Rule number one for any football fan is to win the match. In the late eighties and early nineties other teams mocked ‘boring boring Arsenal’ but we didn’t care. We made defending an art form. When we went one nil up we were like an Italian side who were rarely broken at our peak. And as a fan base we could accept that because it was a formula we’d perfected to ensure we won trophies and leagues.
And we did.
So let’s apply that same logic to yesterday’s game away to Huddersfield and ultimately I have to say that I’m happy this Sunday morning because we picked up three points, we’re level on Chelski who play City away today and fingers crossed they lose, whilst United are just a point clear of us with their next match in the league is Liverpool away. Unless they beat Liverpool then you’d hope that we could beat Southampton at home and then the situation could see us leapfrog them again.
We’re at a point in the season where points are the paramount metric of success and so victory yesterday was vital and ultimately pleasing.
However, whilst performance isn’t the main metric for success for Emery and his Arsenal team, it does give us an indicator of the probability that we will be able to string together multiple victories on a march towards the top four and in that respect, yesterday was hardly an indicator for any of us to get excited about.
Arsenal looked poor. We gave the ball away too much, we didn’t take all of the chances that were presented to us and in Huddersfield we faced a side who were low on confidence, low on goals and surely must know that their time in the Premier League is limited. But they didn’t look like that yesterday and as I said on the radio last Monday we should never underestimate the generosity of Arsenal when it comes to giving opponents hope, chances and inevitably, goals. I’m just glad that when Huddersfield did get their first goal in about a bazillion hours of football, it was so late in the game there wasn’t really an opportunity for them to put us severely under the kosh. So we held on to the lead for an extra few minutes and saw out the match to at least keep the flickering belief that this Arsenal team can find some momentum for the top four race.
In mitigation for Emery, he’s had rotten luck on injuries and with Aubameyang, Ozil (cough cough), Ramsey and Xhaka all left at home due to illness or injury, the team he had to assemble with looked decidedly devoid of a lot of it’s creativity. When you also consider that the team is already missing Holding, Bellerin and Welbeck – all of whom I’d suspect would have played if they’d have been fit today – then that is around eight first teamers missing for our Spanish boss. So perhaps this lack of a consistent set of first team players plays it’s part, but you have to also look at the formation yesterday and ask questions about why we needed to play three at the back against such a team who were devoid of creative and attacking threat. Why not move to a back four and give someone like Suarez more minutes? I know he’s a new player, adapting to a new country and team but given some of the other players on the pitch surely he could have given Huddersfield more to worry about?
As it was we thankfully didn’t need him because Iwobi stepped up with a scuffed shot and at this stage I’m just glad he scored. The ‘keeper probably should have saved but let’s not take that away from Iwobi because he desperately needs it. Unfortunately he didn’t really ‘kick on’ in the game and there were still parts of his performance that would have you pulling your hair out, but as it stands right now I’m just glad that he got off the mark and got us off the mark. And of course we always need that second goal so when Laca got it just before halftime then we all breathed a sigh of relief. I really liked his goal because it was good build up play, a great finish from him and particularly I liked the positional awareness he had to peel away towards the back post as the ball was slid in to him.
So at 2-0 up going in to the second half you’re hoping that Arsenal will take control of the game. But under Unai we just don’t seem to be able to do that. I don’t know whether it is a mental thing or a coaching thing but once again we gave a few chances away to the Terriers and I have to say it was frustrating. careless in possession at times, the only real defender who I thought had a good game was Koscielny. Mustafi had a few moments, Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac were both better going forward than defensively and even Leno needed to be bailed out by our captain.
And at this stage you really do start to wonder just how much surgery is needed on this team from a defensive point of view. Maybe we do need to just blow it all up and start again? It’s a conversation for the summer but Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – feels applicable to our defence as it stands. We are doing the same thing again and again with different managers over the last two seasons, but the same players, expecting a different result. At this stage I’m wondering if a shipping out of most other than Bellerin and Holding, possibly Kolasinac too, wouldn’t be a good thing for the club. It sounds harsh but something has to give because I fear we’ll miss out on top four not because we don’t have the creative players or goals in our team, but because of consistent brain-fart moments that this defence keeps providing.
The other final thing I want to pick up on, which is something that Arseblog said yesterday too, is that the football is becoming more and more difficult to watch too. It’s sluggish, we look devoid of creativity going forward and at times, well, a bit boring. Except we’re not really getting the results. Hey, Emery needs time, nobody is really calling for his head just yet and we all know he needs to bring his own players in and hopefully the structure and style of the team will become more apparent, but right now it feels a little weird. It feels like he’s riding somebody else’s bicycle (Wenger) with the handlebars in a different place, the seat positioned differently, just making the whole experience of riding – and watching him – a little awkward. Let’s just hope he gets better.
Anyway, that’s enough from me for one day, so I’ll catch all of you guys tomorrow.