Hello Gooners, I hope you are satisfied with the win at the Riverside Stadium, although the performance wasn’t as convincing as it should have been.
There’s been a lot of talk about Arsène Wenger’s decision to play three centre-halves and two wing-backs, a lot of people were surprised by this sudden change and so was I, especially when I saw that Nacho Monreal was deployed on the left and therefore totally expected Gabriel to play right-back in a more conventional 4-2-3-1.
Not sure about you but I wasn’t particularly impressed by the boys: I really appreciated the solidarity and desire but, tactically speaking, we were as shaky as usual; of course, it being a new system we were somehow meant to suffer, but we were playing Middlesbrough and I feel we conceded much more than expected.
Downing first and Adama Traoré later in the game were a constant threat down the wings, Negredo alone was enough to keep Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel on their toes and, overall, we were extremely disappointing in possession and gave the ball away too often, as usual.
The only bright spot of the night was Rob Holding, by far the most focussed and composed player on the pitch, even when things heated-up towards the final minutes. At 20 years of age, the boy played fantastically well and shown great maturity in his only 5th Premier League game of his young career.
It took a fantastic free-kick from Alexis to break the deadlock as we weren’t really testing Guzan, then – after conceding another very sloppy goal – Mesut Özil came to the rescue with a close-range effort almost against the play, to win us an all-important match; I can’t recall any clear-cut chance created by our side, I can’t recall any well-built move that led to a shot on target, I can only remember of two late chances unforgivably wasted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
At the other end, Petr Čech was reactive (and rather lucky) to deny Ayala in two separate occasions, otherwise we would have suffered the ultimate blow in our unlikely chase for a Champions League spot.
I don’t know whether Arsène Wenger will continue with the 3-men defensive line or quickly move back to the more-established back four but I see that the system is not the issue, the lack of structure is.
The win against Middlesbrough was vital in terms of points but hasn’t shown anything different about this team and its manager, except a revived team spirit and hunger; it’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, but if Downing and Negredo have exposed our flaws so easily, what will Sané, Aguero, Ibrahimovic, Kane, Alli and Lukaku?
I must admit I am really pessimistic about the end of this season, I can’t see the tactical plan nor do I see the leaders on the pitch who could carry the team through some very important weeks; Arsène Wenger said we need seven wins to aspire to qualify for the Champions League and those include winning at White Hart Lane, beating Manchester United and Everton at home and also grabbing the three points away from home at Stoke City and Southampton, among others.
Can a team that conceded three goals at West Brom – their sole win in 6 games – and three away at Crystal Palace suddenly find the resoluteness needed?
Perhaps the “new” formation will be the answer, perhaps the “new” formula (we’re the 17th team in the league to play three centre-backs, out of 20) will provide the stable platform we desperately need but we’re still short on confidence and very few of our players are actually reliable in their performances.
More than a formation, we need someone to stand up and drag his teammates out of the invisible prison made of fear and hesitations – and make them believe we can turn this season around, or at least try until the very last second.