Ooooh, I do love a good post mortem.
I don’t really. However, after an autumn period that, following our dismal start to the season, hinted at better times ahead it’s becoming very difficult to see this winter as anything but one of discontent. The knives are out once more and, following yesterday’s defeat at Swansea, it’s not exactly difficult to see why. I’m not going to talk too much about yesterday, mainly because I was watching Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui at Ally Pally yesterday so missed the first half. I watched the second with that now familiar feeling of exasperation turned to outright horror as the match progressed.
One thing jumped out at me, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while but yesterday really hammered it home: we are staggeringly inefficient, incompetent even, in front of goal. And that is despite having the Premier League’s top scorer leading our attack. When you ally that to a defence that, in the absence of its de facto leader and any full backs, is becoming ever more generous, you have a pretty lethal cocktail. Yesterday, for example, we had- according to the BBC- 14 shots on goal, 9 of which were on target. Swansea had 9 shots on goal, 5 on target and yet it is the Swans who walk away 3-2 victors. I’m not saying they didn’t deserve their win, from what I saw they played very well. I am saying, though, that we’re not making enough of the chances we create.
You won’t be surprised to read that this is borne out if you look back over our last five matches (I’ve included the Leeds FA Cup tie) as well. Check these numbers out.
Shots on goal: 94
Shots on target: 51
We can talk, at length, about how well we may or may not be playing, but 94 shots on goal over 5 games gives you around 19 shots on goal per game, 10 on target and only one of those 10 on target actually finding the net. One in ten. From a team full of internationals. Shocking. Obviously, you can’t do do very much about a goalkeeper like Wayne Hennesey who plays out of his skin, but the number of times we seem to come across this phenomena hints at a quad full of players who, when it comes down to it, just aren’t very good at putting the ball in the back of the net. Like Gervinho, Ramsey, Arshavin and Walcott. Walcott, by the way, is yet to register a home goal since scoring against Chelsea in December 2010. And he’s said to be looking for £85,000 per week contract!
Of course, those numbers don’t tell you which shots were taken from where- Ramsey and Arshavin have been happy to take pot shots from distance and these shots are, if on target, obviously easier to repel than one from the six yard box would be. But we have also had practically open goals passed up with alarming regularity- hello, Gervinho. So, it’s difficult to say that the system is at fault. Although, my feeling is that playing one top and relying on “breakers” from midfield doesn’t give us enough penetration or bodies in the box. Particularly when we don’t have any specialist full backs providing width and attacking impetus. Witness the amount of times the ball will break loose in a penalty area we’re attacking and the amount of times an Arsenal shirt will be first to it- hardly ever, right?
Even if Arsene wanted to add an extra forward to the attack, something the once avowed 442 man has been curiously reticent to do over the last few years, who has he got to add to the mix? A once great striker? A Korean mystery? Mr 85k per week? Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing Theo playing off Robin in a more central role. Especially as we do have players that can occupy the flank roles according to our particular needs. But it’s never going to happen. The conclusion here is simple, if we’re going to stick with this system- and even if we aren’t- we need better players than the ones we have.
Before I finish, I’d like to say something about Aaron Ramsey. Aaron, it’s fair to say, probably wishes he hadn’t bothered getting out of bed yesterday. On his first return to Wales since a loan spell at Cardiff this time last year, he endured a miserable afternoon- being fouled by Nathan Dyer in our penalty area, yet the Swansea player contriving to win a penalty from a totally deceived referee, then being mugged for the same player’s goal and generally giving the ball away almost whenever he got it. Yet, he never gave up, never let his head drop. And then, after the match, was subjected to some of the most ridiculous insults and personal attacks I’ve ever seen on Twitter. Have we all forgotten “Victoria Concordia Crescit”? Or does that only apply when we win? And, yes, I know that, literally speaking, it does mean exactly that. Have we forgotten that he lost a year of his career because of a mindless thug in a Stoke shirt?
Have we forgotten that less than year ago, we looked at the performances of Wilshere and Ramsey against Manchester United and felt that, maybe, a Cesc free future might not be so bad after all? Most pertinently, I think, we’ve forgotten that Aaron, in rebuilding his career with us, has had to do so in a new role and do so largely without a break due to the injuries to Wilshere and Diaby. The injury to Wilshere has also deprived him, and us, of our most creative outlet. I think some understanding of that situation is needed. No player is above criticism, but if you are one of those abusing the Welshman, do me a favour- wind your fucking neck in and support your team.
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