Words fail me once again. I don’t think I can say anything you don’t already know. I’ll probably start with the bit from my preview:
“Crystal Palace have won ONE game in the last 16 league matches. It was a recent home win vs Norwich, the game which ended 1-0. This run of sixteen games included an 11-game winless streak, during which the Eagles have only drawn two matches.
Basically, we are hosting relegation fodder. I’m not getting cocky; God knows we’ve screwed up enough times this season for me to afford the luxury of arrogance. I’m just stating a simple fact. Had Palace not been half-decent prior to this spectacular collapse, they would now be in relegation zone. They are 16th as it is”.
I stopped just short of saying we’ll be officially crap if we fail to beat Pardew’s side. I just couldn’t bring myself to entertain the possibility of us not winning. Partly because I expected a reaction to the West Ham draw.
We didn’t get one. We got the ball under control early on and did… nothing. We passed it back and forth, hither and tither and waited for something. An opening,maybe? Alexis and Welbeck worked tirelessly to get themselves into good positions, but that changed little. We couldn’t get into gear the entire half (the entire game, truth be told) and not one player took the game by the scruff of the neck and shook the others out of this coma. Alexis tried, though, he did. He’s a winner. He cannot allow games to drift him by. That’s why it’s so hard not to like him, or not to cheer him on during even his clearly bad spells. He tries to make things happen. If they don’t, he doubles his efforts.
Alexis Sanchez was directly involved in 8 shots yesterday: he took five himself and created 3 opportunities for teammates. All these three chances he set up inside the box. You can easily recall 2 of those 3: a pass for Ozil and a chest-down for Welbeck following a free-kick. Just like you can recall 4 of the 5 shots he took: 2 glancing headers just wide, a free-kick and a goal.
Mesut Ozil is a similar player in this regard. He is also a winner, though he often visibly impacts the game less. Yesterday he was directly involved in 10 shots: 2 he had himself a poke past Hennessey and a free-kick and 8 he set up for teammates. However only 3 of these were from open play: a pass Welbeck couldn’t control, one of the two Alexis missed headers and a cutback for Elneny, I think.
All of the above mentioned effort to savour a point. A point at home vs a poor Crystal Palace side. A Palace side which had their average game did naff all up front and yet still scored a goal which was enough for them to get something from this game.
Oh, and the goal. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the replays of the whole thing that led to it, but I lay the blame firmly at Cech’s doorstep. For the simple reason which I mentioned after the opening day of the season: he conceded a goal from an outside-the-box shot at the near post. It wasn’t Alaba’s screamer into the top corner. It wasn’t even a curler from Martina (who?) It was a rather crap shot from Bolasie which Cech allowed to creep past him. You can’t even say our goalie had too much sweat in his eyes from being overworked that game and point at it as the reason he conceded. That’s because he wasn’t overworked. Bar a couple of crosses and 1 other shot on target (which he caught), Cech had nothing to do all day.
But that’s the way it goes with Arsenal. We conceded the highest proportion of goals from outside the box this season: 29%. That’s almost 1 shot in 3. This equals 10 goals. Only Stoke (12) conceded more. You can say we are forcing the opposition to shoot from crap positions and you would be right. After all, what can we do if they just keep scoring from distance shots? The conversion of these averages 3%. Only by us it averages 30%. If you need a further breakdown of shots from which concede goals, look here.
We’ve been likened to Atletico Madrid rather a lot this season. I guess there are two reasons for it. The first is that Atletico is a club with limited resources which is fighting behemoths of European football quite successfully. Before we haven’t drifted too far away from the “limited resources” bit, I’d like to remind you that profits from TV rights aren’t split justly in La Liga. The system isn’t like it is in England, where clubs are given a share of the profit based on their final league position and where a relegated side gets only £30 million less than the champion. In Spain Barca and Real get a huge share regardless of where they finish. This share was close to 70% the last time I checked.
So anyway, Atleti are fighting Europe’s best. They have won La Liga two years ago, the cup three years ago and were seconds away from winning the Champions League. This year they fight for major honours again. Simeone’s side are level on points with Barcelona right now. Yes, Barca collapsed by picking up one point in four games, but so what? Atleti kept up pace. They won 5 of the last 6 and they capitalised on Barca’s slip-up. Something we didn’t do this season.
Atleti have also knocked out the same Barcelona of the Champions League. They were robbed in the first leg, but kept their chances alive and then finished the job at Vicente Calderon. And you have to be a Barca fan, or an idiot who doesn’t understand the beauty of defensive side of the game to say Atletico didn’t deserve to go through.
The second reason is simpler: people want change and they see Simeone as someone who does what Wenger only claims he can do. Quite frankly, I’m not Simeone’s biggest fan primarily because of the image he projects. I’d have Wenger over him in this regard all day long, any day of the week, twice on weekends. Secondly, the football he preaches. As far as my knowledge goes, Atleti play counterattacking football against all teams, Barca was just an extreme case of it. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a club like Arsenal shouldn’t play second fiddle to Crystal Palace, or West Brom or whoever.
But you know what? At this point I’d take Simeone because his team has a style, because he has picked the players for this style. He gets the best out of these individuals. He made the team more than a sum of its parts.
While we just slumber along, without meaning or purpose, without a clear style or goal and without a hint at improvement. If Wenger stays next year I fear it’ll be more of the same. If he stays beyond his contact, we’ll most likely have to put up with such a situation for as long as he stays.
What makes me think so? Quite frankly, the results and the fact we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. Either the manager is to blame and in order to break the circle he has to go, or the players are at fault. If it’s the players, then they need to have some sense knocked into them. Or they need to be sold and replaced with players who DO care and have a winning mentality. What are the chances Wenger will do either thing? Hey, Paddy, what odds will you give me?
I’m dead tired of dissecting this shower of poo, to be honest. The only reason why I won’t take a break is because I’ve already taken one.
After the game a mate suggested to me whether Arsenal falling out of the top 4 is reason enough for the board to consider change. Firstly, let me make it clear I wouldn’t advocate such a thing as playing in Europa League. It’s a dead competition and I’d much, much rather go out in the last 16 of the CL next season than see us play in Europa League. I’d seriously consider not watching our Europa League games if we somehow fall out of the Champions League spots.
Secondly, and sadly, we will only lose around £20 million if we don’t make it to the CL. £25 tops. Would this be enough for the board and the owner to consider changing the manager or seriously investing in the squad? From a financial perspective, no. And the financial perspective seems to the only thing that bothers our board and the owner.
Jeez, I’ll end it here and be back with a preview for our midweek game.