This is depressing. Even when I was mentally prepared for a bad result that performance was just too hard to take. Even though I believe Arsenal would be better of not competing in the Cups, the manner of defeat has been excruciating. For the last couple of days I just kept away from the internet and any football news. Despite that, it’s not easy to write this.
I don’t want to go into any kind of an analysis of the game or the individuals. It was something we have seen in the past often enough; opponents working hard to chase the ball – all credit to them for that, scoring from one shot on target, Arsenal not getting a penalty, struggling to create much otherwise, conceding another on a counter-attack.
It’s really hard to pin-point what went wrong and it just seems safer to say everything did. Oddly enough, the players who got injured – Coquelin, Squillaci, and Ramsey – were not the ones who’d been overworked in recent weeks. I guess the Gunners are just not getting a break right now.
Wenger did go with a strong side but even that didn’t help. Both managers touched upon the midweek exertions in their own way and it clearly had an impact. There could be an argument that Arsene should have played some of the more fresher players. For instance, RvP anyway didn’t get any support/service in this game, how much worse could Chamakh have done? Maybe his presence could have given Arsenal a different option, who knows.
Then again, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho couldn’t do much in this game. Walcott has been an easy target this season but such games show Theo isn’t always the problem. For all the hype around him, AOC never looked like he could do much against such a well-organized defensive unit. The point, of course, isn’t to criticize the youngster but just to show that change in personnel doesn’t always work.
That is all the more relevant in the case of Arsenal where the system of play is the biggest strength. When that fails or the opponents counter it well with their stifling tactics, everything else seems to fall apart. The defence looks very poor, the attack toothless, and the midfielders appear to be a bunch of clueless amateurs chasing the ball.
It is here that Arsene has to find a plan B. When the passing game isn’t working as well and the opponents are consistently threatening on the break after incessant, synchronized pressing, why can’t Arsenal sit back deep in their own half and absorb the pressure? Why doesn’t a side blessed with so much pace (Walcott, Gervinho, and AOC can probably match the quickest players of any side in the League) know the way to use it against a side that is willing to come out? Would the result have been different if Arsenal had the ability to start the game with a predominantly counter-attacking approach?
Then there are the usual observations. Why do set-pieces and crosses from Arsenal result in so many counter-attacks? Why is it that the opponents have only one shot on target but end up with 2 goals!? Why do the freak goals keep on coming? Why are many of the usually reliable players seemingly losing the plot at the same time?
These aren’t new issues so I don’t want to dwell on them. I am just writing this to get it off my chest. Apologies to those who came here looking for a balanced piece. This time I just can’t do it.
Arsene has a week to sort out some of the issues in training. After that the Gunners have a few big games in quick succession. Such efforts can easily see a string of defeats pile up. Thankfully, it isn’t all about individual players and so there is scope for improvement. The strong run in the final months of last year wasn’t a fluke. It can be repeated. But it won’t be easy for Le Boss.
Enough said. You’ve probably moved on from the game or have suffered just as much. So I don’t want to bring the memories back. Thanks for reading this belated rant.