I was a little too worse for wear yesterday to blog, having consumed quite enough spiced rum on the Saturday evening, so I decided I’d wait until the inevitable affect effects had run their course and blog today on Saturday’s game.
I suppose there’s also an element of the match itself having been a bit of a damp squib, with Boro setting their stall out to sit deep and hit us with whatever counter-attacking they could muster, which you can’t really complain about. Teams have been doing that for years – decades even – and the trick for all the best teams is to find a way to unlock those who come with negative tactics. A bit like Man United yesterday, who would have undoubtedly tried to bore us all to death, had Chelski not scored in the first minute.
So my motivation for blogging yesterday was hardly helped by the result of performance, but on a WhatsApp group I share with a collective of Arsenal match day peeps, one of the guys suggested that he thought this was a one-off rather than a worrying trend. I get that; after all, we’ve just pumped Ludogorets for six, plus bagged three the previous weekend against Swansea. So perhaps getting concerned about the result is to be a little too jittery at this stage in the season.
And yet…I do still habour some concerns, because I think there will be plenty of teams who will use that Boro performance as the blueprint. The key will be to ride out the first 20 minutes, then it all becomes a little easier, is the mantra that I wonder if teams will start to adopt against us. Sure, Middlesbrough had a few opportunities themselves and we had Cech to thank, but opposing team managers who look at that as an opportunity to get at Arsenal I don’t think. Instead they’ll look at the compact nature of Boro’s back line and see that as the way forward.
And herein lies the worry with not rotating as much. Perhaps that will change as the season goes on and perhaps if Giroud was fit he would have played to offer a different threat, but our attacking trio just weren’t geared up for a deep-lying defence like Boro’s on Saturday I don’t think. We just couldn’t get in behind – certainly the full backs – and when we did on rare occasions, we were wasteful. But what would have been interesting to see on Saturday, is how we might have unlocked a stubborn defence with somebody like Giroud to offer an aerial threat. Would it have forced more space for players like Walcott or Alexis to operate and get in behind, as the centre backs concern themselves with the big guy in the middle? Don’t know. But what I do know is that it felt like earlier in the season with our attacking options. And I think we might get more and more of those games this season.
And that worries me.
So what I’m hoping is that Arsène mixes it up a bit when we have players like Giroud back fit. If there’s a chance that we could play a few different ways against an opponent like Middlesbrough, then I think it helps us massively, because an opposing team manager can’t spend all week on a system designed to negate Arsenal. Despite what Karanka said in his pre match press conference about not coming to Arsenal to ‘park the bus’, it was clearly evident that his team had been working on a system designed to negate any of Arsenal’s strengths by playing tight and deep as a defensive unit. Again, you can’t really complain about that, but what I can do is hope that next time a manager preps his team to play against us in a certain way because he thinks he’s playing a certain group of Arsenal players, Le Boss can spring a surprise by playing a different system.
We’ve always been classed as being flat-track bullies by being able to beat the likes of Middlesbrough but not the bigger teams, so I hope we’re not going to end up losing that moniker, because we need it if we want to stand any hope of winning the big prize at the end of the season.
Again though, this may just be ‘one of those games’, to which we’ll probably not find out about for a number of weeks, because the next of the so-called ‘smaller’ teams to visit us in the league, will be Bournemouth on 27th November. Before that we play Sunderland away next weekend (who will be encouraged to have more of a go on their own turf), followed by the Tiny Totts at home, then United away. Those two teams won’t sit back, so it will be a while before we know whether we need to be a bit concerned about our ability to break certain teams down.
Right, that’s yer lot from me today. Time for a spot of the old workie.
Catch y’all tomorrow.