What is it about Old Trafford? What is it about Jose Mourinho? Both seem to bring out the worst – performance-wise – in Arsène Wenger teams.
Yesterday was a painful game to watch. It was 45 minutes of tedium followed by 45 minutes of under performance from Arsenal players, which was only spared by a late leap from Ollie G, who saved his teammates’ bacon. Yet again actually, because he’s been coming off the bench and bagging goals for a few weeks now. He must be wondering what he has to do to get a start.
Sadly for him, I think he’s got no chance at the moment, and that is down to Arsène Wenger. The reason I say this is because Arsène doesn’t set his team up to negate opposition strengths and maximise ours. He sets his team up based on who has been playing regularly and what system he’s using at the moment. It’s why certain players will still be in the team for a while before the manager drops them. Arsène really doesn’t like dropping players. I suspect if he thinks it could affect them mentally. He prefers to have players get injured, then play themselves in to form and the first team jersey, which is also why I think Gibbs isn’t getting a look in over Monreal.
Yesterday Nacho was really poor. His positioning wasn’t great at times, he got beaten time and time again by Valencia, plus going forward he offered little. If I was to say his form this season has been ‘patchy’, I think that would be slightly flattering for the Spaniard. But he won’t be dropped for Gibbs. Not unless he gets injured and Kieren has the opportunity to play four or five games in a row.
It’s the same with Giroud. He won’t be prefered for Alexis in the middle, because that’s not the done thing at the moment, so unless we get an injury – which none of us want – he’s going to keep being a sub.
It’s wrong because Arsène should have looked at the game yesterday and set the team up to expose a United side who clearly had deficiencies at the back. A front three of Giroud, Walcott and Alexis should have offered more, with a hybrid of power and pace on the flanks for the United team to deal with. But instead, Arsène opted to put Ramsey in the front three, which was one of a number of poor decisions by the manager yesterday.
Ramsey was poor. He gave the ball away, he was quite persistent in fouling and offered us absolutely no width whatsoever in stretching the United team. We were too narrow and too passive, especially in that second half, in which we really should have been beaten.
Özil looked like he really couldn’t be bothered. Elneny had a really poor game too I thought. Coquelin was more assured than the Egyptian, and we’re now at the head scratching stage with Xhaka, because he would have been a perfect partner for Coquelin yesterday. He’s a ball distributor, which is something both Coquelin and Elneny were not the best at yesterday and coupled with Ramsey in the team, we had too many players who’s passing accuracy feels to me like they’re wayward.
The set up was just completely wrong and sometimes it would be good for the manager to admit when he gets it wrong. He obviously didn’t though.
And yet we still stole a point. So whilst the performance left a lot to be desired with, whilst we’ve had two big games in a row in which I think we haven’t really performed to our capability, we have still come away from Old Trafford without a defeat. Which is something to be thankful for. Or relieved. Perhaps a bit of both. The unbeaten run continues in all competitions and whilst we’re not exactly pulling up trees like we were about a month or so ago, at least the team can take comfort in the fact that they’re still picking up points.
November is drawing to a conclusion and we have three more games to get through before we can see the back of it. And they’re all home games, so hopefully those home comforts can turn this month into an ‘okayish’ one, rather than the disaster than it normally is.
It’s PSG on Wednesday and if the team can give us a performance and three points, then it sets us up for Bournemouth next Sunday and hopefully we can get back in to winning ways in the league too.
Until tomorrow people.