Games at this time of the season are about more than just the three points. It’s about how you utilise your squad, it’s about energy levels and it’s about giving a good show of yourselves so you have confidence going into the new year. The points are obviously core to this, but they’re not the only thing to look out for.
Sam Allardyce was asked about why he didn’t play his best team for all the games before the Chelsea game, he said something like, ‘because that’d be irresponsible’… so West Ham rested some key players, namely Alex Song, because they clearly fancy themselves against us.
Arsenal didn’t really change much. We did bring Tomas Rosicky from the cold, which was great to see. The defence saw Nacho brought into the middle with two full backs who were fullbacks flanking him and Mertesacker.
QPR setup to fail. They had three at the back. Three mostly lumbering defenders who were exposed time and time again. Sanchez up top set the tone when he brought the ball down from over his shoulder onto his thigh, travelled about 10 yards and whipped a tantalising ball into the box. He was ruling the show and we were only minutes in…
The next incident of note came when Sanchez found himself in a foot race inside the box with Traore, the Frenchman swiped at the ball, missed and took down Alexis. The Chilean took the kick, duffed it low and to the right, Green clawed the ball out.
It was ok though, our play was so dominant and QPR were so bad, there was no way we wouldn’t take the lead. Sure enough, that moment came when Gibbs clipped a delightful cross into the box, Sanchez checked his run, took a step back and flew his head into the empty net.
The second half was made interesting when Olivier Giroud reacted badly to a tame challenge, he stood up and landed in the face of Onuoha and took the fair punishment that was a red card. Such a dim thing to do. He’s not out for 3 games. Really, really not handy.
QPR started to pressure. Arsenal started to fall apart under the pressure, but we did manage to push our lead to two goals, some incredible individual work from Sanchez found Tomas in space, he bundled his ball under Green and celebrated like a man who’d been pushed out of a squad for no reason.
The drama wasn’t over, QPR landed a penalty for a perfectly excellent Debuchy tackle in the box. A terrible decision. The penalty was smashed down the middle. Game on.
We hit panic stations. We didn’t make a change until the 82nd minute, then we brought on Chambers. A player who really shouldn’t be thrown into any sort of pressure situation right now. He was rinsed out wide almost instantly leading to a chance. Then we brought on Coquelin, a player who couldn’t land a game for Freiburg, he had a nightmare and looked out of his depth.
Then we had a heart stopping moment when Gibbs clattered Zamora in the box. Somehow the ref didn’t blow up. Well, I’m not really amazed, Atkinson was so embarrassingly garbage, it wasn’t a surprise at all.
Anyway, we rode our luck there, but it was only fair. A point apiece really would have been criminal considering how terrible QPR were.
Three points, the wet and cold Ashburton Grove crowd could slink off into the night and be thankful of the three points.
Arsene Wenger’s in game management really is weak. Firstly, we should be more than capable of closing out a game against QPR. Wenger should have made two subs at halftime, knowing that the real games were against Southampton and West Ham. We could have swapped Sanchez for the electric pace of Theo. We could have taken off WELBZ and put on Podolski. That would have kept pace in the side, put on some finishing and we could reverted to something more compact.
Instead, we didn’t make a sub until the 82nd minute, when we did, we subbed on players in exactly the same way we did against Liverpool inviting pressure on. We didn’t change things up until the end and we ended up over exerting ourselves heading into a big game. And look, we should beat West Ham, but we know it’ll be tough. Alex Song really changed their game up when he showed up for 30 minutes. As did Sakho. They’re going to be a big ask away from home with heavy legs.
QPR really were terrible. They were there for the taking. We totally lost control of the game in the second half. I appreciate that we went down to ten men, but where’s the plan? It felt like an age before we recognised that we’d slipped down to ten. There’s never a reaction to it. There’s never a fall back system. It’s all hands the pump with a smattering of prayer. It looked a mess.
Layer that over the control Chelsea had over West Ham, well, it’s chalk and cheese. We really need to work on that side of our game. As soon as things fail to go our way, we fall apart.
I’ve said it all season, but I really don’t see where our style is. I can’t see what we’re striving to achieve. 5 shots on target all game against the worst team away from home in Europe. We’re confused, we lack vision and I don’t feel like we really have much clicking outside of Sanchez and maybe Cazorla. We’ll make top 4 this season, but we don’t look like a top four side. Hopefully when some of our injured crew return we’ll have a bit more to our game. At the moment, players just look lost.
You just can’t knock this chap. He’s an absolute machine. Without him… well, I don’t want to imagine where we’d be. His pace and trickery is totally suited to the league. I don’t think I’d be off key saying that he’s the most exciting player we’ve seen at Arsenal since Thierry Henry. He has it all. Totally electric.
That’s why I’m staggered we don’t appear to be treating his fitness with the kid gloves we should be. He might be a robust player, but we don’t ever let up with him. Being rugged feels like a challenge to Wenger, rather than something to use wisely. We now have like for like pace we can replace him with (Theo). We should be taking him off during busy periods when we’re winning. We don’t, because there’s no such thing as a won game unless it’s over with Arsenal. Our lack of maturity at holding onto results directly impacts how much energy we expend on the pitch (Jose likes to go a goal up early then take the fizz out of the game to conserve energy).
Gotta say, this Atkinson chap had a total meltdown yesterday. Giroud deserved to go, but so did Onuoha and so did Rio for his grabbing of the neck. Not just that, the penalty he didn’t give against Gibbs was unbelievable as well. Just as the penalty he gave against Debuchy was. Does the ref do it on purpose? Of course not. Should they be given slow motion replays to help aid their decisions? Absolutely. The relentless push to chastise refs for being awful kind of obscures the reason they are… faster players, faster play, more cheating and nothing bar their eyes to help them make the right decision.
It’s absolutely crazy we’re so backward when it comes to this side of the game.
A few pundits jump on Flamini now everyone is hammering him. Arsenal fans pick players that are trendy to bag on. I didn’t think Flamini was that bad yesterday, but he was getting a hammering because Neville said it was ok to do so. Flamini has been average since Christmas last year, if you’ve only just noticed, you need to open your eyes. But digging him out for communicating seems absurd. Half the issue we have in the squad is down to a total lack of communication, last thing we should be doing is hammering Flamini for trying.
We desperately need two powerhouse midfielders, because Arteta is just as unsuited as Flamini in the middle of the park. Against top teams, we’re going to get ripped apart. We don’t have the energy or the power in that position. Matic is the benchmark. He has it all. A converted number 10. Arsenal are messing around signing 16 year old Polish DMs that are being promised first team action within three years (should we be promising first team action?) (he also supports Madrid and City). I’d like to think the focus was on the adults.
We need to get serious about recruits now. We should have all our players lined up for purchase January 1st. Will we? Doubtful. We’ll likely be messing around in the last week of Jan trying to steal a bargain.
We’ll see though. I know we’ve been talking to clubs. Let’s see what the club come up with.
Also, while we’re on the talk of players taking an unfair bashing. Monreal is doing well. He’s not a centre back, never has been and every time he plays he gives it his all. He gets far more of a going over by fans than Gibbs… who has been tragic most of the season. Why? Pretty sure it’s because he looks like Phil Neville / Gareth from the Office. Watch his game next time he plays, he really isn’t that bad. Especially when you consider he’s playing next to a German who said he’s struggling to motivate himself this season.
Big game. Big, big game. Fingers crossed we take three points there. Teams around us are picking up their form, no more mistakes.
HAPPY DAY AFTER BOXING DAY
Be Merry. Drink all the beer. x