For one reason or another I haven’t been able to jot down my thoughts since our League Cup defeat to Southampton. A lot has happened since then of course, with the small matter of the north London derby, our first home game in the Champions League group stage, and a visit to the small Russian bus stop in Fulham.
With so much time having passed, especially for the first two of those three games, I won’t bore you with my version of a ‘match report’. Instead I’ve tried to summarise my thoughts in a more ‘talking points’ style, so let’s see how it goes.
Two points dropped
The north London derby is a passionate and emotional occasion, and I for one get very caught up in the moment. For all the vulgarity of United and even more so Chelsea, Sp*rs will always be my most hated team. It’s for that reason that the draw was all the more frustrating because the simple fact of the matter is that they are useless.
Once again we looked comfortable, in control, dominating possession, only for a stupid mistake to cost us the first goal. Szczesny played short rather than thinking two steps ahead and realising everyone was closely marked, which meant that Flamini’s awful touch was punished.
Credit to the players for continuing to fight and to the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain for his equaliser. But there’s no two ways about it, this is a very mediocre Sp*rs side and, especially being at home, it was two points dropped. Some may say it’s a tricky game on paper (due to the occasion and passion involved), but on grass it’s a fixture real title contenders win.
Well, well, Welbz
Our midweek performance against Galatasaray was absolutely fantastic; quick and incisive football that the Turkish side just couldn’t cope with. It was great to see. And of course the main man, who took the glory, was Danny Welbeck, who scored his first senior hat-trick.
I really like Giroud and believe he offers us a great deal, but pace and movement in behind is not really his forte. Welbeck allows us to stretch defences a little more and offers that threat in behind. Three intelligent runs later, found by three tremendous passes, and it was a Welbeck hat-trick (with a Sanchez goal thrown in for good measure).
I particularly liked the third goal because there was no time to think or prepare, it was just pure instincts. And the smile on Danny’s face was priceless. It’s great to see him enjoying himself and getting in amongst the goals. Long may it continue!
The euphoria and bubble from our Champions League victory was very quickly burst with defeat on Sunday. It was massively disappointing, but not at all surprising. Sadly that is a game we have watched a hundred times. Like United under Ferguson, Chelsea under Mourinho know exactly how to play us.
They know the first goal is vital to us. They know it will open up the game and force them to come at us, leaving us space to exploit. They know they cannot allow that, so they sit deep, in numbers, and park the bus. And then they wait. They don’t go chasing the first goal because that too could leave us space to exploit. Instead they wait. They wait for a mistake, a set-piece, or a moment of quality on their part. In the end all three came at once.
Alexis gave the ball away too cheaply, Hazard set-off on a brilliant mazy run, Cazorla let him past too easily, Chambers already on a yellow couldn’t foul him, and Koscielny had no hesitation, but did so inside the area. The Belgian dusted himself off and slotted home from 12 yards. The first goal gifted away.
In our last 20 fixtures against United, Chelsea, City, and Liverpool we have gone behind 13 times. Of those 13 games we have gone on to win none of them. We’ve had three 0-0 draws. But in the 4 games we’ve taken the lead? Won 3, drawn 1. As I said before, the first goal is vital to us. (Stats via @orbinho).
Add to that we have only scored 6 goals in 12 games against a Mourinho managed Chelsea and you can see why it felt as good as over at that moment. On this occasion we couldn’t even manage a shot on target, never mind an actual goal.
Could it have been different if Cahill saw red (at 0-0) for a disgusting tackle on Alexis? Perhaps. Could it have been different if Wilshere scored when clean through, instead of his heavy touch? Perhaps. But as I said after the City game, these big matches are decided by fine margins and we just don’t seem to have the ability to make them count; we do not cut it in the big games, especially away from home, and until that’s addressed we will not win another league title.
I’ve spoken about Özil’s lack of form before, so I don’t want to go into too much more detail. However, what I do want to quickly add is that where he is played has nothing to do with his current form. It goes without saying that his best position is centrally and that I, like the rest of you, would like to see him played there. But being played out wide is not an excuse to continuously miss control passes. It is not an excuse to misplace simple passes. It is not an excuse for dribbling the ball aimlessly into touch. And it is not an excuse for being out-muscled by Sneijder and Fabregas.
For those who say he has played well centrally, I say it was Villa and Galatasaray. Two teams who played a high line and left us far too much space to work within. Of course he can pick teams apart when given those luxuries, but on most occasions he will not be. He needs to pull his socks up and start delivering. Wenger has shown an incredible amount of faith in him and it’s time he started repaying it.
I miss Vieira
I think the most depressing thing about Sunday’s defeat was that it felt like the football equivalent of the giant holding a little man at arm’s length, while the little man swings pointlessly. People talk of Fabregas, of Costa, of Hazard. For me I was jealous of Matic. What an absolute monster he is.
It made me realise how much I miss Patrick Vieira. A mountain of a man who could go box-to-box for ninety minutes, who could tackle and fight, who had amazing skill, who could pass and score, who was so physically and technically imposing. He had everything, the whole package. He was captain of the Invincibles and my all-time favourite Arsenal player. God what I’d give to have him, in his prime, leading our side right now.
He would have stamped his authority on Sunday’s game, without doubt. Like in the unbeaten season when his mistake led to Chelsea taking the lead after 20 seconds, when he responded by dominating the game for the remaining 89 minutes and 40 seconds, including scoring our equalising goal. He was one of a kind, a once in a lifetime player. *Weeps*.
Finally for today is a shout out for the Arsenal Sydney supporters group. I made my debut at The Armoury this weekend, and whilst the result was a disappointment the people were not. It was great to watch the game with over 180 fellow Gooners. Midnight kick-off on a Sunday, game finishing at 2am Monday, yet over 180 Gooners? Amazing.
Special mention goes to Elijah (@AussieGoona) who made me feel very welcome and who is a vocal supporter of this blog. And also a special mention for the Q&A organised by the Arsenal Sydney committee. It was fantastic to listen to two guests from the media, @DebSpillane and @CarlyW226, talk so knowledgeably and passionately about The Arsenal, and to also have @TaraRushton in attendance and showing her support too. I’m looking forward to the next time! 10,000 miles apart, but forever in our hearts…up The Arsenal.