Morning folks and happy Sunday to you all. James here, covering for Pedro who is manscaping himself today.
Yesterday was one of those games where we displayed qualities that Arsenal sides are often accused of not possessing. Save for a couple of champagne moments, we were poor. The midfield struggled to retain possession, which is reflected by us only having 47% of the ball, which is becoming a more regular occurrence for us in away games. We won the game based on tireless work, good defending and several portions of good fortune.
Saturday was my first visit to Selhurst Park and it’s fair to say I won’t be rushing back to that neck of the woods any time soon. I hate South London at the best of times, but Croydon is truly special. A concrete jungle that time forgot – the setting for a post-apocalypse film. Nice tram though.
The ground itself is bizarre as well. From the outside it looks like a 1980’s leisure centre – very strange indeed. The pre-match entertainment of scantily clad cheerleaders – ‘The Crystals’ – and an eagle flying across the pitch just added to the surrealism. Poverty stuff.
Onto the game and it started well for us, going ahead after 8 minutes. Palace’s new left back let the ball run across him and WELBZ, our boy worked hard to nick the ball away and strode towards the box. The defender clearly fouled him – the only area of contention was whether it was in the box. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. The penalty was awarded and Santi stepped up to convert with aplomb.
From then on, the game developed into a familiar pattern of us winning the ball, losing it and Palace lumping it forward, greeted by chants of “hoof” from the away fans. In fairness to Palace, I think they were playing the pitch, which in itself was disgraceful. I had my heart in my mouth every time we played the ball across the back four in fear of the ball hitting a divot, or one of our guys slipping over. The turf had no give and was pulling up with alarming regularity. Really unacceptable for a Premier League side. The guy next to be informed me they’re returfing the pitch this summer.
Palace had a lot of territory in the first half, with a plethora of set pieces, but the delivery was often poor (particularly from Zaha, who is a complete #fraud). Per in particular dealt well with the long balls and we were relatively untroubled.
On the stroke of half time we struck again. Good build up play involving Ozil led to WELBZ being put through and striking the ball against Speroni. Fortunately he went full Ospina and palmed the ball straight to Giroud who was on hand to bury the chance. It was just reward for the Gaelic god, who I thought was our best player yesterday and has been playing out of his skin recently. He’s responded well to the challenge of competing against WELBZ and Alexis and has become pivotal to our setup. It’s been said a million times that he will never be a top class forward, and I’d have agreed with you previously, however the question should be asked how much more does he need to do to be viewed as one?
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Palace having the majority of the ball, however they were playing with a greater intensity, with Pardiola clearly sticking a rocket up the jacksy at half time. However, we remained the more incisive side, with Ozil showing immense skill to flick the pall passed a defender and play Alexis in on goal with an utterly gorgeous through ball. We all thought Alexis’ poked finish was going in, but it slid just wide of the far post.
Palace brought on Bolasie, which made them far more direct. His delivery from the left was excellent and caused us real problems. Palace eventually grabbed a goal in the 90th minute, with Glen Murray stabbing home after a scabby melee in our box. It was frustrating to concede, as I felt we had defended set pieces well before that.
Predictably, with several minutes remaining we were all treated to a soiled undies moment when a cross came in from Bolasie on the left, Ospina flew out of his goal, getting nowhere near the ball and Murray headed the ball against the upright before it nestled back in the Columbian’s sizeable gut. From where the away fans were sat it looked every inch a goal.
Despite the late scare, we hung on to record a dogged win and vital three points. It was a fruitful Saturday for us with United losing at Swansea, which sees us move above them to third place. Tottenham play West Ham today, whilst Southampton and Liverpool are the 4pm kick off – all in all a good weekend.
A quick word for Mark Clattenburg, who was fucking abysmal yesterday. Whilst referees make mistakes, which I can live with, it’s a lack of consistency in their decision-making that riles me. He was happy to book our players at the earliest opportunity, but will let Palace players get away with cynical fouls throughout the game without getting his card out. The standard of officiating has gone down the toilet and seems to be getting worse – I have no idea what the answer is, but a greater level of accountability for referees would be a good start. As for Clattenburg – he should stick to Ed Sheeran concerts, which is a sackable offence in itself.
A word also, for Ospina, who I thought was poor yesterday. He is hugely unorthodox, evidenced by his utterly bizarre header inside our box. His kicking is average, but his biggest impediment is his dumpy frame. He just isn’t big enough to be the number one at a top club. He can’t dominate his box; he flaps and often gets nowhere near the ball. I’ve heard many say he is a ‘solid number two’. What on earth does that mean? It’s a ridiculous phrase that has no foundation. A solid number two is someone who isn’t good enough to play first team football – it’s no justification for their place in a squad. Whilst I think we can do better than Chezza, he’s more of a number one keeper than Ospina for my money. Personally, I hope we go big for a top keeper this summer. It’s clear Wenger has lost all faith in the Pole and there is no way Ospina is a viable long-term option. One final observation with Ospina – have you ever seen a keeper who gets injured so much during a match? Seems to happen every game.
I’ll end on an interesting piece in the Guardian by Dom Fifield:
These quotes from Glenn Hoddle who played under him are particularly interesting:
“He was the first manager I worked under who did specific tactical training, painstakingly going over video footage in preparation. He worked around the clock, constantly preparing the next session or reviewing the drills he’d put us through that day.
There would be 45-minute tactical “lectures” before each game, outlining opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and a reliance upon a data collection program called Top Scorer, a precursor to the modern-day ProZone. Every player’s decision on the pitch was analysed: such statistical analysis is a matter of course now but in the late 1980s it was something of an innovation.”
It’s an great article that is well worth a read, but the quotes from the camel toed Lothario come as something of a surprise. Pedro has been banging the drum for years about how behind the game Arsenal are with regards to video analytics and players over the past decade have been open in admitting Wenger often doesn’t do ‘tactics’ but is happy to let them express themselves.
Some have used the article to say “look, he does do tactics, told you so”, however this just adds to the frustration with him. There are games, like City away this year, where we have clear tactics to be pragmatic in our approach, however there have been so many games where our approach is completely rudderless. It begs the question as to why Wenger appears to pick and choose when he’s rigorous in his approach – I just can’t reconcile it. The article is fascinating though and highlights the struggles he went thought at the Principality, battling against corruption and scandals in the French game – despite his flaws, he is one of the good guys.
Right, I have a long day of soul searching in front of the mirror ahead of me. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and give me a follow: @James_Willson2 x
Ospina – 5
Chambers – 6
Per – 7
Kos – 6.5
Nacho – 7
Coq – 7
Santi – 6.5
Alexis – 6
WELBZ – 6.5
Ozil – 7
Giroud – 8