It’s very tough to take too much stock in Boxing day or New Years day games. I know the players aren’t out until 5 in the morning licking lamp posts, but there’s always a weird flat vibe around the stadium on the day, and quite often, our play on the pitch is flaccid.
We weren’t at our best yesterday, but we bulldozed through with an on-paper spanking that’s tough to moan about. Fulham gave it some in the first 45 minutes and cut us open far too easily. We were literally being shoved about and stretched by the second worst team in the Premier League. However, we at least had enough about our game to take our second lead into halftime. Granit Xhaka of all people ghosting into the Fulham box to pick up a nicely worked Iwobi cross, which he chested down and guided into the bottom corner.
We doubled that lead in the second half, with more good work down the left from Kola, Auba and Iwobi, the decisive pass found Laca with space in the box which he calmly took with a canon of a shot down the middle of the goal.
We of course took time out to concede, a car crash pass to Torriera freed up the ball in midfield, Fulham made it all the way to our goal with Kamara breezing inside Kola to tap in.
Emery reacted tactically, bringing off Lacazette for Ramsey. The crowd booed the move, which seemed really odd if I’m honest. Lacazette made a bit of a scene out of that, obviously feeling very awkward his teammate was not getting a good reception.
Anyway, Rambo had the last laugh. Within 4 minutes he’d found himself in the right place when a Auba shot struck the post, his tight control and quick shot lifted the score to 3-1. Well done him.
Final goal of the day fell to Auba, he took a simple pass in space from Kola and lashed his shot in off a Fulham shin to make the game a rout.
So how much analysis can you put into a game like this? We put in a shift. We didn’t play well. We came away with a win and ramped out our goal difference.
A few things did spring to mind. I think Arsenal fans are growing a bit tired of the shabby performances. We’re 6 months into this project now, and outside the mega run, which was fun but heavily pumped up by a lot of luck, it feels like we’re yet to see a real game of Emery football.
I mean, that’s the only excuse I can see for the fans grumbling all game, and oddly booing a perfectly reasonable sub (hardly Eboue vs Wigan, right?).
The game lacked intensity for me. We are still incredibly sloppy at the back. Conceding 4 BIG chances to Fulham at home is embarrassing when you’re dominating possession. The coaching staff hasn’t moved the defence forward, and though people keep highlighting individual errors, it seems clear that the problem is structural. The coaching needs to improve. Absolute basics like failing to track runners isn’t acceptable. Even that pass from Koscielny was outrageous (for their goal). Do we need to be playing passes of that length from the back to a player under pressure?
I also think something that likely irks fans is my view of our play is that Arsenal play like they’re nursing a hangover. We are consistently ok. Each game is a chopped up version of: A very slow start, some intermittent nice attacking football, some shocking defensive errors, half-arsed pressing, extreme efficiency in front of goal.
We haven’t seen many showpiece games. The football is hard to fall in love with because I don’t believe we’ve had enough “OH MY I SEE WHAT THIS IS’ types of games. Early days Klopp and Pep might have been inconsistent, but at least you were given a taste of what the good life could be. Emery has yet to pitch the fans the vision of the future, and I think that’s why you’re seeing empty seats in the ground. It’s boring football.
Just a few other pointers before we go. It was sad to see Aaron Ramsey bang in a goal again. Our midfield really could do with a focused him. He’s not a £300k a week footballer and never will be, we can’t afford him, but right now, he looks like a prime bit of well-cooked steak on a plate when he’s running around on the pitch.
The e-mail that Arseblog has been sharing around which is a plea from the club to make cost savings is an absolute hoot. It’s a shame we don’t have specifics, but when a company as rich as us is making statements like that, it’s a worry. What sort of expenses could the general soldiers be running up that could make any sort of meaningful impact on a club that splashes our over £200m on salaries? Also, football clubs are supposed to project power. Asking Sally in accounts to wash her hands once a day reeks of smalltime mentality.
I also think all this news about our future transfer policy is scary, David Ornstein telling the world is loans this January. People asked why I wasn’t keen on Pulisic the other day. Now, I think the player is fantastic, well done Chelsea. But if we’re to follow my post from the other day, as a club, we have to be realistic about who we really are.
We. Are. Skint.
We can’t go out and spend huge sums on players Dortmund want rid of anymore (also, let’s leave them be and craft our own path). We have to be taking the earlier punts. We have to be digging out the players where the value is. We should be sniffing around the same markets as Dortmund and Atleti. We need to be growing £60m players. We cannot be the 3rd highest net spenders in the league in 5 years time. We should not have a higher net spend than Real Madrid over 10 years (we do). We need to find better efficiencies with our confused transfer strategy. More Torriera’s and MG’s. Less Mikhi and Mesut’s moving forward.
I really, really hope we take a hacksaw to the squad in the summer. Ship out all the old players on big contracts, move on the failures and replace average squad players with young upstarts who have a high ceiling, and lower our crazy wage bill to something that frees up cash.
We have to start again, that’s not going to be with £60m players, unfortunately.