A touch late with the match reportage this morning, I was taking in Europe trouncing USA USA USA. What a great win for those boys.
Onto the game.
The familiar slow start under Emery came into sharp focus again yesterday. The manager rolled with players in unfamiliar positions again, and the team really struggled.
Watford came to bully and they did a very solid job. They pressed aggressively, they counterpunched and I think it’s fair to say they caused some panic in the first half. Petr Cech had to make some sharp saves and some brave interceptions before he was taken off for a hamstring injury.
The game was once again turned on some sharp subs.
Leno, making his league debut, made some very good saves after starting his day with a duffed chipped pass. As his confidence grew, you could see the difference his passing skills made. Cech doesn’t want the ball, Leno offers himself up to the game, opening space with his movement in the box, as well as offering up a more varied range of confident passes.
The introduction of Iwobi and Welbeck really made the difference. The Nigerian wide man offered the team a connective tissue between attack and midfield we’d lacked with the disappointing Aaron Ramsey on the pitch. WELBZ also gave us a bit more aggression moving forward.
The opening goal came against the run of play from a cross, Iwobi launching a fizzing cross into the front post which forced an own goal from Cathcart. It was pretty amusing to watch Lacazette almost hug him as he sat despondent on the floor.
Our second started when WELBZ intercepted a bad pass in front of the halfway line, Iwobi set the ball moving for Lacazette, he found Ozil’s surging run (yeah, right?!) and the finish killed the match.
So, 7 wins on the bounce. We won ugly again. So what’s the problem?
Well, I’m not quite sure that winning ugly at home was the problem under Arsene Wenger. Our problem for 10 years has always been beating the top teams. When there were only 3 good teams, that wasn’t an issue, as we were a top 4 side. The challenge came when there were 6 good teams.
The problem we’re seeing at the moment isn’t the ugly nature of our football, it’s how poor we are at the back, combined with the lack of potency moving the ball forward. Ugly football can only really be appreciated if there’s a strategy behind it. Our play is ugly because the team isn’t clicking.
Our defence is an absolute shambles. Watford tore us to pieces yesterday. Only some fine saves and some terrible finishing allowed us to kill the game at the end with an own goal. We look disorganised. The midfield isn’t offering enough cover. We’re not that much different to the side we were watching last season.
Against a top side, we’re going to get our back sides handed to us. That’s not a now problem, but it will be when we’re splitting hairs over making the top 4 this season.
Going forward, we’re really looking shabby. Aaron Ramsey dropped another disaster class as a #10 yesterday. His game was all over the place and he wasn’t really offering much to the front three. Mesut Ozil was quiet. Auba continues to look bland out wide. Lacazette though busy, often gets eaten up by towering defenders.
When you have players learning new positions and new systems at the same time, you end up with a big sludge of grey. We only managed 2 shots on target all game. That’s really not good enough, especially in a game that Watford came to play in.
Buuuuuuut… we took 3 points again. We climbed the table. We closed the gap at the top to 4 points.
That’s pretty fucking exciting, right? We’re in September, and we’re not only within spitting distance of top 4, we’re close enough to touch the top of the table.
That’s progress. The football might be confused. The defence might still be a mess. But the table doesn’t lie. We’re in the mixer.
I don’t think the ‘careful what you wish for’ crowd expected this.
The big hope is we start to improve. Liverpool is a month away and the quality of their football is so much higher than ours (as it would be). If we don’t tighten up, that game with be an absolute mauling.
Finally, a word to Ramsey who was pissed at being subbed off with 30mins to play. Good. You’ve been shite all season.
Now it’s clear he’s not committed, I hope the club try and force him out in January. I’ve been reading theories that the club pulled the deal when Ivan G left. Amusing if true. I’ve never rated the Welshman like so many of the stats junkies do. There are plenty better ways to spend £200k a week. Let’s hope there’s a plan.
Also, before I leave, the Juve CEO, Marotta, has just quit. He rebuilt Juve. Moved them to a new stadium. Won the league every year. He’s wheeled and dealed whilst keeping the club at the elite end of European football. He’s one of the best in the world. Surely we’re going to try and tap him for the open vacancy at Arsenal? Imagine having a CEO who was actually ambitious and knew how to do both sides of the job.
We can but dream…
P.S. Who is enjoying the demise of that piano playing pillock over at Old Trafford?
Yeah, I wrote pillock.