I don’t like having to write thoughts like this after a game like yesterday, but you can’t exactly call yourself a daily blogger, if you tap out when you have to endure performances like yesterday. Because tapping out was pretty much what the players did against Man City, wasn’t it?
That was a shameful performance. It had no fight in it whatsoever and Arsène can complain about offside goals all he likes, but the fact remains that the team he sent out on the field yesterday, had about as much fight in it as a pacifist in a boxing ring. We just wilted in that second half and when you start looking at individual performances it’s hard not to see why.
In goal Cech probably could have done better with both the City goals. He also could have been a lot better with his distribution. It’s a good job we’re a short passing team normally, because if we tried what we did yesterday against all of our opponents, Cech would probably be found out.
Hector didn’t exactly have the best of games on the right, but Nacho down the left was pretty turgid. Sterling cut inside far too early for his goal, but all day he looked out of sorts and quite frankly, how Gibbs is not back in the side more regularly now is a real mystery. He’s been poor all season and when Gibbs plays he’s shown that he’s upped his game. We’re surely now at a ‘changing of the guard’ moment, no?
In defence Koscielny needs somebody who doesn’t frighten the life out of everyone, because that’s what we get with Mustafi and given the German’s injury, what I wouldn’t give to have Big Per available. At least he instils a little more confidence.
But confidence was in short supply yesterday, especially in our midfield, with Xhaka struggling, but Coquelin really needing to get in the bin. He was dreadful. When we are relinquishing possession so frequently as we did yesterday, is he really the player that we need to sit in front of the back four? I’m just not sure. For me Elneny and Xhaka probably would have been a better option. Mind you, it probably wouldn’t have made too much of a difference, because there was little to speak of in front of the midfield two, as much as behind it.
Mesut Özil. Oh Mesut, you really aren’t helping yourself at the moment, are you?
He was pretty dire yesterday. In my match preview blog I said we needed him to have a big game if we’re going t perform well, so perhaps it was inevitable that he would be as horrendous as he was yesterday. He’s one of our talismen, a guy we look to, to change the flow of a game. Yesterday he did almost literally nothing. He was not alone in that regard, but he is one of the stars of the team, so when he underperforms it is more obvious. Iwobi had a poor game and Walcott scored his goal and contributing little else, but we kind of expect this from those couple of players. We don’t expect it from Özil.
Perhaps we should expect this from this Arsenal team, because that’s what they are, unfortunately. They’re a team who never really look convincing as champions and once again we find ourselves saying the same things about an Arsène Wenger side: good to watch at times, have their patches of good form, but ultimately will fall short. They aren’t prepared mentally enough for the relentless nature of a title attempt and our record away from home at the big teams is testimony to it. We see it all too often. We’ve seen it twice already this season against both Manchester clubs. United were in a bit of poor form and missing a couple of players, yet they still out-play us and should have won the game. City were decimated with injuries and suspensions, yet they still found a way to completely dominate an Arsenal team who once again don’t build on some good initial work.
What I found frustrating is that in the first half, it had looked like we were going back to that blueprint of the 2-0 win we had at the Etihad a few seasons back. That performance was built on a foundation of defensively solidity and taking the chances afforded to us. But yesterday the team acted as though the hard work had been done as soon as we scored so early on. We then looked in control and that stadium went flat. It was exactly what you want to do as an away team. So when you see such a lifeless display in the second half that looked bereft of any kind of defensive structure at all, you wonder what on earth is said in the dressing room at half time. Did all of the Arsenal players go around high-fiving each other, with much chortling and back-slapping to be had? That’s what it felt like in that second half.
“Job done boys. Let’s all go home now”
Again, we’re also talking about wilting in the face of a vocal crowd. So what we’re saying here is that the players are affected by a bit of noise? Do we get that easily swayed? It’s pathetic. As soon as the crowd got behind City we looked like a rabbit in headlights. It felt like a carbon copy of the Everton game and quite frankly, to offer such a lack of a response after that performance in midweek, is unacceptable.
I don’t think the opportunity of winning the league is completely gone, but I don’t believe this team has the meantality to win the league. I hate Chelski, but look how relentless they’ve been in their pursuit of top spot. They have a structure and a style that has clicked. We have a manager who is tinkering with things because he doesn’t know what to do. He also can’t set his side up to win away from home against big opponents.
Before these couple of matches I had hope that we might win them, but I didn’t really have belief, because we don’t win these types of games when our confidence is hit. And I think the Everton game did hit this team. And what’s also frustrating is you just know this is going to have implications on the West Brom game. We all know it. We’ve seen it before with this Arsenal team. They’ll come up against a stubborn resistance in a agony Pulis side, the home crowd will get on the teams back and if points are dropped, the season probably will all be done and dusted. It’s boring and predictable and pathetic. A constant cycle of the same. Heck, we’re even getting the same teams in cup competitions now, so if we progress beyond Preston in the FA Cup, I’d imagine it’s another match up against Hull for us. Yawn.
Arsène can talk about mental strength until he’s blue in the face. I’m yet to see it from his teams over a consistent, season-long, basis. Not for the last eleven years anyway.
Happy Monday. At least we can all try to forget that football exists for the next eight days.