I have felt joy, grief, pain and other emotions while watching the Arsenal team. But I don’t remember the last time I was so bored while watching our team play!The boredom turned into exasperation as we conceded a stupid goal that could have come in any of the other games we have won in the recent past.
As I wrote in the preview, Alkmaar have decent technical ability but the tempo of their game is very slow. Somehow, they managed to lull our players to sleep by playing at such a slow pace. Some credit should go to Koeman and his players. He had said they had to play well and we had to have an off day. We certainly had a lazy one. He also said that they needed to dominate possession, which, rather surprisingly, they managed. But most of the fault lies with Arsene and the players.
It was a defensive decision to start with Eboue instead of Vela. If we can’t give a brilliant talent a chance in such a game then when can we give him a chance? What is the point of putting out a full strength senior squad when they are going to play in zombie mode!?
I have a theory that our attack suffers whenever we have three or more of Eboue, Diaby, Denilson and Song playing in the same team. Rosicky made a big difference in the last few games and we can see that Arshavin, RvP and Cesc need one more player on the same wavelength to make the game more comfortable and enjoyable for them. I have a feeling Vela could have been that player but right now it’s only speculation.
In spite of the defensive team selection and tired performance we created all the good chances even though Alkmaar had bulk of the possession (57% at the end of the first half). It reminded me of times when we dominate possession but the other team gets the goal. The goal came from a neat combination between the three best players we had on the pitch. Although at the end of the day, none of them can claim to have had a very good game.
We had plenty of other chances to score a second but most of our efforts were half hearted. AZ never looked like troubling us as they were quite poor in the final third. Then again, we are quite poor in the defensive third, especially when it comes to set pieces. The hosts increased the tempo a little in the final 20 minutes but they never looked too keen or likely to force a result. They only sent men forward for set pieces and perhaps Koeman was right in identifying and exploiting our defect!
My multiple mistakes theory applies to this goal as well. It started with Arshavin conceding a daft free kick for an offside. He didn’t have to challenge the defender for the ball. If he hadn’t, AZ would not have been able to throw so many players forward and the seconds would have ticked away. There is no way you can attribute such problems to naivety. What is the point of buying experienced players if they are going to make such bloopers?
Second mistake came from Diaby. He just backed away and allowed Pele to rise above him and win the header. He should have stood his ground and attacked the ball himself. There is no point blaming him alone as most of our players are hopeless in dealing with set pieces. The fault lies with the manager for not addressing the issue that has plagued us for so long. This team is crying out for a top quality coach who can help us work on set pieces.
The third mistake was from the likes of Cesc, Ramsey and Vela. Three AZ players attacked our box for the second ball. But none of our players were there to track them. What is the point of them loitering around just outside the penalty area when we have only a few seconds left to play?
Unfortunately, this was not a one-off performance. We have been playing this way for a long time now. Luck has gone our way and we have managed the results. The question always was, when will this luck run out? How can we be confident that this won’t happen again in a crunch game!?
I think part of the blame has to go on the lack of rotation by Arsene. Fergusson easily changes half the team or more from game to game. But Le Boss refuses to use the full squad that we have. What is the point of saying we have an enormous squad when the same players are going to turn up game after game? They are bound to be tired. I know our injury list is rising again but we still have two or three decent youngsters who should be given a chance.
The games we have played in the recent past were all relatively easy games. Ramsey could have been given a chance in any of those. I have said enough about Vela already. Traore could have been played on the left in some game. Wilshere could have been given a few minutes. But we have been seeing the same players over and over. I guess Denilson is feeling the pain of his hard work from the last season. Soon it might be Song. Why Arsene, please tell us why?
Thankfully, this game is not too important in the context of the title hopes. I am confident we will not have any problems with qualification to the second phase. But we might not be able to secure qualification even after a win in the next game, which could then force us to play our main players on matchday 5 and 6 before the big games against Liverpool and Chelsea.
We cannot say that we will learn from this game as we have made the same mistakes in the past and have not learnt from them. I am just hoping this match will serve as a tight slap and a wake up call. The important phase of the season is yet to begin and we have to be alive and ready for that.