Captain’s Log – Star date Christmas party time
Would it be inappropriate to ask Uhura to jingle my bells? Now that the smoke has cleared from the Stoke and Galatasaray games we have a good opportunity to reflect on both results with level heads.
One of the reasons I choose to write my blogs towards the end of the week is to avoid writing in any kind of mood, be it happy or sad. Had I written over the weekend my blog would have looked something like this;
Had I written it after the Gala game it would have started like this;
Rambo is better than Messi and Ronaldo put together, and that’s a fact.
So with a level head let’s have a quick look at Stoke.
It’s true what they say. For Stoke players Arsenal at the Britannia may as well be Barcelona in the Champions League final. Not that they’ll ever even get into Europe’s elite competition. The point is we are their cup final. We are their fans cup final, and they will always be more up for playing us than we are them, because to us, they’re just a shitty, overly physical team.
It’s worth remembering however that Stoke under Mark Hughes are not a rugby team anymore. (They’re still shit though). A draw away would actually have been a decent result, and but for some terrible defending and an inexplicable red card we may have got it.
This may be somewhat controversial, but I didn’t think we deserved to be three down at half time. (Yes I did watch the whole game. No I’m not stoned). Kieran Gibbs was on his bike when the cross for the first goal came in, so he wasn’t there to try to block it. Steve Bould needs to have a word, because he goes forward too quickly and too often. Away from home in any game a full back shouldn’t be ahead of the ball, especially if the ball is still in our half. They join the attack, they don’t start it. The best full backs in the world can be seen running past a winger who has the ball in the opponents final third so they have the option to pass. If possession is lost they have plenty of time to get back, but if they’re ahead of the ball and we lose possession in our own half things become tricky.
However, even with Gibbs running away from the action, it was ultimately a slip from Hector Bellerin that cost us. If he hadn’t fallen over I think he could have blocked Peter Crouch’s shot. Bad luck.
Speaking of Crouch, that I feel he’s lucky not to have been sent off. That contributed to our loss as well. Another of the ref’s nonsensical decisions came when we took a free kick after Alexis Sanchez was hauled down. He took it quickly and Olivier Giroud found himself 1 on 1 with Asmir Begovic, but the ref pulled it back. I don’t understand penalising the team who have been fouled.
People talk about Giroud missing his header when we were one down. He probably should have buried it, but he’s still rusty. He’ll come good.
Bojan Krkic’s goal was quality. There’s no argument to be had there. Not many players would have got that one right. I remember when he was at Barcelona, my mate Stefan used to comment about how he’d bury the tricky chances but miss the easy ones, which was why he’d never make it at the Camp Nou. Well Barcelona’s loss is a Stoke gain.
My real problem with that goal was the amount of effort Gibbs put in to stop the cross, namely, fuck all. Football 101, block crosses. Gibbs seems to have missed the first day of school. Again Bouldie needs to have a word.
Something else I noticed about the goal, (and I’d invite you to watch it yourself) is Mathieu Flamini delegating the marking of Bojan. I saw him pointing at Bojan as he was running in and not much else. Here is the difference between a top class defensive midfielder and an average one. Flamini spotted the danger. Well done Flam, but he did nothing about it. As soon as he saw it he should have been shoulder to shoulder. Even a small distraction may have put Bojan off when the ball came in.
The third goal was also not one that we will concede regularly, because how many 6 foot 7 strikers (or whatever Crouch is) play against us every week. Crouch’s knock down to Jon Walters was challenged by about five players, but having roughly a foot over your rivals is going to tell when the ball is coming in from a cross.
So overall I really feel that bad luck/ref decisions cost us dearly, but I do feel that Arsene Wenger could have done more. I was talking to my barber Mem the other day about the loss, and he made the very astute point that Wenger doesn’t respond to in game problems that could be addressed. He used to example of Jefferson Montero v Calum Chambers to demonstrate that this is an ongoing issue.
He’s right. Wenger needed to communicate to Flamini or Rambo to stick to Bojan like glue and nullify their main attacking threat, but he didn’t so much as get up from his seat for the duration of the game.
We did well to get back into the game, and like I said, the sending off made a huge difference, but we weren’t as bad as it seems.
The win midweek was important. Why? That Rambo goal. That’s why. Probably a goal of the season contender.
Also worth noting was Lukas Podolski’s performance. He took his chance to remind Arsene that he’s quality. I hope the manager was paying attention, because the Ox looks like he needs a break. It’s always good to go away in the Champions League and score four, plus my Barber hates Galatasaray so he’ll be pleased.
Up next we have Newcastle and then a week to rest before we play the red scousers. We should be capable of winning both games. Both teams have injuries and Moussa Sisskoko is suspended too so that’s another plus for us. Alexis, Giroud and Danny Welbeck will be fresh, so I’m looking forward to them tearing Alan Pardew a new one. Legend has it that Wenger is already speaking to clubs about buying some players. I’ll believe it when I see it, but stranger things have happened.