Yesterday was like Christmas when you know Santa has got you an n64. You wake up early jump out of bed and fall straight into a tank of jellyfish. Never mind you say ‘at least it’s Christmas and I’ve got that n64!’. You run downstairs to find Santa microwaving your dog and the Christmas tree on fire. To top it all off he’s brought you a dreamcast instead.
There’s one word to describe that performance, ‘arrogant’. Arsenal were injury-free, brimming with confidence off the back of a victory against the Champions and buoyed by the signing of a world class goalkeeper. We turned up thinking we deserved a victory, not remembering that victories are earned.
We always beat West Ham at home – I said it myself – Giroud always scores against them, this is Chamberlain’s year, good luck conceding against Cech etc etc. Most of us were probably thinking things like this pre-match, even if we weren’t saying it. The problem is, most of the players were thinking along the same lines as well.
Now before I get assaulted by the ‘perspective brigade’, who are able to watch football without it arousing any emotion in them at all, I will say; it was just one game, one bad performance and I still expect us to compete for the league.
However the problem with yesterday was the lack of preparation both physically and mentally. West Ham were awesome yesterday but outside of the first 10 minutes we looked a yard of the pace.
In terms of mental preparation, we played liked we thought we deserved to win. Like we did against Monaco last year, and against Villa on the opening day two years ago and repeat ad infinitum.
The manager acknowledged after the game we played with a bit of fear without the apparent ability to critically analyse why this still keeps happening.
Alan Shearer, for his many many faults, said on Match of the Day that whichever of the top four teams Mourinho managed would win the league. I hate to say it but he’s right. He instills the right kind of confidence in his teams; not so much ‘we deserve to win’, more of the ‘we cannot lose’.
Now I’m not for one second saying I want Mourinho anywhere near this club. However losing the complacent streak appears to be one more signpost on the manager’s road to recovery.
The atmosphere was incredible at the Emirates yesterday. It was baking hot, West Ham were playing a foetus in midfield and they got two yellow cards in the first 10 minutes. Confidence reigned supreme. We looked electric in the first 10 minutes, buzzing around the West Ham defence like a swarm of migrants (as our Prime Minister might say). Ozil was pulling the strings, Chamberlain and Ramsey were fired up.
However, ever so subtly, mistakes started to creep in. The misplaced passes were getting more frequent, balls were bouncing off Giroud like he was a cathode ray oscilloscope (I failed Physics) and the good will of the crowd started to ebb. Then West Ham got a free kick in our half, floated in a perfect free kick for their fella to head into the net.
Cech was in no man’s land but was it all his fault? The defence had pushed up so high that the “corridor of uncertainty” which commentators like to talk about was as large as the Suez Canal. We should have been much deeper. If we had the ball would have been easily cleared.
Nonetheless it was still only 1-0 and you felt we could recover in the second half. Unfortunately the players came out with pretty much the same attitude they had displayed in the first half. Lots of dicking around on the edge of the box, then float the ball in for a defender to easily clear.
Cech was certainly at fault for West Ham’s second. No doubt he was caught flat-footed and should have done better to reach the ball. However there are questions again around the pressure coming from midfield. Zarate was allowed enough time to turn, take a selfie and shoot. Cech probably wasn’t used to that at Chelsea to be fair to him.
We still had a good 30 minutes to make a mends. Arsene made some strange substitutions, for some reason playing Chamberlain at right back where he repeatedly gave the ball away, and leaving Ramsey and Giroud on, both of whom had stinkers. I understand the rationale behind bringing Sanchez on – he’s one of our best players – but he clearly was nowhere near fit and his performance showed that.
We had a few chances before the end of the game but West Ham were organised and defended heroically when they needed to. They deservedly left with all three points.
As I said, it’s important to have perspective. This was just one game. Apparently there were some fisticuffs between fans outside the stadium afterwards. All I’d say to that is – get over yourself, football isn’t that important. However this result was bad. Yes it was a terrible performance, but it was also a sign that whatever was going on in pre-season, the players weren’t ready mentally or physically for the first game.
Also it’s games like this that make the difference between first and third. Have you ever looked back through all the fixtures at the end of the season and said to yourself, ‘if only we’d one that game, and that game we would have been champions’? Yes it’s a bit of childish wish thinking but, in order to be champions, Arsenal can only lose one, possibly two games against teams outside the top four at home. That’s how small the margins are.
Lets end with some player ratings….
Cech – David Ospina didn’t die for this
Debuchy – was fairly solid, still looked rusty
Monreal – More like nonreal (ly)
Koscielny – our best player. I haven’t seen the replays but think he may have been at fault for the first goal
Mertesacker – fairly solid, helped a lot by Kos. Cant really be blamed for the second
Coquelin – looked tired, not one of his better games
Ramsey – played like Steven Gerrard circa 2015 rather than Steven Gerrard circa 2005
Cazorla – Slowed. Down. Everything
Ozil – Great for the first 10 minutes then went for a beer
Chamberlain – I love the kid but he’s not a right back
Giroud – Couldn’t even do the things he usually does well, well
Walcott – improved our performance 3.2%
Sanchez – Needs a few more days on the beach
Honourable mentions go to Payet who looks like a quality player and Jeinny for combining transfer rumours with being really fit. Thanks for that.
You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel if you like. Enjoy your Mondays! x