It is a mark of the level of performance yesterday, that Arsène saw it appropriate to offer a blunt retort when asked about the young players who started in yesterday’s 3-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. They simply were not ready and not at the right level.
That said, I find mys of waking up this morning hoping that Le Boss broke the team into two sections after the full time whistle had blown, the youngsters and the experienced squad pros. I say this because the two conversations would need to be very different.
For the youngsters it is a conversation about learning from this experience, about understanding what it takes to play top flight football and to go away back to their respective teams and work hard.
For the experienced players, those that are in and around the first team, it needs to be a bit of a rollicking. The rollicking needs to be for their own individual performances, but also for the way in which some of them looked to be offering no protection to the younger players from what was a Sheffield Wednesday team really up for this game.
I think only Cech can really Coke out of this game knowing that he didn’t balls-up anything. Notice how I refrain from saying “he had a good game”, because quite frankly, he had little to do but pull the ball out of the back of the net. We need to give We’d essay some credit, for they clearly wanted the win more, but it wasn’t as if they were battering down the door and Cech was on hand to make a litany of saves. They just had to take the chances they were given and they certainly did.
For the first goal I felt that Debuchy looked out of position, but it was a well worked goal in the build up and perhaps there is more that should have been done in the centre of the goal to throw a body at the on-rushing Ross Wallace. The second goal was a set piece in which all Joao had to do was jump vertically and connect, such was the absolutely pathetic attempt at marking, from Chambers and Big Per no less, so it was hardly a case of inexperience at the back that cost us. Both have played plenty of times in an Arsenal first XI and both should know better.
The third goal was another embarrassment; the type of marking you see on a Sunday morning with defenders still half-cut from the night before. How the guy gets around the back post unmarked to square to a Wednesday player is beyond me. But even then, as Hutchinson (who shouldn’t have been on the pitch anyway, but let’s not use that as an excuse for our ineptitude) bundled the ball in, it didn’t feel like there was the same desire to get the ball away as he had to bundle it in.
There were some players out there who just didn’t seem to care. Debuchy looks like he’s going through the motions. You can’t accuse Flamini of not caring, but he should have been taking a game by the scruff of the neck and supporting the younger players, which I don’t think he did at all. Giroud was literally anonymous for almost the entire game and when it happens to Theo, people spend a lot of time looking at how many times he touched the ball in the whole game. I’d love to see a stat from Olivier on that basis, because if it hits double figures I’d be shocked.
Then, to add injury to the insult of having to sit through that tripe for over an hour and a half, we have to sweat on the fitness of The Ox and Theo, who both suffered injuries within the first 15 minutes. You could not have asked for a worse evening and those injuries wee the rancid fruit on top of a pickled fig cake.
If those injuries turn out to be longer than a few days, let’s face it, we’re in trouble. Because the next option on right wing is Joel Campbell and his performance was perhaps one of the most worrying of all. Here is a guy that Arsène singled out for praise pre-match. Here is a guy who people told to “get out while you still can”. Here is a guy who people raved about after a good World Cup in 2015. But here is a guy who doesn’t look anywhere near good enough for the first team at this moment in time. He made a couple of decent tackles, but as an inside right forward, you need to have something about you going forward and he offered almost nothing for the whole game. What really worried me is his vision – or lack of – as he often played balls without looking for a man in space. It was symptomatic of a player who doesn’t do one of the most basic things in football: look up. He just has an idea in his mind and executes (or tries to) it whether there is a man in that space or not.
If both The Ox and Theo are out for this Saturday, then Campbell is next in line to the throne at right wing and right now, that feels like we’d just be giving the opposition an extra man, he was that poor.
The positive of the night – and let’s end on a positive because nobody likes to be in a bad mood because of The Arsenal – was that Krystian Bielik came on and looked composed and assured on the ball. The difference between him and Camara, who started, was marked and I can’t understand why Arsène didn’t give him a start, but a few peeps on Twitter last night suggested he’d been filling in at centre half and so perhaps it was felt that he hadn’t had enough matches in that position.
So all in all a pretty rough night, but take hold of that Bielik bit of positivity and try to keep that in your minds eye. You’ll live longer.