Howdy folks. Was travelling yesterday so I didn’t really have much time to compile thoughts on the Brighton game but really, how many people want to read about the dross that we were served up on the south coast though?
It was pretty turgid stuff throughout and even though we drew with Brighton, it felt like a loss because let’s face it, they weren’t very good and we gave them too many opportunities to get back in to a game in which we should have been out of sight by the first half alone. Those chances that Auba had just before his goal and then afterwards when he forced a good save from Matt Ryan feel like they were pivotal moments in the game and certainly Unai felt so in his post match interview.
The fact that he also spent a bit of time having to explain his substitutions shows that there were a few people confused by his decision making and this isn’t the first time this has happened this season so far. Emery is developing himself as a bit of a tinkerman when it comes to his team with every halftime feeling like it has a tactical shift about it. The initial excitement and success he had with his changes have been embraced by us fans but it feels like he hasn’t quite got the balance right at the moment because sometimes it feels like you can leave well alone. At the same time though, I understand him wanting to change it up in the second half, but the subs themselves didn’t seem to work and we were worse in the second half than we were in the first. The decision to bring Ozil off if he hasn’t impacted the game is fine, but only if you’re bringing a player on who has the ability to influence a game in a way that is positive. If, for example, Ramsey had come on for Ozil, so that you have a more hard runner rather than a pinpoint pass master, then i could understand it. But the decision to bring on an out-of-form, ineffective, Alex Iwobi, was baffling. Iwobi had less of an impact than Ozil and yet if you’re going to put your faith in someone like that you really need them to repay your faith. Iwobi hasn’t been doing that since October and it felt like the Ozil sub was a point to be proved rather than a tactical decision.
The decision to bring Ramsey on for Lacazette also felt odd. We have two players who are our main goal threats and to replace the Frenchman at a time in which we needed to have more impact running in behind, just didn’t make sense to me, particularly given that Ramsey, Auba and Lacazette were so good with their running in behind against Tottenham. I know Brighton wouldn’t have been pushed as further forward as the Tiny Totts, but it would have made more sense to bring off Guendouzi for Ramsey and see if you can stretch the whole defence with more running.
But Emery didn’t do that and we ended up with the kind of sterile sideways football that was the last season of winger’s reign.
And I think that worries me this morning. It worries me because I was hoping that we had affected enough change with the new manager to avoid the kind of insipid displays that we had on Boxing Day. It was a lacklustre performance with players who looked like they didn’t have the intensity or the drive to see this over the line. Perhaps part of it is because we are quite clearly creaking at the moment with so many injuries but again the worry is that the club aren’t decisive enough to inject new blood in to the team in January. Something has to give though. The Lichsteiner gamble hasn’t really worked and if his mistake doesn’t happen then perhaps we win the game one-nil. It’s those kind of fine margins that have an impact but that’s against poor teams. When we play Liverpool tomorrow the margins will be a lot different I suspect because they will create a lot of chances and we will give them lots of opportunities.
It’s why it feels to me like we need a minor miracle tomorrow because it doesn’t feel like the team has the ability to rotate enough to bring fresh legs in who will make a difference. In the game in November where we all thought we played really well against the Scousers, there was a fire about the team which helped us, but we certainly didn’t see that intensity on Boxing Day and it feels to me like that’s because some of the players aren’t really able to give it.
Some more thoughts about the match tomorrow in a match preview, but right now it’s hardly the greatest of times at the moment and the way we’ve played against Wolves, Huddersfield, Southampton, Burnley and Brighton, hardly gives me the greatest amount of confidence. This was a run of games with which we were hoping that we could get in to a good position in the league and realistically we should have been looking at 12 points from that run of games. We’ve picked up eight. That’s not a good enough return at this stage of the year and we need something to change in the team. A new injection of blood is needed and we need it soon.
I just hope the club realises this in time as well.
Catch you all tomorrow