On Saturday I was speaking to my sister in Hawaii, and she told me that her boyfriend’s 13-year-old son, Blu, was now playing ‘soccer’ (football) and was interested in following the premier league. I told her it was perfect timing, since the season was about to kick off, and that NBC was streaming (and storing) every game online. For free! It was a perfect time to get him hooked: he could watch repeats of games at a decent time, and follow for a whole season.
So, of course, I insisted that he support Arsenal…
Here’s the email I found in my inbox when I woke up this morning. And my response to it.
On 10 Aug 2015, at 4:02 AM, Blu G wrote:
It’s Blu. Just wanted to tell you how I felt about The Arsenal vs West ham game.
I like Arsenal as a team but they performed poorly, Petr Cech made poor decisions when they really mattered.
Don’t get me wrong I love Arsenal as a team but their performance was not a good way to start off a new season.
What did you think about the game?
What do you think they can improve on and what can I look for? Why Arsenal?
You are 100% correct. That was our worst opening game in years, and a horrible introduction to our style of play. We had beaten West Ham 9 games in a row, and only ever lost one opening day game at home since we moved into our new stadium.
We had won our second consecutive FA Cup in May. We had come off of a great pre-season. Won the Barclays Asia Cup and the Emirates Cup. We beat the league Champions Chelsea at Wembley last weekend. So believe me – for all Gunners it was a real shock and disappointment.
Last time it happened we won the next 8 games straight.
I believe there are a couple of reasons we lost yesterday.
- Our regular right back Bellerin was injured a couple of days ago. He is normally our attacking threat down the right. He is one of – if not the – fastest player(s) in the league. His replacement Debuchy didn’t offer much going forward. Without Bellerin we lacked width. He normally drags defenders out wide to cover him, which creates gaps in the middle for our attackers. That didn’t happen yesterday, so the middle was very congested, and it was hard for our players to break through.
- We normally play a defensive pivot of Coquelin and Cazorla in front of the back 4. Yesterday Wenger played Coquelin and Ramsey – and put Cazorla on the left so that he could put Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. (The Ox is in brilliant form, and has recently come back from injury). Ramsey is often played on the right – but in the centre yesterday he was slow and selfish to distribute, so we were very sluggish going forward. Cazorla is much better in that role. But I think Wenger wanted to start them all, and that was part of the problem.
- Özil had a pretty quiet game – he and Monreal tried to stretch the pitch in the left, but they didn’t have as much effect; and Giroud hasn’t had as much preseason game time so he wasn’t as effective as he has been. Getting skull-crashed probably didn’t help much. Walcott came on to add some threat, but by then it was too late, and the centre was still too crowded.
- Petr Cech is our new goalie. We just bought him from Chelsea for £10m and he is supposed to have been the final piece in the puzzle for us. But he had a shocking game. Both goals were errors by him. Especially the first, where he came out to punch the ball and came horribly short. In the second, he seemed to misread the game, was going the wrong way, and let someone score from outside the box with a pretty mediocre effort. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think both of last season’s goalies would have done better! Cech is supposedly going to bring us an extra 12 points this season. Well, he is on -3 now! 😉
- The other thing is – West Ham have had 12 preseason games – they were playing Europa League qualifiers. So they were possibly more match fit and playing better together. They were lucky, but they made the most of their luck and deserved the win.
So – it was a bit of a nightmare.
I promise you though – stick with us! There are still 111 points to play for: 37 league games, plus the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League. It’s a very long season. And we are in with a decent chance of winning the league, and perhaps a Cup or two!
Sometimes a shock loss like this is what a team needs to get their act together. We have a great squad. Wenger is trying to figure out the best combination of players. Unfortunately squeezing all the best players into a team isn’t always the answer. It’s about balance and fluidity.
Yesterday we had neither.
So, Blu – keep watching! Keep the faith. There are some highs and lows in every season. This year we started with a low.
The only way is up!