Once again I don’t know where to start. Not because I have nothing to say, on the contrary, I have a lot to say. But little of it is good, hence my desire to delay the moment for as long as I can.
I’ve never suffered from depression, you know. Depression is an actual illness, it’s no laughing matter. Saying “I’m depressed” doesn’t mean you are suffering from depression. Just that you are down. A lot of pimply teenageers say stuff like “I’m suffering from depression” to draw attention to themselves, to make themselves look important. They think they look smart by saying this. Bloody fools. A friend of mine is suffering from depression. He occasionally gets suicidal thoughts. That’s what real depression looks like. So you are not suffering from depression because 11 well-paid players failed to win a game of football. You, like me, are just sad.
I’ve seen people criticize the overreaction after the draw. “It’s just one game, get a grip”. Problem is, it’s not just one game. It’s the whole season, or at least the part after New Year. In itself, an away draw against a high-flying West Ham is not the end of the world. As I’ve said in the preview, the Hammers have been exceptionally good this season against the top half teams. They have beaten Liverpool twice, got 4 points vs City, 4 vs Chelsea, 3 vs Tottenham. Now they also have 4 points against us.
Problem is, in simple terms, that we have screwed up AGAIN. One loss or draw is a symptom of nothing. You can have an off day, the opposite team can put 10 behind the ball and endure, the ref might do you over, some player can have a game of his life against you. It happens, it’s football. It’s life.
No, the fans have a very short fuse nowadays because the disease we are suffering from is chronic. It won’t go away. It’s repeating itself, and the frequency is too much to take. It’s not an overreaction to one game. More like the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Let’s just get this over with. I’ll start with the good bits. God knows there weren’t many.
Ozil, Alexis, Iwobi
They are here for two reasons: chance creation and actual goals. The former two took their chances well, the latter provided them with these chances. Arsenal took 11 shots today, 8 were created by Ozil, Alexis and Iwobi: 3, 3 and 2 respectively. Iwobi’s both chances turned out to be assists in the end. For the 3rd goal Koscielny was assisted by Danny Welbeck.
And now the bad.
The overall performance
I’ve seen people say we went ahead because we were the better team and, that, at 2-0, we were in control of the situation. That’s utter bollocks. We have been defensively crap the entire game and West Ham exploited it both before and after going 2-0 down, the difference being their own finishing, not our actions. If you need further proof, look at this “By the numbers” breakdown. I won’t say we went in front by accident, these were two great attacks leading to goals, but we could just as easily have gone 1-0 down after Lanzini’s goal was wrongly ruled offside.
Gabriel and Ospina
These were two common scapegoats for our fans after the game. Both came in for their share of criticism undeservedly. I’ll explain why.
I’ll start with Ospina, he’s easier to defend. The Colombian could do very little about the goals. The first was a brilliant header by Carroll, the 2nd and 3rd were both shots from point blank and both took deflections off Gabriel. In fact, the deflection for the 3rd was so heavy I thought it was going to be counted as an own goal. Ospina saved every other shot that went his way, making 4 saves in total and all these weren’t simple catches. I do not think Cech would have made a great deal of difference on the goals.
The desire to criticize Gabriel was understandable in that all the goals came from more or less central central positions and it’s Gabriel’s responsibility to prevent goals from these areas. However, while his positioning can probably be worked on (same should apply to Koscielny then), he wasn’t directly culpable for any of the goals. Just like Koscielny wasn’t. He could do little about deflections, these are always unfortunate, he only lost one aerial duel of 3 contested (it didn’t lead to a goal) and, while shaky, he wasn’t half as bad as he was made out to be.
I would still like to see Mertesacker start from now on, but that’s more down to Per’s organisational and distribution skills and the calmness he exudes. People saying we lacked his aerial prowess today are deeply mistaken in linking the goals conceded to Gabriel’s ability to win aerial duels.
Bellerin and Monreal
I won’t say “these are the real culprits” solely because they weren’t helped by Alexis and Iwobi, but our fullbacks are definitely more at fault for this draw than our centre-backs.
For starters, Monreal and Bellerin each lost their respective aerial duels which led to 1st and 3rd goal respectively. They have been very poor in this element on the whole, winning just 2 of the 6 attempted between them. One could ask why Hector (1,77 m) and Nacho (1,78 m) were left to deal with Andy Carroll (1,91 m) however and they would have a point. The striker targeted our small fullbacks, this beared fruit, but nothing was done about it for the entirety of the match.
Both fullbacks also came in for a hail of crosses and neither coped. Monreal had an especially hard time against a quick and physically imposing Antonio. 17 crosses came in from our left side, 9 of them led to shots, 1 led to a goal. Bellerin faced 8 crosses with 4 leading to shots, 1 becoming an assist.
“No, I didn’t expect him (Carroll) to start at all. He has not played in the last five or six games”.
That’s what Arsene Wenger said after the game. Nevertheless his first substitution happened on the hour, when we were still trailing by a goal and it was to introduce Ramsey for Coquelin. If Arsene thought we would cope with Carroll without Mertesacker he thought wrong. If nothing else Mert would have added a modicum of control to the proceedings. And dovetailed with Kos better. There’s no telling whether it would have stopped us from conceding the goals, but I don’t like how Arsene was clearly not ready for Carroll, yet he refused to act on it. Arsene did the thing which can be both great and infuriating about him: he put faith in the current personnel. And while Gabriel didn’t have a calamity of a performance many think he did, the Brazilian wasn’t flawless either.
Ramsey’s and Walcott’s introductions looked as baffling as Arsene’s unwillingness to call on his captain. Both did zilch during their time on the pitch. Think Campbell would have had more of an impact, but Joel didn’t even make the bench.
The last word
This draw leaves us three points behind Spurs with the same number of games. We’ll now be hoping United can do us a favour, but even their win coupled with us winning our game in hand will most likely mean trailing Spurs on goal difference. I say “most likely” because both teams will play again before we get to the “game in hand” point
However we now also have to look over our shoulder. City are mere 2 points behind and 4th means qualifying rounds of the Champions League. Just look at me. Talking about the Champions League like we won’t get knocked out in the last 16 next year.
I kid, of course. Or maybe not. I’d definitely have Champions League football over Europa League, however I’m starting to lose faith we can actually do something meaningful there. Oh well. Guess it’s a topic for another day.