Frustration at Arsenal’s approach at Palace
Today is a blog of, ultimate lunch, frustration I’m afraid. It’s frustration because that wonderful winning run that we’ve been on came to an end away to Crystal Palace, but also it’s frustration about the way in which it happened.
There were a a few factors involved in the way I feel this morning:
Let’s start with the overall team performance from Arsenal’s side. Emery was forced in to naming Xhaka at left back again like the game away to Sporting and with somebody on as much form as Zaha is at Palace, it’s hard not to be a little worried at how much joy he would have got against a makeshift full back. But I have to say I thought Xhaka played well enough for a guy who has hardly played there in his career. Zaha spent a bit more of the time on the left and our right hand side, but when either he or Townsend got up against the Swiss I thought he performed well.
Unfortunately though, the whole team did what it does in the first half yesterday, which was look disjoint, misplace passes and generally give hope to the opposition. We looked leggy from the start and whilst we had the lions share of possession, it was a quiet game in the attacking third, with Iwobi not really getting in to the game and Lacazette only really having one sniff on goal.
Palace are an organised team under Hodgson and they say back in both halves and encouraged Arsenal to break them down, then when they had the ball their tactic was not rocket science; get long diagonals going from the back to the front and see if you can get at the Arsenal back line.
And they did. Well, everyone does, which is why I’m so nervous for next weekend. More on that in a bit, because let’s focus on the end of the first half and beginning of the second. Palace were, sadly, good value for their halftime lead having hit the post and also dragged one wide from Townsend. Quite what Mustafi was doing with his erratic lunge on Kouyate is a mystery to me, but we can’t really have any complaints about the penalty and for the second week in a row Palace had a chance to score from the spot. Which of course they did.
Then the usual halftime magic oranges were consumed and for about 15 minutes it looked like Arsenal would step up a gear. Xhaka’s free kick was a fabulous thunderbolt and from then on we seemed to have the ascendency. Well, up until we scored our second goal that was, which is also frustration because the media narrative was all about Lacazette’s ‘controversial’ possible handball before Auba touched it in. It maddens me when the media focus on things like this whilst completely ignoring the fact that Lacazette was having his shirt pulled in the box. So okay then Palace players, you can have the goal disallowed, but Arsenal convert from the penalty spot. Ok?
Anyway, the goal stood, we were two up and I thought we’d press home the advantage. But I guess we have to give Palace some begrudging credit here because they took more and more chances and created plenty more than us too. They certainly deserved a second goal and whilst you’d expect them to come on to us being a goal down, I’d also expected to see more from us on the counter.
But we were poor. Really poor offensively. Özil followed up a brilliant performance on Monday with a complete ‘meh’ of a performance, Lacazette never really got in to the game, whilst Iwobi looked like he was running in to blind alleys again. Welbeck’s introduction added a little more zip in to our play, but you expect more from the other players who are currently first choice. What we got was a pretty insipid attacking display in truth and we didn’t create many chances at all.
That’s also where the frustration is because the media have been telling us all season that we won’t continue to convert our chances with so few attempts. There’s part of me that has desperately hoped that we could keep it up, but deep down I think I’ve always known that we’re not doing enough to see out games on a long-term basis. This sort of match had been coming in the post for a while.
Which is why when Palace did get their equaliser, it was also very frustrating, because Zaha dived. No ifs, no buts, he tricked everyone and conned Atkinson who for a change I don’t blame because I thought it was a silly foul by Xhaka at first. But when you watch the replay you see that it was cheating and I had to laugh into my granola this morning when I saw Roy Hodgson talking about how Lacazette’s handball had cost them a win. Mate, come on, you’ve got one of the most cheating attackers in the Prem in your team. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.
But they got it, they scored it, they deserved the win and our streak comes to an end. It’s weird because I don’t feel aggrieved about the run ending because of the points, more the momentum, because in my mind we needed to win both yesterday and on Wednesday to have the momentum and confidence of the players as high as it could possibly be for when we play Liverpool.
That’s going to be such a tough game. Liverpool will have had a week off, they’re top of the league, they’ve just won 4-1 and they have few injury worries. They will know that Bellerin came off with an injury and if he isn’t fit come Saturday evening then it’ll be the slow torture of Lichsteiner up against Mane, Salah and Firmino and that terrifies the life out of me. And if Monreal and Kolasinac aren’t back then that’ll be on both flanks that we’re vulnerable.
It just felt like we needed to tack up as many points in this run as possible so that when these types of games like the Liverpool one come around, they’re a little bit more of a freebie. Even though we’re at home it’s going to be massively tough to beat the scousers and almost impossible for us not to concede I fear, which is why the lack of chances at the other end for us is a worry.
Unai Emery has some serious thinking to do and for me that has to involve deciding who plays on Saturday evening and having them nowhere near the starting XI against Blackpool on Wednesday. We want any level of fatigue to be no excuse from any of the players.
It’s frustrating because we’ve been getting the job done and I don’t know about you but the worry has started to set in for me now. My hope is that Emery is going to spend a lot of time learning about the mistakes of this weekend and whilst I think he will through his many video replays, the fact that yet again we started so poorly is a real worry now, because Liverpool will come out of the blocks on Saturday and if we go a few goals down in the first half, then it’ll be a difficult old time relying on our second half efficiency to claw us back any points.
Plenty to ponder over the next few days.
I’ll catch you all tomorrow.
- The overall team performance
- Giving away a lead after we got our noses in front
- The dive from Zaha
- The worry for the game in just under a week’s time against Liverpool