That was properly poor yesterday. As in “things aren’t all as rosy as perhaps we thought” kind of poor.
We’ve got injuries. We’ve got players out. We’ve got a few problems and we’re by no means the finished article. But that performance didn’t really warrant a North London Derby and those Tiny Totts played a perfect away game against a rival last night. Conversely there were times at which we didn’t really look like we had it in us to respond.
Unai makes a pretty strong line up. He went for four at the back with Xhaka and Sokratis as his central defenders, he played Monreal at left back and given they went with Son and Moura as attacking options from the start I could see why Emery chose Maitland-Niles over Lichtsteiner at right back.
But where the three at the back and then halftime changes worked a treat in the last game against that horrible lot, last night it never really looked like it was going to work.
And again, I’m sorry to seem like a broken record, but our lack of dynamism from the two players that played either side of Aubameyang was there for all to see. The difference between the two sides in that first half was that their number seven was clinical and took the one chance where he was through on goal. Ours? Well, he just drilled the ball down the ‘keepers throat.
I didn’t think Mkhitaryan had that bad a game in the most part, actually, but he’s just not the exciting player I saw against us for Dortmund five years ago and instead we have this sluggish attacking player with little confidence who doesn’t have the cutting edge the top players need.
I’m disappointed today – of course I am – but I’m less stung than I would have been if we’d have lost the league game. Although having said that I expected a little more fight from the team. But after They scored the second goal the life and threat seemed to drain out of the side and at this crucial time of the season that’s a real worry.
We’re losing players through injury and we’re losing confidence through performances like that. My big concern now is that all of the positivity in the playing staff may have been sucked out of the team with the poor performance of Sunday and last night. And what doesn’t help is the decision to drop Özil entirely for ‘tactical reasons’.
I’m sorry but not including our technically most gifted player in at least the match day squad for a North London Derby is like self harming. It is a pointless exercise and it feels like Emery is making a stand at a time when the team is starting to stutter. It’s a poor choice if you ask me. Poor because it’s EXACTLY at times like this that you need your big players and I bet if he really needed someone like Özil tonight the German would have delivered.
It’s the same with Ramsey, although he’s found his way back in to the team; he was frozen out for a few weeks and now Emery has realised he needs him.
Unai – stop cutting your nose off to spite your face – play your best players. Or at least have a place for them in the squad.
We’re at a critical point in our season now and perhaps I’m being a little too critical on Iwobi and Mkhitaryan but it feels like he’s backing the wrong horses there. They aren’t delivering and whilst Iwobi has had worse games, we still saw him deliver little in the final third. It’s maddening to see him shuffle towards defenders with the ball at his feet and just when you think he’ll shimmy past them he just, well, sort of just runs in to them.
We need January and we need it soon. In an ideal world we’d have the cashola to drop decent money on a proper wide man, probably another right back with pace and another centre half. But I do worry that we’ll be keeping our powder dry for the summer. Hopefully Raoul and Sven we’re watching tonight and a serious conversation can take place about what is needed in January.
Despite all of this, despite my frustration, I have to say that I just didn’t feel as stressed about the whole evening as I thought I would. Perhaps that’s because we rotated, perhaps that’s because we have a league place to fight for and perhaps a very long day at work had worn me down, but it didn’t feel like the end of the world come the final whistle.
So whilst I’m disappointed today, I’m more concerned with the longer term impact, rather than the result. We’ve been a confidence team for what feels like forever and my worry is that the confidence – or lack of – result will spill in to this weekend. Burnley will be rested, they’ll be prepared for a dogfight and we’ll probably be a bit sluggish having played last night and then again on Saturday lunchtime.
We just have to hope that the players want to prove a point and do it early on Saturday. That’s always the best tonic for a derby day defeat.
Chin up Gooners.