Losing a North London derby isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to come with positives. It is always utterly shit. Losing to ‘that’ Jose Mourinho mess stung like a wet towel to the backside in a cold December Sunday League dressing room.
Everything about the loss hurt. The simple summation of the game is we didn’t take the sort of chances we normally would and individual errors cost us big again.
Kola was unable to execute a standard 10-yard pass to David Luiz. The Brazilian, low on pace at 33, didn’t have a recovery in him. Martinez, maybe didn’t make himself big enough for the Son chip. You cannot coach that sort of idiocy out of players (Emi is subtracted from that comment), it is absolute Sunday League basics. The second goal was another set-piece calamity. Kieran Tierney found himself picking up Toby from corner, no one else was paying attention, we conceded.
In attack, you saw Auba air shot from a cut back cross in the first half. The second half saw him rattle a fairly standard finish against the bar. He forced an electric save from Lloris on the half volley. Normally, you convert those. Yesterday, we didn’t.
We deserved the result. You know what Jose is going to do to you and he did it. At the highest level, you need to concentrate for the full 90 and we have players that are rarely capable of that. The Kola piece was particularly irritating. Arteta said that no one complained about his defenders when we were keeping clean sheets, I’d disagree with that. Kola was absolutely awful in the last game, so we knew something was brewing. What was alarming was how everything fell to pieces, particularly when we went a goal down. Mustafi was attacking shadows, the shape started to pick apart, and the usual suspects weren’t sharp enough.
The other absolutely key issue is the personnel in midfield. Dani Ceballos was excellent, he really put in a dogged shift, but we still struggled to create from midfield. I think part of the gameplay was to have Lacazette drop in as a 10, but that came with its own problems.
Someone asked me after the game if I still thought the players were coachable. Absolutely. It isn’t even up for discussion whether the players have been improved by better coaching. Our team is better structured, we’ve beaten some good teams on the road, and nearly all stats point to clear improvements across the board. Coaching though, will not solve for Kola making a mistake that bad from 10 yards. The mistakes, sadly, always wait in the wings with certain players. Sometimes you’ll see David Luiz have a towering game, other times, he looks like the least experienced player on the pitch. Mustafi had a great run, now he looks like he’s playing with fear again. The only way you solve for those issues is new players. The only way you deal with them this season is to continue to give them confidence and hope we see more games like those at Leicester / Wolves / Sheffield United… versus the messy output today.
On the match, I was a little confused with the post-game buoyance from Arteta. I thought we deserved the loss and couldn’t quite match his enthusiasm for the performance. I suspect maybe he knew there were a lot of tired legs out there and he knows if we go into the Liverpool game feeling sorry for ourselves, it’ll be a rout.
What I will say is the whatever you think about the game is at least we’re looking at that match as a lost opportunity. We weren’t battered or opened up. We were shithoused, but like, barely even shithoused. We should have won based on chances and not making stupid mistakes, and that’s the talking point.
We have 3 more games in the league this season and an FA Cup game that looks like it’s going to be very, very tough. Then the real work starts. This summer has to be big. If we don’t buy well and upgrade the clear areas we’re struggling in, we’ll have more games like this. Our summer needs end with a squad that is built for the vision of the coach, if it’s not, then what is the point?
Liverpool in 2 days. My word I hope we have something to give. See you in the comments.