of attackers. Unfortunate with his passing.
Ozil – 6: Lost in the new trio of attackers. Came deep a lot to connect midfield with attack but his passing was well below par yesterday.
Auba – 5.5: Lost in the new trio of attackers and suffered from lack of dominance by the team in the attacking half. How many touches??!