I had the fear about yesterday, but oh my days, did I not expect to see that happen. I don’t really want to dig too heavily into the goals, mainly because sifting through 5 terrible defensive errors really doesn’t feel like a good use of time, so I’ll go through the key points as I see them.
We conceded 6 against Manchester City. That was shocking, don’t get me wrong, but firstly we had a pretty good excuse… fatigue / tough run of games. Secondly, although we conceded 6, we did score three and we played pretty damn well.
Yesterday, we faced a Liverpool side after a weeks worth of rest. Both teams came armed with a weeks worth of practice, a week to learn a system, a week to focus. Simply put, Arsenal should not have been beaten like that.
Now, I know I bang on about this all the time and it irritates people, but there was a clear lack of energy in that game yesterday. This isn’t the first time we’ve suffered in a game because of a lack of pace and energy on the pitch. Liverpool came at us like a freight train yesterday, we weren’t just beaten, we were smashed to pieces. I almost had to hide behind the sofa. They had so much more pace about their game than we did. Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez, Flannagan and Henderson were all one step ahead of us.
Where is our pace? Where was our pressing game that seems to have dissipated (as it always seems to) this half of the season? It’s not like this is new. No energy against City and United and we took a spanking… but lest we not forget, that performance wasn’t a million miles off what we saw against Everton and Southampton. The difference? Those two didn’t have the ability to kill us off.
I appreciate we’ve lost our two main threats when it comes to bringing some frenzy to the side. Losing Ramsey and Theo is a huge blow. However, we also have to ask questions of ourselves as a set up that we’ve had Theo out for basically the whole season and we’ve lost Rambo because he was run into the ground… then we lost him in the recovery. I mean, that really is rank amateur recuperation right there. It’s not a surprise though, it happens every year. Is it bad luck that we lose our major players to major injuries almost every season?
Diaby, Vermaelen, Jack, Walcott, Chamberlain, Cesc, Rosicky…
Anyway, back to the pace. Why is Wenger not out there adding that key ingredient? Why in January are we trying to snap up Kim Kallstrom, who is two years past his physical peak and clearly not top talent, whilst Liverpool are trying to land Yevhen Konoplyanka, who absolutely destroyed England in an international with his energy and pace? He has it all to be a success over here and he has everything we should be looking for in a midfielder. Why is our scouting network not throwing up names like that?
Instead, we’re sat there suffering yet another turgid performance from Arteta. I love the man, but it’s clear for all to see that his legs are gone. He doesn’t have the pace to keep up with the modern game. He was woeful yesterday. That’s not because he’s a bad player, it’s simply because other clubs put so much emphasis on pace, he can’t keep up. He will be a focus point for United on Wednesday because they’ll see him as a big fat glaring weakness in the middle of the park.
Tactical set up
Teams that press against Arsenal really do box us in and cause problems. We don’t make it easy on ourselves because we have no width or pace outlet. Teams push up against us, put us under pressure and we falter. How many times did our midfield lose the ball yesterday? We have almost zero width and we have no pace outlet bar our full backs which makes it easy for the opposition to get at us. Also, what the hell were our full backs doing exposing us when we were 2 down yesterday? The internal communications on the pitch yesterday were appalling. No one wanted to take a lead.
Ok, going a goal down after 53 seconds isn’t a brilliant start, but hey, things happen. What really rankled me is that any team going away from home conceding a goal that poor after such a short amount of time should go into lock down mode. The fact that we went on to concede 3 more goals within 20 minutes is a total embarrassment of management and on field accountability. Where were the shouters? Where was Per Mertesacker? Where was Arteta? Arsenal had no emergency plan in place to stem the tirade that Liverpool were unleashing on us.
Now, I know this is going over old ground, but our lack of options up top is beyond embarrassing. We’re fighting for the league and we have Giroud and Bendtner as our strikers. Chelsea have Torres, Ba and Eto’o. City have Dzeko, Aguerro, Jovetic and Negredo. Liverpool have Suarez, Aspas (I know) and Sturridge Even Everton have Lukaku, Naismith and Traore from Monaco. Ok, so forgetting that, for me, a turning point of the game was when we went up Liverpool’s end after two minutes, Giroud was slipped through, the sting of the pass was absorbed by a deflection… and his first touch was outrageously heavy and he cut back into Skrtel. If you have a good striker in that position, they’re at the very least crafting a shot. A goal there changes the outcome of the afternoon. Instead, it went to shit… Now, it’s not Giroud’s fault, but I find it negligent that a club with the resource Arsenal have can’t even find a short term solution.
Chanting… ‘there was no one available’… really is ridiculous argument. When you have money, there is always someone available. How did Chelsea sign Matic? They knew that Ramires was central to their plans and that if he picked up and injury they’d miss his running, so they most likely made plans well in advance of January then they snapped him up. Mourinho has a plan. Arsene doesn’t.
Now, I know everyone uses Ozil as the whipping boy because he cost a bundle of money, which I think is unfair… but yesterday, he really did himself no favours. I appreciate it’s his first season, but I haven’t seen a great Ozil performance since the Everton game. He needs to find the beast within and he needs to start dominating games. We need the big names to stand up and be counted. This is the business end of the season and he was totally anonymous.
Because of the nature of that defeat, that now means we’ll have to go all guns blazing against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Which isn’t a problem for me, but with our fragile squad, layering more first team games on the… err… first team is not good for having an energised squad. The worst part is if we lose that, it’s yet more momentum Liverpool’s way and it puts us on a massive downer for the Bayern game… which, could be an absolute mauling. I mean, if an ok Liverpool side can put 5 past us, what could the greatest team of the last 20 years do to us?
I’ve said all season that I’m not convinced that Arsene has what it takes to deliver a major trophy and I stand by that. At the highest level, Arsene Wenger can’t cut it. Yesterday, he showed that once again, when it comes to the big games, he struggles. Whatever Arsene’s game plan was for Liverpool, it tanked. He focuses on his own team and his goal yesterday was ball retention and winning in midfield. We failed at that. The bigger question here is this… in the modern game, can any man succeed if they only focus on what they’re doing? Pep Guardiola took on Dortmund and their pressing game by inventing the false ten… his defensive midfielder would move up front like a striker and Bayern would knock the ball over the top of their pressing midfield. Genius thinking. What would Wenger do? He’d go toe to toe even if his personnel couldn’t play the game he needed them to.
Arsene Wenger is a dated manager. He’s done really well so far this season, but this hammering really is a slap in the face. How many teams have won the league having lost two game 6-3 and 5-1? How many top class teams in Europe regularly suffer massive defeats in the manner Arsenal do? How regularly do we have to watch our season unfold in a short two week period?
I’m all for stability when it comes to a manager. I’ve seen what has happened at United. But that January transfer window really was a total shower, as usual. We’ve once again taken a total beating from a top 4 team and it looks like we could be set to slip into the thick mud of a top four battle again. If that happens, which really is a reality, how comfortable would everyone be with Arsene signing into another 3 years for £25m with the same staff, the same approach to scouting and transfers with the same philosophy that looks like it could unravel again?
We’ll see… but I’m guessing if your CEO signs off a player with a broken back under instruction of the manager, he’ll probably not be thinking along those lines.
Have a great day, keep them firmly crossed for United on Wednesday.
P.S. There area pictures of Arsene falling over on the web, I find it extremely distasteful that a man in his sixties hits the deck and media publications run with it like it’s humourous.