Arsenal must build on last year’s success
Let’s be honest – the West Ham game was a nightmare and not an ideal start. With the new-found extra-competitive nature of the league – due to the obscene amounts of money knocking around – this is an instant warning and signal that there are most certainly no easy games in the premier league this year. It was painful to watch. Lacklustre, and – worst of all – we didn’t capitalize on Chelsea’s dropped points. I know it’s only the first gam,e but I can’t envisage many weekends when we’ll be able to make gains on Chelsea – cause how many games do they drop points?! Not many. Le Prof said it himself: we lost the league in the first 10 games last year. Let’s hope for a 13/14-esque start and have an 11 game winning streak, starting at Palace next weekend. It seems claret-and-blue sides are a bad omen on opening day!
The whole team from back to front were out of sorts on Sunday. And our new ‘world class keeper’ dropped two clangers. I’m sure it was Almunia in a scrum hat. Per and Kos were far too slow playing out from the back – meaning our possession cycles were slow and lethargic from the start. Debuchy looked slightly off the pace, understandable given his lack of competitive football since he signed. Nacho could have picked up better on the free kick that led to the goal. Le Coq appeared to forget he’s there to regain possession then simply give it to one of our creative hubs; instead he thought he was Paul Scholes, and started trying to spray 50-yard Hollywood passes all over the park. Ramsey was yet again looking confused… more on him in a minute. Ox was a rare respite in the proceedings: he was direct and full of life. Maybe I’m a little biased because I love the boy. He’s a proper winger. Ozil didn’t have any impact on the game because his operating space was filled up by Cazorla coming off the left in to it and Ramsey coming into it from midfield. I blogged about this in my first blog. The number 10 area on the pitch shouldn’t be over-populated. Giroud was again frustrating with his heading; for a big lad who wins a lot of headers, he does not hit the corners often enough – which frustrates me no end every time.
One thing that really annoyed me yesterday was that the team couldn’t smell the blood. What I mean by this is: during the game they didn’t recognize where Billic’s Hammers were weak. What was obvious to me was West Ham had Tomkins – an average centre back – playing as right back. Now why on earth aren’t our boys looking at that and saying that’s where we can get at them. It only takes Santi to say to the Ox: ‘…Let’s switch flanks for half hour and you have a go running at him – he’s on a yellow…’ Its not rocket science and we know the boss likes the players to self-manage on the pitch. I remember Neville talking about Ronaldo, saying he would smell the blood in an opposition’s defence and adjust his position accordingly. It’s not really a hard thing to do. I’m not saying the Ox is expected to be Ronaldo, but when we’ve got a team full of internationals I expect one of them to have the nous and experience to recognize these things during matches. With the superior quality of the midtable teams in the Premier League now – take a serious look at the players they’re signing: West Ham have got the likes of Payet and Ogbonna, Swansea can get an Ayew, Palace getting Cabaye, Newcastle getting a Mitrovic, the ever-improving Saints getting someone with Clasies’s pedigree…. – we can no longer just stroll into these games halfheartedly, with the subtle arrogance of ‘We’re The Mighty Arsenal’, because we’ll get turned over time and time again.
Another evident factor missing today (and really a gripe of mine every season) is that this loveable group lacks one key ingredient in everysuccessful team. That is – ladies and gentlemen – shithousery. The seemingly underhand dirty tactics. It often makes me laugh when I see us Gooners talking about how disgraceful Chelsea are when they kick, dive and surround referees… Did you not watch the Invincibles, chaps? Take for example young Reece Oxford’s plaudit-winning debut yesterday… I could envisage Viera putting him 3 feet in the air in the first 20 minutes and saying “Welcome to the Premier League, lad!” Also when our Invincibles game wasn’t flowing – like ours vs West Ham: the touch was heavy, the gaps weren’t there to be found – we’d have begun bemoaning every decision, being on at the referee. Start to rough up the opposition, and get a flurry of yellow cards. Even start diving to win penalties, Bobby vs Pompey. And I still don’t see that in this team. When your game’s not coming to you they have to start forcing the game in their favour by any means necessary. And anyone who has played football to any level knows we all hate playing against bullies.
My biggest concern from yesterday has already been covered by Subomi. However I’ll throw my ten pence in anyway. What is Mr. Wenger doing fiddling with the central midfield axis of the team?! He repeatedly said at the back end of last season – when, in my opinion we were the best team in the country – that the team is better because it’s found its balance. And this was based on Santi and Coq playing alongside each other. Cazorla dictates the pace of a game and doesn’t disappear up the pitch in search of goals every time Coquelin wins the ball, leaving our Coq to try 50 yard passes out to the flanks.
Now I’m not a Ramsey hater. I thought he was an unfair scapegoat of a poor Arsenal side in the years after his horrific leg break. However, since his ‘rebirth’ season in 13/14, culminating in his FA Cup ‘Roy of the Rovers’ -esque winner, he has frustrated me time and time again. Arséne pointed out that Ramsey’s dip in form last year was down to him being too goal-conscious, and neglecting the fundamental qualities that make a great central midfielder. And I fear Aaron’s still doing it. His passing has been sloppy; he’s not close enough to Coquelin for large periods of games; this isn’t just for the first two games of this season – it’s last season as well. For me, if he wants to start at the centre of Arsenal’s midfield, he’s got to shape up (and quickly).
I still believe this campaign is full of hope and promise. Just look at our squad: it’s quality. Not since going into the 98/99 season have I been so excited about an Arsenal squad. However, the team has to build on its successes at the tail end of last year – and unless Ramsey or Wilshere really turn it on next to Coquelin this season (when we inevitably rest Santi) then please, Mr. Wenger: don’t fiddle with the Santi/Coquelin axis of doom in our midfield. It worked, and I for one loved it.
Keep the faith, Gunners!