So. Right. Erm, where does one start after yet another opening day defeat? I genuinely have no idea. Gotta start somewhere though, right?
Perhaps this blog today will be as disjointed as the team felt yesterday in a pretty abject performance. Well, when you concede four at home you have to say it’s abject, don’t you? I mean, it would suggest that defensively we were abysmal, but I’m trying to rack my brains this morning as to who had absolute shockers. I can’t think of anyone really. Collectively the team didn’t work, but individually there was nobody who was a cataclysmic failure. Sure, Cech might have done better for the second goal, and Holding gave away a soft free kick for Liverpool’s equaliser; Chambers looked shaky in some patches and neither full back was at their usual best, but individually there was no main culprit to blame. The whole collective was to blame.
You can’t really apportion much blame to the central defensive pairing. They are two young and inexperienced players and at times it just showed yesterday. But not as much as the two that played in front of them.
Arsène’s decision to play Coquelin and Elneny seemed to make sense on the basis that both could be a screen for the two centre halves, but too many times in the game I didn’t see enough of that screen. One of the things Arteta was always good at was dropping deep to give a defender an option of a passing outlet. That didn’t really happen enough yesterday. Neither player really offered the protection that they should have and we were left terribly exposed.
Some people have suggested that it’s clear Xhaka wasn’t ready by the fact that he committed so many fouls in his time on the pitch, but I think we looked better when he was on because he gives that outlet for the ball and he retains possession. We looked much better when Santi was on too.
It’s just a shame that, as usual, his arrival was marred by the fact that Aaron Ramsey has twanged his hammy. That’ll be two weeks out for him then. I’d tell you it’s unbelievable, but it’s entirely believable with Arsenal. It’s why the 25 man squad rule should have a one-club exception to it. People were pondering before the season started, where all of our midfielders were going to fit in, but this is Arsenal. We all know that half of them will be injured for most of the season anyway, so we’ll only have to worry about too many players for the last two weekends of the season when they all come back fit in time to go on their holidays.
It just didn’t feel right yesterday. The selection, the set up, all of it. It felt disjointed. Ben Has been saying to me for ages that we don’t seem to know what our style is and it’s hard to argue with him based on yesterday’s performance. Liverpool do not have better players than us. We should have won that game. But they have an identity with their manager. They have a system. They work to that system and sometimes it pays off. Had they played a team who knew it’s style, then I think they could have been put to the sword yesterday, but instead they were fortunate to come up against Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal.
And I make that point quite deliberately, because this mish-mash of a team is his. What sort of a team are we under Arsène these days? Do we press hard and high? Do we stay solid defensively and catch on the counter? Do we dominate possessions against teams and suffocate their ability to catch us out? What is it we do?
I don’t know. I don’t think the players know. I’m not even sure that the manager does any more. It feels like he’s just got a group of players and is picking the ones who individually are the best in training. It feels like we are just smashing together a collective be of good footballers and hoping that they all gel. But sometimes that just doesn’t work. In fact, most of the time that doesn’t work, so why don’t we work out who we are and how we play, then just fit players to that system.
As for the manager’s post match comments about not being physically ready, well, that sticks in my craw more than anything. How, on gods green earth, can you turn up to the first game of the season and not be physically ready? Come on Arsène, man, that’s an inexcusable thing to say. The whole point in pre season is to have your team physically ready. Perhaps it was just a poor choice of words by the manager, but I find that admission really quite shameful.
It wasn’t really a great post-match set of comments, if we’re all honest, was it? I mean, the manager also took the time to tell us that there’s not long left in the transfer window, which feels like he almost said it from behind a plastic screen to avoid the bottle of branded Arsenal water being thrown at him. He’s had all summer and now he tells us there isn’t long left to bring players in? It almost seems like a bit of a joke. I’d like to tell you that it’s not funny, but actually, I think it is. I think we are. I’m smiling as I type this, actually, because my expectations were already so low in the run up to the game, I might as well see this as one big joke.
On the way home I did some ‘furious tweeting’, but in reality, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it because I didn’t feel hurt and angry. I just felt resigned. I’m resigned to another season of the same story. My expectations have been lowered which, in some ways, is a good thing. Hopefully it will mean that I can get over defeats like yesterday a lot more easier. The only down side to the numbing of Arsenal, is that when we win games, I’m not sure I’ll feel the same highs either. Arsenal under Arsène Wenger have neutralised my emotions. I feel sanitised by the club because I know exactly what I’m going to get.
I don’t know if I’m happy or sad about that to be honest with you.
Hey, there’s 37 more games to go, there’s still plenty of wins that can be had and we have to all hope that Arsenal will bounce back. The good thing about the first game of the season is that it can be put in the bin quite quickly, given so many players are missing, etc. We have to just hope that the players can have a chat amongst themselves and sort it out this week in time for a visit to the champions next weekend.
Catch you tomorrow.