Three so called easy games but only seven points collected, so what went wrong?
Our run of three games in eight days, got off to a slow start, with a disappointing first half display against West Brom. Thankfully in the second half, the players upped the tempo by moving the ball quicker and we began to test Ben Foster, who had an exceptional game, in the Albion goal.
Finally, a Mesut Ozil cross was met by a superb looping header from Olivier Giroud and the resistance of a predictably, well organised and physically strong, Tony Pulis side, was broken. Three points and a clean sheet was what we wanted and that’s what we got, even if it wasn’t pretty at times.
Having provided the assist for the winning goal, some supporters were quick to praise Ozil and laud him as being back to his best. Whilst his performance was far better than his previous two, against Everton and Man City, that was not difficult and I still didn’t think he was anywhere close to his best. On a few occasions, he was knocked off the ball far too easily too.
Up next was Crystal Palace and I’d prepared myself for a repeat of the West Brom game. Even more so, following the appointment of Sam Allardyce, as their new manager. We started the game brightly, moving the ball with pace and purpose and found the early breakthrough after seventeen minutes.
With the opening goal being a spectacular effort from Giroud, after some excellent team play during the build-up. Some pundits made comparisons between Olivier’s goal and Dennis Bergkamp’s at Newcastle in 2002 but for me, the latter was better. As good as Giroud’s goal was, I have seen a few similar ones scored over the years, albeit not from an Arsenal player.
A second goal from Alex Iwobi, impressive in his central role, secured the three points and we approached the fixture at Bournemouth with confidence and in good form. At least that’s what we thought would be the case but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes speculating on Arsenal’s form is like playing Sports Themed Games at Wild Jack Online Casino; random. For the first seventy minutes, we lacked any movement, desire or creativity. Whilst we also defended like naive schoolboys.
It is perhaps unfair to single out individual players but Hector Bellerin put in his worst performance since his Arsenal debut against Borussia Dortmund back in 2014. However, he is usually one our most consistent players and it has to be said that all his team mates were equally culpable, as was his managers team selection.
Although some changes were expected for our second game in seventy-two hours, it is questionable why Lucas Perez was one of them. Having taken him off against Crystal Palace with twenty minutes left, I presumed that Arsene would be starting him against Bournemouth. With Mohamed Elneny off on international duty, why was he also replaced against the Eagles, opposed to one of the players in Arsene’s thoughts for Bournemouth?
Any supposed top class manager, should be thinking about the team selection for his sides next fixture, when making subs at 2-0 up, with twenty minutes to go against Palace, with the next fixture in such close proximity. Why wasn’t Arsene? It is also evident that Perez deserves a run in the side, after impressing with his direct and purposeful attacking play and work rate off the ball.
However, I can see the argument from both sides where Shkodran Mustafi is concerned. After two successive clean sheets, perhaps Arsene should have kept an uncharged back four but it is clear that Mustafi is a far better player than Gabriel. Had we lost, with him being left on the bench, Arsene would have been slaughtered by supporters and the media. With hindsight, perhaps the Preston game would have been a better game for him to return to the side.
I would also question what effect Arsene’s pre match comments, regarding tiredness, had on the players mind-set prior to kick off. Why give the players a ready-made excuse? They are professional athletes and should be able to cope with playing three hours of football in three days.
A goalkeeper can’t use tiredness as a valid excuse, two players in the starting eleven played only twenty minutes and one was an unused substitute against Palace anyway. That’s Petr Cech, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Mustafi, who Arsene can’t make excuses for. It has also been conveniently ignored that we had five days rest between the West Brom and Palace games.
I have seen some supporters saying that the team deserves credit for coming back from being three goals down. To a degree, maybe that is true. However, our performance up until we scored our first goal, was woeful. It may have showed good character to draw in the end but we showed a lack of character to get ourselves in that position to begin with. With all respect to Eddie Howe’s side, they are Bournemouth, not Barcelona.
Do players really deserve credit for putting in a twenty minute performance in a ninety minute game anyway? The manager didn’t appear to be capable of motivating them and it wasn’t until the away fans started to chant about the performance being embarrassing, that they suddenly sparked in to life. Maybe Arsene should share a portion of his wages amongst them.
One player deserving of a special mention, is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The attitude he showed after Giroud’s equaliser was spot on. Instead of being simply being happy with the draw, he grabbed the match ball out the net and started to carry it back to the half way line and even went back to encourage Olivier and Gabriel to hurry back too.
To me it was a case of “come on lads, a draw isn’t good enough here and we can still win this, let’s get back to business” and shows a winners mentality, something we need to start showing a lot more of….
Which Arsenal will turn up next the Arsenal of the first 70 minutes of the one of the last 20 minutes? Back to the game of chance at The Wild Jack Casino Online it seems.