Wednesday night was never going to be easy, even if it was a home game. Schalke are a very decent side and came to us full of confidence having just won 2-1, away from home, against champions Dortmund. That said I was expecting one thing, a better Arsenal performance than the one we saw on Saturday. Instead we played worse.
I’m not going to review or report on the game in my usual style, instead I’m just going to provide some observations; starting with some negatives and concerns, followed by some positives and (hopefully) perspective.
Negatives and Concerns:
- There was no response to the awful performance at Norwich and no response to going a goal behind, which is a concern of its own as it seems to keep happening.
- We only had one shot on target and that arrived in the 93rd minute, via a 17-year-old making his Champions League debut.
- Mannone had another couple of shaky moments and our forward line options are limited. The sooner Szczesny is back in-goal and attacking reinforcements can be purchased the better. Until then Mannone is an accident waiting to happen and Giroud must start every game, I’m tired of the chopping and changing; give the guy a run of games.
- The defeat has left us second in the group, going into the game at Schalke one point behind the Germans. We’re making life difficult in our attempt to qualify for the next round as group winners…then again what’s new.
- We miss Wilshere and Diaby. They’re our only real box to box, forward driving midfielders. Without one of them present we look flat in midfield, there is no player to provide a link between Arteta and Cazorla, and you could park an entire fleet of double-decker buses between our midfield and attack as a result. The lack of pace due to the absence of Theo and The Ox is also having an impact in this area of the field.
Positives and (Hopefully) Perspective:
- Before the international break we won 3-1 away at West Ham. Spirits were high, both in the squad and on the terraces. Two bad performances / results do not make us a bad team overnight. We have the joint best defensive record in the league, having only conceded 6 goals; if we can add some goals to the ‘For’ column then results will start to swing our way again.
- The defeat to Schalke was only our second home defeat in Europe in 45 games, the other being against United in the 2009 Semi Final. It means our last European home defeat to a non-British side was a 3-0 defeat to Inter Milan in 2003. Ask any team in Europe if they’d like to have a run of results like that; I think we all know what the answer would be.
- Key first team players are due to return within the next month, some sooner than others, including Wilshere, Sagna, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Diaby, Gibbs, Szczesny, and Rosicky. Within that group of players we have pace, drive, tenacity, and reliable goal-keeping, all qualities we have missed during the last 180 minutes of football.
Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person? The answer to that question will determine which of the two lists above you focus on most. Personally I’m glass half full, I don’t think negativity gets you anywhere in life. I’m not blind to our flaws and I’m pretty certain Wenger, Bould, and Banfield are not either; so yes we have work to do, improvements to be made, but we’re only eight games into the league season…EIGHT. That said the points gaps between us and our top four rivals needs to be closed and closed quickly, so let’s hope we see the improvements with immediate effect – starting tomorrow at home to QPR. They’re bottom of the league, without a win, and their manager is a massive cunt…what more motivation could we need?
Moving from on field events to off field events, and our AGM was held yesterday morning. Defeat the night before wasn’t the best mood setter, but then again we could have won 10-0 and I’m sure the atmosphere would still have been tense. Recent seasons without a trophy, key players sold, and rising ticket prices mean many fans are disgruntled and those feelings were always going to be aired regardless of recent results going into the meeting. From what I’ve read there wasn’t anything particularly new discussed; the usual questions were asked, the same old answers were given, and Peter Hill-wood once again demonstrated that he shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public, if at all. For a full and thorough breakdown of events I’d recommend reading Hayley Wright’s report for Arseblog News.
There is one thing from the AGM I’d like to discuss in a little more detail, however and that’s Arsene once again making it clear what his priorities are for the season, which are to try to:
- Win the Premier League.
- Win the Champions League.
- Finish in the top four.
- Win the FA Cup.
- Win the League Cup.
Yet again anti-Wenger fans, lazy journalists, and anti-Arsenal pundits have twisted Arsene’s words to claim that he said top four is a trophy. Arsene has never said top four is a trophy, nor does he think it is one. What Arsene says and thinks is that finishing in the top four is more important than winning the FA Cup or League Cup – something The Gooner said 72% of Arsenal fans agreed with in their most recent survey. Since we last won a trophy Liverpool have won both the FA Cup and League Cup, but what good has it done them? Since falling out of the top four it’s been a downward spiral for them and they’ve become a laughing-stock; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Gooners use the hashtag #Lolerpool on Twitter. It goes without saying that both myself and Arsene would love a trophy to go alongside a top four finish, who wouldn’t? But if it’s one or the other then top four it has to be.
If you disagree that’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, but please don’t twist Arsene’s words in an attempt to make him sound like an idiot; the man deserves some respect given everything he’s done for our football club both on and off the field. Whenever this debate raises its head again I can’t help but think back to Arsene’s famous sausage and mash / caviar quote.
Right, that’s enough reflecting for one day. I’d like to finish on a positive note, so I shall do so by wishing a very happy 2nd birthday to my nephew Jake. He’s without doubt the most special little man in my life; I love him lots, miss him loads, and hope he has a great birthday. Sending you my hugs virtually Jake, have a happy birthday.