“No, I didn’t expect him (Carroll) to start at all” – But when they did Wenger did nothing about it!

Carroll equalises

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

Well taken goal from Alexis

Well taken goal from Alexis

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.

Popular scapegoat not at fault for goals though

Popular scapegoat not at fault for goals though

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.

In-game management?

“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.

Until later

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3 Responses to “No, I didn’t expect him (Carroll) to start at all” – But when they did Wenger did nothing about it!

  1. Victor Thompson April 10, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Alex, the only thing I would add to your article without repeating what you have said is that after the game, Wenger and Bilic gave their interviews and frankly Wenger`s was embarrassing. We all saw the match. We played exceptional football in the first half and we were leading 2-0 with 5 minutes to half time when we conceded two goals in two minutes. In the second half, Bilic made a tactical change with a change of one player and a reorganisation of his team.

    Instantly, we were stymied. The spaces which were there in the first half were plugged and our guys suddenly dropped the tempo of their game and reverted to the hated sideways and back football played at turtle speed.

    West Ham were enjoying themselves and Bellerin and Monreal were performing pirouettes on both wings because they were being turned constantly, particularly by Payet. ( By the way pre match the papers were comparing Payet and Ozil and on this occasion at least Ozil failed ) I think your statistics on assists are misleading. Overall Ozil was off the pace. At times he was decidedly slow and he was brushed aside frequently. I love Ozil but I have to be honest about yesterdays contribution.

    Carrol ran amok and he was the main factor in their recovery and subsequent domination of the game. Frankly our defence was intimidated by him. The obvious answer was to bring BFG on simply because he has the raw strength to stand in his face and block Carrol.

    To get back to the interviews, Wenger had watched his team being steam-rollered and his answer was to say that Carrol should not have been on the pitch to score the goals because he should have been sent off for his foul on Koscelny. I do agree with the sending off, but West Ham had a perfectly good goal disallowed at a time which could have been game changing. He didn`t mention that he had not considered the possibility that Carrol would play. His selection was based on the premise that he would not, and therefore he had no plan B yet again.

    On the other hand when Wenger`s point was put to Bilic, he said with great authority that he was not going to criticise referees and their decisions because it was a waste of time. His team had suffered a 4 weeks spell of consistently bad decisions and he was not going to get into blaming referees. He did point out that they had been robbed of a goal and he could not understand why Wenger was wasting time dwelling on the fact that Carrol had not been sent off.

    Objectively, we were second best on the day and fortunate to recover to get a draw. What would concern me was that Giroud, Walcott and Ramsey were brought on to replace Coquelin and Elneny who had been the engine room of our recent renaissance. Are we going to go retro now and ditch the new philosophy that earned us the 2-0 lead we had to begin with? A two minute spell of rank bad defence cost us two points and Wenger`s response to abandon the balance and effectiveness of our midfield is not the answer to the remaining matches.

    • Alex April 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi, Victor.

      I stopped reading Wenger’s post-game assessments after the United debacle. He gave a completely outrageous take then, so I just stopped reading them since. Naturally, I’ve read his comments on Carroll this time, but that was it.

      I do not, however, think, we’ll revert to Ramsey in midfield. To me it looked like a move with which to salvage something from the game. Ramsey for Coquelin almost looks like a wide forward for a midfielder nowadays, because Ramsey plays like one. Elneny was sacrificed for Giroud, another change to bolster the attack.


  2. marcos April 10, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    Dnt get u at all.if morinho had made dose changes u would b hailin him as best in d world.wit his changes arsenal wer threatnin jus dat we cudnt score d 3rd goal.rem d goal line clearance Frm lanzini.I undstnd d cries but I feel we must move on.arsenals fault s switchi off wen ahead.we seem to do dat alot

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