Blog when we’re winning, I only blog when we’re winning….
Sitting in a north London office on a rainy Monday, our first defeat of the season- at home to one of the more hateful clubs in the Premier League, feels like it belongs to another lifetime. A lifetime in which I didn’t go to watch Death In Vegas storming Brixton gig, a lifetime in which we didn’t celebrate Jo’s dad’s 60th birthday yesterday and a lifetime in which Europe definitely didn’t come from 10-6 down on the final day’s play at Medhina to snatch the Ryder Cup from America’s grasp.
All of which is to say that I’m pretty much, definitely maybe, over losing to Chelsea on Saturday. I said, prior to the Manchester City match, that I hoped the goodwill Arsenal have built up this season wouldn’t evaporate in the event they lost that match. And they didn’t lose it. So, although losing to Chelsea at home is clearly a touch more painful than losing away at the champions would have been, the same principle must apply. It’s disappointing to lose that game, of course it is. But it doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly shit.
And don’t say to me, no, that’s because we’ve always been shit. You know that isn’t true.
I guess what I would like to talk about today are the things that are really sticking in my mind two days later. So, without messing about any further, let’s get to it.
1) Arsene’s decision to drop last week’s man of the match, Per Mertesacker backfired pretty spectacularly with both Vermaelen and Koscielny heavily culpable in the concession of two very soft goals. Vermaelen’s panicky bundling over of Torres some thirty yards out for the free kick that led to the second goal was ludicrous. Koscielny’s panicky attempted clearance was misguided at best. That ball travelling that far, into that area, it has to be the keeper’s. But the keeper can’t move for the ball if he doesn’t know where it’s going to end up. If Koscielny leaves it, then Mannone can make his mind up early. It was also Koscielny who allowed Torres to get his smartly taken volley away, and thus open the scoring, in the first half.
I get Arsene wanting to have two nippy central defenders in against Chelsea’s array of tricky half forwards, but perhaps it was counter intuitive to remove the man who has started this season so strongly. Especially when it seems, that without the BFG, the words piss up and brewery spring to mind when thinking of our defence.
2) Gervinho. Yes, 4 goals this season is good. Yes he took his goal on Saturday very well, but that was pretty much the only thing he did right all game. I find it amazing that this guy is paid to play professional football, moreso that he plays for us. You hear Arsene talk so often about the intelligence he prizes in his players and yet Gervinho seems to have none. I wonder if he has training ground competition with “TJ” Walcott over who can run into the most blind alleys. His awareness of what’s around him is non existent and, for me, always has been. If we’re relying on him to lead the line more often than not, then we’re in trouble.
Maybe the plan is to keep him going until Giroud finds his feet (assuming he does) but how is Giroud meant to do that with twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there? Arsene has already spoken of the pressure Giroud is under, does he not see that he is adding to it by chucking him on when we need a goal? And, yes, I know that it’s his job to score goals but it can’t help your confidence to see a guy who probably struggles do his bootlaces up starting in “your” position every week.
3) This is going to come over like a massive generalisation, but for too many years now, it hs felt like any opposition shot on target will result in a goal. I say that as a big fan of Roger Chesney and in full acknowledgement of the increased security he brings to defending crosses. Chelsea had three shots on target on Saturday, one was straight at Mannone, the other two found the net. At the other end, Petr Cech made two excellent saves, from Giroud and Podolski. Saves that I found myself wondering whether an Arsenal keeper would have made. Probably not. What’s going on? Are our keeper’s boots provided by the mafia?
After 750 words of whinging, which I wasn’t really intending, because, really, it ain’t as bad as all that, I’d like to finish by commending the performances of both full backs on Saturday. This blog has previously noted the tremendous improvement by Carl Jenkinson this season and he was excellent- again- on Saturday. On the other side of the pitch Keiran Gibbs has demonstrated the benefit of starting games regularly. I thought he was magnificent on Saturday, probably our best player on the pitch and didn’t really deserve to be on the losing side.
I guess, in summation, you’d say that Chelsea’s victory didn’t tell you much about Arsenal that we didn’t know already. Yes, we’re a bit dozy at set pieces, yes we have goalkeeping issues and, yes, we will still miss more chances than we score. Other than that, we’re a pretty good side.
A work in progress, you might call it.------------
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