It would be nice to think that Emmanuel Adebayor, in kicking Santi Cazorla up in the air, has also kick started our season.
After some toothless displays (from an attacking point of view) against Norwich, Schalke and Manchester United it was also nice to see further evidence that our goal scoring touch has returned. Even against nine men and an ape, a five goal haul is impressive.
However, the worriers and pessimists will still have found something to chew on in the two goals we conceded. For the first Spud goal our defence did not seem sure whether it was stepping up or falling back so, in consequence, it did half of one and half of the other. Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Szczesny could all have done better for that goal.
As for the second Spud score, we gave Bale so much room to shoot he must have thought he was back at Windsor Safari Park.
Certainly we still don’t seem to have the balance right between attack and defence – and there have been rumours recently of a fall-out between Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould over where the team’s priorities should lie.
Let’s assume that, like the majority of internet rumours, it’s mostly rubbish.
But even so, it is not hard to imagine that there is a grain of truth in it: that the Arsenal manager and his first team coach may have different ideas about whether our emphasis should be on defence or attack.
A couple of weeks ago Wenger was quoted as saying that he thought our players should stop worrying so much about trying not to concede and should, instead, be more cavalier in attack:
“I think what is most important right now is that we find our game back. Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive…
“That, at the moment, is missing a bit. I believe I have a team of great players and perhaps they have forgotten a little bit how good they are.
“What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than thinking about if we concede a goal or not.”
I was not alone in interpreting that comment as Le Boss reasserting his control over the team’s direction after an early season period in which we looked more solid defensively than we had done for a long time. Much credit for this perceived transformation was given to Bould by fans and journalists alike. And, indeed, Wenger may well have felt obliged to listen to his new coach, having just appointed him.
The problem was that although we were not conceding many goals, we weren’t scoring many either.
I understand what Le Boss was getting at with his comments. Successive Wenger teams have succeeded by dazzling the opposition with fast, deadly attacking play and scoring more goals.
He clearly felt that in some performances this season our creative approach has been constipated. The progressive players have been worried about our porous defence and have sacrificed attacking effort for the chance to help out at the back.
You can imagine training ground discussions (if not exactly rows) where Bouldie would be arguing that we should continue to give a priority to not conceding, while Wenger would be saying that it’s not the end of the world to let one in provided we get two or three at the other end.
Obviously both are right up to a point, but I think Bould is more right.
The reason our attacking players are anxious about us not conceding is that they know only too well that we concede far too easily. And rather than the conceded goals not mattering, in fact they regularly wipe out all the good work done by the forwards.
Our strikers scored three good goals against Fulham – but we still couldn’t win. They got two against Schalke – same result.
Just like us fans, the forwards know that we have become far too good at giving away STUPID goals.
All teams concede goals, but we really have been cornering the market on idiot ones:
- Vermaelen passing the ball to the deadliest striker in the country in our penalty area in the opening minutes of the game at Old Trafford.
- Letting the poisonous dwarf that is Patrice Evra score from a header in the same game.
- Berbatov being allowed to head into our net unchallenged from the edge of the six yard box. Unchallenged because Mannone did not come to claim the ball and Sagna (who in any case should not have been marking Fulham’s tallest player) was inexplicably “marking” him on the wrong (non-goal) side.
- Torres being given time to connect with a cross, again in our penalty area, which should never have reached him.
I’m sure you can add to the list – but you get the point.
We cannot expect to win games when we are so prone to shooting ourselves in the foot.
Most of the idiot goals we have let in have not come as a result of a poor “team defence” performance. Instead they have come from stupid individual errors. It’s a continuation of last season, when we would often dominate possession only to concede to our opponents’ first attempt on goal.
Until we can cut out those errors, our forwards will never feel secure enough to fully express themselves.
That means Bould’s work with the defence should take precedence over everything else. He certainly knows what it takes to defend at the highest level and he needs to impart those skills to our current back line.
I have no idea whether the “zonal marking” issue is part of the problem, but there must be a way of ensuring that our defenders do not keep making schoolboy errors.
I would certainly settle for a little run of “one nil to the Arsenal”s right now.
All of our defenders are capable of playing to very high standard and cutting out the daft individual mistakes. Bould needs to be allowed to continue prioritising working with them to ensure they do so.