Our Own Downfall

It seems time after time, we insist upon shooting ourselves in the foot. Our performance against Aston Villa on Saturday was a completely lacklustre one. Incapable of creating chances, and poor at keeping possession. Despite not winning any trophies over recent years, these are two things that if you asked anyone in the world with half a brain, what Arsenal’s traits were, or what Arsenal were specifically good at, they would have told you those. But it seems now tides have turned, and more often than not we are struggling, especially with the creation and taking of chances.

You just have to look at games against QPR, Norwich, Schalke, Man United, and Villa, amongst others, to see how inconsistent we have become. I don’t know whose fault it is, the board, the manager, the players, but we haven’t improved over these transitional years, and are forever being told tomorrow will be better.

I’m not one to point the finger and say Arsene needs to go, if anything I think it’s the boards doing. And even though there is probably some truth in us becoming one of the top clubs in the world revenue wise, and being able to compete at a higher level with more money coming in, it doesn’t hide from the fact we have been strung along year after year, told to keep the faith, next year we will challenge, but still have to pay the highest prices in the league. All the while we are selling our top players and replacing with them, good, but more often than not, cheaper players with less quality.

And it seems perhaps it’s finally starting to show with results. We are sitting a very nervous 6th in the league. It’s early days, but recent results (bar Spurs) aren’t exactly filling me, or anyone else with optimism. No one knows what will happen, but there’s nothing we can do at the moment as fans. We have to hope things turn out for the good, and in a couple of years the stadium will be paid off, money will available for transfer and wage funds, and financial fair play has a decent effect.

Back to the Villa game, and on reflection I feel no different to how I did then. We were really poor. I can understand the need to leave Wilshere and Sagna on the bench with Everton on Wednesday and them having come back from long-term injuries. Too many games will do more harm than good. Vermaelen has been poor, with Gibbs back, I can’t really fault that decision either and a clean sheet shows the defence wasn’t the main problem if at all. (Still a fan of this zonal marking)

So when it comes down to it, Wenger puts his faith in the players he has out there, he thinks they’ll do him a good job. Perhaps he over looked one thing. This team didn’t have Theo Walcott who can always make a difference. When you take out key players, and game-changers, as well as those who are injured, you miss the spark and flare often needed to win games (especially in our case).

Jenkinson is good, and promising. But he’s no Sagna. Wilshere is quite clearly irreplaceable. Arteta is having a bad run of late. Ramsey is frequently playing poorly, and the fans are always on his back. He loses the ball far too much. He’s no match for Jack. Giroud receives very little, decent crosses with no Walcott or Bac. Chamberlain’s not having a great time either, and he tries to cut in all the time when he’s out on the wing, but it doesn’t work. And Podolski it seems only plays well when the team is playing well, and is invisible for much the game. This leaves a lot of pressure on Cazorla, but obviously he can’t play by himself.

So we have a team low on confidence, and fairly low in quality too if I’m honest. There were no runs for passes, no passes for runs, and hardly any crosses of any use either. We were stuck in a rut and didn’t know what to do. This highlights several issues. The fact the players are unsure on how to adjust their game to get a goal, or how the manager is too stubborn to change his ways in times of need. It’s also clear that we lack squad depth and quality, and are relying on a few too much.

I’m also stumped at decisions made. Why is that Podolski and Giroud are taken off before the end of the game when we HAVE to score. Moreover, why is it Gervinho, who is fairly useless, and Coquelin, a defensive midfielder, are two players brought on when we HAVE to score.

In the dying moments of the game, what do you do? You get the ball in the box. So it is completely beyond me why you would take a striker off, whose scored 5/6 goals with his head. Especially to bring on a CDM.

Furthermore, what is the point in putting Jack Wilshere on the bench if you’re not willing to play him when we need him. I understood the decision to rest him, but if you can’t bring him on leave him at home, it was just a waste of a sub spot, you could have put Chamakh or someone on who could have come on and been used as an aerial threat.

It all seems rather bizarre. That’s why I called this post, ‘Our Own Downfall’.

Arsenal Qualify for Last 16

With Man City out, Chelsea heading that way, and Man United losing, Arsenal were really the only successful English team in the Champions League this week.

A comfortable 2-0 win against Montpellier saw us keep a hold of second place in our group, while Schalke beat Olympiacos 1-0, meaning us and Schalke have qualified for the Round of 16. Unfortunately we sit in 2nd place behind Schalke because they took 4 points from us when we played each other, and unless they were to lose points at Montpellier who are now completely out of Europe, our chances of regaining that first spot are impossible.

However as Wenger said, sometimes it’s not certain that finishing 1st is the best because teams such as Real Madrid still manage to finish 2nd. Finishing 1st gives you a greater chance of getting through to the next round, but more often than not it’s not massively important. Unless of course you are drawn against Barcelona.

During our 5th group game, Jack Wilshere scored his first goal in 2 years, first since his comeback, with a tidy dink over the keeper after Giroud headed it down for him. Giroud was also involved with another assist for the second goal, playing Podolski through with a lob over the defenders, where Lukas hit a screamer on the volley rocketing past the keeper who had no chance whatsoever.

It wasn’t our best performance, but it was comfortable and in control. For a change, I never felt as if we were going to let it slip, or even worried that we would. Hopefully this was down to our performance but I fear it may have something to do with how poor Montpellier actually were.

Nonetheless, we have to beat Olympiacos, and Wenger intends to do so, sending in a ‘full strength team’ to get the job done, should Schalke slip up, through what would most likely be complacency. However, Germans don’t often do complacent. Efficient is what they are, so don’t get your hopes up.

And we move on back to the Premier League at the weekend, to face Villa in the late Saturday kick off. A good opportunity to get a win, continue this decent run, and potentially move up the table.

A lot of the teams above and amongst us are playing each other over the coming weeks, and this will provide us a very good chance to gain on them, and get ahead. Should we win these games that we really need to be winning if we want to have a good season.

That’s all for now.

Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham

In 2012, Arsenal have scored 10 goals against Spurs. Two games, two 5-2’s and two easy victories. Tottenham started the game reasonably well, and has us on the back foot on the odd occasion, going 1-0 up through Adebayor early on with the chance to make it 2-0 within 15 minutes. Fortunately for Arsenal, Adebayor got himself sent off with an outrageous tackle, over the top of the ball, studs up, hitting Cazorla’s ankle/bottom part of the leg. It was a potential leg-breaker. And after Bale tried to push Wilshere around unsuccessfully, Adebayor received his marching orders.

This gave us the confidence and urgency we had perhaps lacked in the minutes prior to Spurs going down to 10. From that moment we really took control of the game, and at no point looked back. It was assuring to see us play so well, because even though it was against 10 men, they still had two banks of 4 for us to penetrate. Something we achieved 3 times in the first half. Firstly, Per Mertesacker headed home is first Arsenal goal after a nice bit of trickery and well worked cross from Theo. Next up, rather precariously, Podolski was able to get the ball in the far corner past Lloris, after a couple of deflections and misjudgements from Spurs. Thirdly, Cazorla got the assist with a nice run after being fouled but staying on his feet, round the defenders and crossing it in low where the long swooping leg of Giroud met it to make it 3-1. We went into half time head and shoulders above Tottenham who hadn’t even mustered up another shot on goal.

Once the second half was under way, AVB’s changes started to show as they tried to attack more (more than nothing). It seemed as if they could have the opportunities to get a goal or two, but any doubts were squashed when a long ball from Szczesny, was flicked on from Giroud, expertly controlled by Walcott, who then engineered a pass through to Podolski. Lukas crossed it first time and Cazorla was free towards the back post to hit it in fiercely with his right foot. 4-1 to the Arsenal.

We calmed down for a bit now, in an attempt not to completely humiliate Tottenham and destroy any dignity that they may have remaining. Much to the fans disgust they managed to steal back a goal when Bale drove one in to the bottom corner with his right foot from outside the box. Defenders should have done better in closing him down and stopping the shot, especially Mertesacker. An area in need of undoubted improvement. Tension was surrounding the stadium and given our recent loss of leads, it was understandable. We succeeded in keeping Tottenham at bay, and in stoppage time the pace of Chamberlain and Walcott prevailed. The Ox intercepted a Spurs pass and pushed on, Walcott kept ahead and it was essentially 2 on 1. Alex sought out Theo, and he finished it neatly across the keeper to round off a good game from him, and Arsenal. Another 5-2 against Spurs.

Kings of North London, again. This year will be our 18th year of finishing above Tottenham.

My 2 Big Issues With Arsenal’s Performance

Do you agree? Rate it below, share it.

1)      I understand we are low on confidence, and the players perhaps feel the pressure and everything, and although this may be applicable as some kind of excuse for a poorer quality of performance, or footballing show as we are used to, it is no excuse for a lack of effort and commitment. Too many times in recent weeks I see players wandering over the pitch without the desire to press, or get back, or recover from an error, or stop a cross, or burst into the box. And I don’t feel it’s good enough. If you’re not playing well the best you can do is give your all and a lot of fans would appreciate that. I don’t want to see like I have today, Sagna and Vermaelen, lazily attempting to stop crosses, thinking someone else will deal with it. TAKE CHARGE, YOU DEAL WITH IT. I don’t want to see no runs being made upfront, everyone needs to make an effort. I don’t want to see perfect crosses going across goal without a bloody striker or someone making a run into a scoring position because they think someone else will make the run. RVP IS GONE, everyone needs to take a step up and try and make a difference. Stop relying on everyone else, and give the passion and desire that past players have had, and is a requirement of all Arsenal players.

 

2)      Risks and slips. Need I say more? Too often we are playing risky passes around the area, or risky dribbles away from goal. Pass to someone who is in space, don’t play dangerously. We simply cannot afford to lose the ball in those kinds of areas. All the time, mistakes, stupid mistakes such as these are proving all too costly and we are conceding time and time again from errors. Even further up the pitch we can’t keep position because we try cross field passes, or high balls that are unlikely to come off at best, and they don’t even make any progress anyway. It’s just an unnecessary risk, and more often than not catches everyone out ie Arteta and full backs are too far forward, and this unexpected loss of possession results in a counter-attack, that we frequently struggle to deal with. And as an additional note, what is going on with slipping over recently? Every game I’m seeing a couple of Arsenal players becoming incapable of standing up. By which I mean fall over at least a couple of times per game. It’s very peculiar, and obviously needs sorting through different boots  or whatever, pretty basic really.

These are just 2 things that have really annoyed me in recent games aside from the players and quality of football – or lack of it. Simple things can go a long way to making big improvements.

Arsenal Let 2-0 Lead Slip

For the first ten minutes it looked as if it was going to be another one of those days. The ones we’re all too familiar with. But shortly after fifteen minutes, we arrived in the match and started to take control of a game where we’d spent the most part thus far in our own half. Schalke for the early stages dominated possession, and piled their players forward, with us rarely on the attack; and when we did, it seemed just to reveal our defensive frailties to their counter-attack.

But in the 18th minute, Mertesacker hoofed one forward and a mix up at the back with a poorly judged header saw Giroud through on goal, one-on-one. Unfortunately, as you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear whether you’ve seen it or not, he came under pressure from a Schalke CB, and not only scuffed his shot, but completely missed the ball, kicking the ground. This was made less embarrassing by the fact he was falling to the ground with the Schalke player alongside him, and not to forget that Theo Walcott, in just his fourth start of the season, second not including the League Cup – (the first coming on the first day of the season), was on hand to follow up, with a potentially lucky fall of the ball, slotted it home after it bounced over the keeper. 1-0 and Arsenal were on their way.

Arsenal then took control of the game and started to regain possession. Just what we like to see. The 26th minute came, and after one of the nicest moves of the game, although nothing spectacular by what we were used to, it was sprung about across the offensive players, before coming to Podolski, who with a neat duck of the shoulder, turned and put in a cross which Giroud, I admit, anticipated with a Striker’s instinct, and a neat header to put us 2-0 up. It was a kind of movement that you wouldn’t see Gervinho make, or even Podolski, and potentially not even Walcott with his head at least. Having said this later on Giroud was unmarked from another Podolsko cross, in the second half, and should have headed it as he is miles better with his head than feet. Unfortunately he tried to volley it, and well to say he misjudged it would be an understatement. Walcott has to remain my preferred choice upfront.

This is the point where you would be thinking, we’ve got this game now, got the three points surely? But then and again if you’d  be watching any of the Arsenal matches recently you would have to be naive to have such thoughts. It was a shame because the defensive performance was a much improved one, but unfortunately much improved still wasn’t good enough and a lack of concentration at the back notably Mertesacker – uncharacteristically this season, and Sagna perhaps were poorly positioned. Huntelaar – a player I would have been damn well happy to see at Arsenal, scored from these mistakes in what was undeniably a good string of passes. Arsenal-like in fact. He finished it well, but shouldn’t have had the opportunity. 2-1 up going into half time, and momentum in their favour.

We went out in the second half and looked anxious, and lacked confidence. That dominance and control that we briefly obtained from going 2-0 to the good appeared to have evaporated, leaving behind a team similar to the one that didn’t perform at United. Schalke’s persistance eventually payed off and further defensive mistakes lead to their equaliser. Sagna’s lack of urgency to close down the cross,  and then once again from the other side, and Vermaelen eventually giving it the final nudge in the net.

From here on in, it felt as though both teams were reasonably happy with a point, both knowing that qualification was still highly probably with a draw rather than risking conceding and becoming more susceptible to being overtaken by Olympiacos in the group.

Having said this in the dying moments, Walcott had a great opportunity to make it 3-2 but his hesitancy and desire to use his right foot when his left would have been more appropriate was the difference. After the game he said

there was nothing more I could do, it got stuck under my feet

Why did it get stuck under his feet? Because he tried to use his right foot instead of his left. Perfect opportunity to stake his claim long term for the role of striker. Thierry would have put that away I’m afraid to say Theo. But 8 goals this season – top scorer by 3 – mostly  from the bench, isn’t too bad.

We host Montpellier next time out, and a win would see us either guarantee qualification, or put us into the lead of the group yet still in need of a win(for 1st)/draw (for 2nd) at Olympiacos to confirm qualification, dependent on the Schalke v Olympiacos match. For now we remain 2nd with 7pts, one below Schalke, and one above Olympiacos. Montpellier have 1pt and can’t qualify no matter what.