Sunday, 30 September 2012

Physical power and fine margins

Twenty four hours often gives one time to find more context and perspective, and this is definitely the case after yesterday's tightly contested encounter with Chelsea.  Firstly it is remarkable that we can compete against a team that would be bankrupt if they were forced to live in the real world, they have a team full of massive 20/30/40 million pound signings and taking this into account it makes our recent record against them even more impressive.

It was certainly not our best performance against Chelsea but it was far from our worst.  There is no doubt that we created by far the better chances in open play and Cech was the far busier of the too keepers.  The slack defending from Laurent Koscielny in particular allowed Chelsea to play the game as they wanted, with men back in numbers and counter attacking at will, but they still created very very little from open play, and we did enough to merit a point at the absolute minimum.

There is no doubt that Alan Hansen had a point for once, unusual I know, we are not a big side and we are susceptible to set pieces, and this is especially true with Per starting and with Diaby off injured.  The system of defending, whether zonal or not, is pretty irrelevant; our lack of size and experience in defensive terms is there for all to see.  Certainly Kos made the clear errors, but these were not isolated, Luiz was unmarked for the first goal, there were other men left in far too much room without due attention.  Mannone couldn't have really done much for either goal, he was let down by the defending in front of him.  Ramsey showed again that he cannot perform Diaby's role in the side, demonstrating the strong argument for a signing in this area in the window, Coquelin with his better defensive attributes must have a good chance of a run of games now.

We had no luck in front of goal either.  Cazorla wasn't having a shooting day, plus Cech was inspired, his stops from Giroud and Podolski were absolutely spectacular and of the highest order, Giroud did everything right with his injury time chance until he shot, then he just sliced his shot, letting it fly narrowly wide, fine margins indeed.  I do like the look of Giroud though, he is strong and powerful, he has a nice touch, his left foot is quality and he shoots quickly, I think he will come good.

Finally I agree fully with Ashburton Grove, yesterday showed just why Theo Walcott is not an important player to Arsenal, his work ethic and effort summed up why this is the case quite perfectly:

 "But if you watched him off the ball, like I did, it showed you a player who wasn't concerned about tracking back or helping his team mates and only playing for himself. I'm sorry but there is no room for passengers in this team and I'm getting to the end of my tether with Theo. Yesterday showed why Arsene Wenger hasn't picked him. There is no "I" in "Team" and that's what Theo should be told in no uncertain terms."

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Lucky moneybags exploit our suicidal Achilles heel

It was a very good game of football, and a very even one at that.  Both sides had their moments and it really was nip and tuck for long periods.  51% possession vs 49%, plus 5 shots on goal for both sides shows how evenly matched this contest was.  Strangely some Arsenal fans seem to think we were terrible but I think the statistics back up my stance, we were decent and in the game, it is just sad that our terrible defending from set pieces cost us the points.

The dropping of Per Mertesacker for Kos looked an error before the game, and afterwards it looked a massive clanger.  The combination of terrible defending from Kos and weak inexperienced keeping from Mannone saw us undone twice by simple set pieces.  It was very frustrating as other than these howlers, Chelsea didn't really open us up or threaten Mannone much.  The second Chelsea goal came from a very soft free kick, Torres diving under gravity again, as a team they really did go to ground very easily all day long.

We huffed and puffed, despite going behind twice to these poor goals.  Gervinho's excellent spin and shot got us level just before half time.  Then in the second half we pushed Chelsea so hard, really we deserved an equaliser, a mixture of good goalkeeping, poor finishing and bad luck cost us our second equaliser of the day.  Podolski's header was expertly saved, Cazorla had a great chance after Gervinho teed him up, Cech pulled off some other good saves, while Giroud's one on one which he narrowly blazed wide was the best chance of the lot.

Diaby's injury is a massive concern and exposes our lack of squad power in the central midfield area, perhaps Coquelin and Frimpong will have to be given some games if this injury is not minor.  We need Szczesny back soon, as Mannone is not up to it, he will continue to cost us points.  It hurts to lose to such a disgraceful football club, a club that is summed up by the joyless and pathetic cheating of their striker, Fernando Torres.  Still, we can bounce back from this, it was really could have been very different with some luck and better defending.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

We've come a long way

How things have changed over the last year, we have gone from being a talented and disjointed collection of individuals to a well organised team that is very much greater than the sum of its parts.  This was epitomised today with an outstanding performance away to the moneybags PL champions Manchester City.  Of note City's bench cost more than our entire starting eleven, some context if ever it was needed.

No one could deny we deserved the point, and if any team deserved the win it was us, we shaded both halves and were always the better passing team.  City were outplayed in the first half, we overwhelmed them in the midfield and with some better finishing we should have taken the lead, Gervinho particularly culpable with a poor first touch when clean through on goal.

City took the lead against the run of play, some poor communication at the back saw Gibbs concede a needless corner, it was whipped in well but Mannone flapped and Lescott nodded in.  Poor defending all round.  Mannone did then pull off a fantastic save from Dzeko's magnificent 20 yard curler a couple of minutes later though.

City changed tactics in the second half and put an extra man in the midfield, this certainly made them trickier to break down.  We huffed and puffed, Cazorla first tested Hart with a fierce right footed shot which he just managed to divert wide, and then from the resulting corner Kosielny brought the ball down slightly heavily, but he still managed to belt the ball into the roof of the net leaving Hart with absolutely no chance.

The game was not yet over though, there was still time for a magnificent Mannone save and a bad Aguero miss from Koscielny's poor clearance.  Gervinho also could have sealed it, brilliantly bringing the ball under his control but losing his composure at the vital moment, blazing his shot high and wide.

It was another excellent overall team performance, bar that one poor piece of defending of course, but we travelled away to a tough venue and gave a great account of ourselves.  The unsung Per Mertesacker was awesome, his reading of the game sublime, the whole back four player their part too, Cazorla was the hub and a special mention must go to the much maligned Aaron Ramsey who put in an excellent all round shift.

We have come a long long way in the last year, the work ethic in the team is so much better, the organisation Steve Bould is adding is making such a difference, we have got rid of some arrogant disruptive characters too.  Perhaps the one thing that is going to take a little bit more time is for the attacking play to completely gel, our new forwards will need patience to allow them to develop into the team and this won't come overnight.  Great performance and if we can get something out of our game against Chelsea next week then there is no doubt that we are in the title mix this year.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Outstanding result marked by Bould fingerprints

That was as convincing a win as I have seen from an away side an Anfield in recent years.  Certainly it is not great Liverpool side but they are still a decent side with several very good players.  It is easy to put the win down to Liverpool's woes but this is rather unfair on an Arsenal side that is looking like a really solid and organised unit, and one that is going to be extremely tough to break down this season.

It is no coincidence that we have not conceded a league goal in three games and that Steve Bould has been working on our defensive game in training, many of us have been calling for better defensive organisation for some time.  It was also not just down to coaching, the players selected for the game were all doing their fair share of work in tracking back and defending, this was absolutely vital.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski started in the wide forward roles and got through a terrific amount of team work.  The midfield three of Arteta-Diaby-Cazorla gelled magnificently.  Arteta sat and did so much unnoticed but vital water carrying.  Diaby put in his best ever performance in an Arsenal shirt, he was everywhere, gliding past men as if he had never had an injury in his life.  Cazorla has given us a new dimension with his crafty movement and sixth sense for a pass.

Liverpool couldn't really open us up, they had a reasonable amount of the ball but couldn't create much clear cut.  This Arsenal side was unrecognisable from last season's without the ball, we were organised and positioned in military fashion.  There was less diving in, there was a sensible knowledge of when to press and when not to.  We had men back in numbers when we needed, we played with discipline and responsibility.

The goals were nicely taken, even if the second was a bad error from Reina.  The first saw Cazorla delightfully played in Podolski, who showed his quality with a quick first touch and unstoppable low finish.  Giroud missed a cracking chance just after to make it 2-0 just before the break, Diaby slipped him in but he sliced his left footed shot side.  Cazorla's goal earlyish in the second half gave us breathing space and we held out pretty comfortably after that.  Howard Webb stood firm when Per won the ball cleanly in the box and later when Suarez dived, otherwise the ref wasn't great and he wasn't awful, somewhere in between.

That's enough rambling from me.  A great performance that we should all enjoy, particularly the remarkable display of the injury plagued Abou Diaby, he look utterly imperious today, if, and it's a big if, he can stay fit then he can definitely be one of the best midfielders around.  I shall keep my mouth shut before I tempt fate any more   It was also great to see a real solidity in our performance, we were tough and stubborn, we held on to our lead at the toughest of locations with relative ease.  A truly great day to be a Gooner.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A time for tumbleweed........

I summarised by thoughts yesterday and having endured yesterday's transfer window, I have to say I feel betrayed by the club.  There is no other way of putting it.  Defensively we are solid, up front we are short with the failed Chamakh being relied on as 3rd choice, and central midfield is a potential disaster zone.  We sold Alex Song and we have not replaced him, we also got a relative pittance of a transfer fee for him, it stinks.  Song had three years on his contract, there is just no excuse for selling him and not replacing him.  The club and manager are setting themselves up for a major fall if we do not achieve this season, after this both senseless and reckless gamble.

I simply have no more to say, I feel flat and let down.  Just take a few slow deep breaths in and out and watch the above video.  It truly is a day of tumbleweed, unadulterated pure high quality unrefined tumbleweed, rolling along, voiceless, the nothingness, the emptiness and demonstrative of the total lack of anything of real meaning.  Tumbleweed sums up the transfer window perfectly for us Gooners.