Quite often, at away games, or games of note in the calendar… the football spoils the occasion.
Yesterday had to go down as one of those afternoons.
The 5 hour booze fest that went on before the game isn’t going to allow me the clarity I’d normally need to give a view on the game, so I’ll just give some topline thoughts.
Some complaints that Wenger didn’t go with his best starting 11. For me, that line up was a smart one in the main. The only thing that failed was the players who came in didn’t do a good job. Danny Welbeck was largely anonymous, totally ineffective whenever called upon… he couldn’t even hide behind ‘oh, but he worked hard’. Kieran Gibbs was pretty poor for the most part, Debuchy looked wildly off the pace and our creatives didn’t really bring their A-Game.
Aaron Ramsey was also pretty drossy. He has class in certain moments, but generally, I think he slows our game either by holding onto the ball too long or trying some sort of trick that lose possession. People say he should be playing centrally, and there’s an element of truth in that, but I’d say that playing in the centre isn’t going to make his decision making better, or stop him from playing like Roy of the Rovers. He’s a good player, but I kind of feel what we’re seeing from him now is about his level.
Always a nightmare swapping your keeper out, but that’s what Wenger does with his keepers to keep them interested. Chezzer didn’t shower himself in glory though. The Reading goal was weak defending start to finish, but the attempt at blocking the shot was a total hash. He just doesn’t cut it for me. I feel he needs to move on and find a new club, somewhere that’s going to get the best out of him. I don’t think he’s going to get that at Arsenal. He needs to work under someone like Van Gaal.
Post game it was a bit of a weird feeling. We went back to a 20% full pub, so it’s clear it wasn’t just me not feeling the party vibe. We beat Reading in the end, but I think the way we won was quite reminiscent of the semi-final last year. Arsenal didn’t show up to the game yesterday. There was very little intensity in the team and as the game went on, we didn’t really pick it up and that gave Reading and their fans the impetus to attack.
It’s hard to analyse the performance as well. If you were to take that game in isolation, you’d say that Arsenal aren’t really up to the big occasion… and you could maybe say we don’t focus enough on a game plan for the weaker teams (ala Monaco). However, you just have to look at the stats… what’s that, our 3rd draw in 19 games? The rest have been wins? Hard to say we don’t take the little teams seriously based on the last 4 months.
So when you look at the bigger picture, you’d probably have to have that game down as a ‘just one of those things’.
It was a win, but a ‘let’s just move on and forget about it’ type of win.
Considering the stadium cost roughly double that of The Grove, I find it amazing how hateful the whole experience is. It took 30 minutes to get into the ground, then you have to mince up about 4 flights of single file escalators, then you get into the atrium and it’s so packed you can barely move. Pregame the razmataz was more intense than it was during my midweek WWE experience… SO LOUD. Half time, I had to spend some time showing the till assistant how to use the card machines, they don’t serve you more than 4 halfs of beer due to ‘intoxication rules’. The crush for the toilets was horrendous (and you can imagine what that was like with 80,000 people who’d been on a 7 hour bender). Then, when you leave, you have to walk down about a hundred flights of stairs.
I absolutely hate the stadium and I hate how badly we play in it. Cup finals were better in Cardiff. I mean, even the area is horrible.
Look, we won. That’s the best part. I don’t know about you, but my biggest take away from yesterday is that I’d prefer to get Liverpool in the final because that’s the sort of game we’ll take seriously.
Also worth noting that the reason we played suboptimally yesterday was rotation. That’s progress. We’re saving players for Chelsea. That’s what big clubs do.
Also, United have fallen away. So we have the chance to push for a bit of space between the two clubs.
In short… it’s all great. And I love Sanchez.