I had a drink with 6 of the finest, most wholehearted Arsenal supporters you could hope to meet before arriving at The Emirates. Several had travelled great distance to attend the game. The good natured banter and camaraderie of kindred spirits is one of the great joys of being an Arsenal Supporter.
The game …..
After a disappointing performance in the NLD, we had high hopes that the team would bounce back and show its class. I will admit to being surprised at the team selection with Giroud and Welbeck consigned to the bench and a midfield 3 of Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky.
The first half was a cautious affair with little quality on show from either side except for the finishes for the 2 goals which comprised an excellent striker’s finish from Koscielny from a corner and a trademark, reflex, low into the corner goal from Theo (how often do you see him blaze it over the bar?)
So at 2 goals up and the game seemingly secure, most were wondering how many we could add in the second half. Immediately it became obvious that the team had lapsed into that weird alternative Arsenal characterised by low energy, lack of penetration, pass it sideways rather than forward jaundiced football.
Leicester played with fight, pace on the counter and width. They looked determined and dangerous and were rewarded with a deserved goal after some typically poor defending by Arsenal. We could all see it coming. Would the team respond and up the tempo? ….. No. We held on for the rest of the game. Ospina once again made a couple of key saves that saved us points but all in all this was a tepid performance. The overwhelming feeling at the final whistle was relief, not joy at gaining 3 points.
Before the game, GoonerB had been banging on about how we could not play 3 of our 5 or 6 attacking midfielders together at any one time. He argued that we needed pace and width and runners. The longer the game went on, the more I could see he had hit the nail on the head. I lost count of how many times one of our midfield 3 came out of defence with the ball only to stop once in the opponents half and pass backwards or sideways. Result … moment lost, opportunity wasted, the oppositions defence assembled to keep us out of the danger area.
The best team seldom comprises the best 11 players. If we call the attacking midfielders playmakers (last night that was Rosicky, Ozil and Cazorla) it becomes more obvious why we lose attacking edge. No orchestra plays to 3 conductors – that just causes confusion and yet we field 3 players all trying to do the same job and operate in the same area. This compresses our play in the centre of the pitch and means we are short of bodies and options when it comes to an attacking pass. We must hold the record for the number of times the ball is passed 5 yards and then straight back again.
GoonerB said before the game that he’d rather see players like The Ox, Welbeck or even Akpom who are direct and have pace, but more importantly make runs for a playmaker to exploit.
It’s been said before, we have too many identikit players trying to play in the same area. I thought Coquelin was our best player. He reminded me of Sol when he came back, trying to rouse those around him seemingly unable to understand why there was so little fight in them. You could see his frustration growing in the second half to the point where it was he (our DM) who was actually driving play forward.
What’s to do? ….
Arsene Wenger obviously doesn’t see it this way. He repeatedly puts out teams that lack balance and his options are restricted due to the type of player he signs and the inevitable injuries. Ozil was poor last night. Despite declaring that he had come back stronger, he was knocked off the ball too easily because he was looking for a pass, but the lack of runners meant he ended up in blind alleys. I love his talent and ability but in our current set up he is just not cutting the mustard.
Nothing will change whilst Arsene is manager …. so there’s nothing we can do.
Hats off to Leicester. They’d never complain after getting 3 points. I can and do complain, the guys I met before the game deserve better than this. We have consistently underperformed. Our team is less than the sum of its parts and that is the opposite of what we should expect.