I was as surprised by the Swansea defeat as anyone, but I was more surprised by some of the fans reactions afterwards. I don’t consider myself an AKB, and certainly earlier on in the season I thought Wenger should go, but I’ve come to realise that perhaps I was wrong and I thought that he’d won over like minded fans. The common complaint that this game was an example of why we’ll never win the Premier League under Wenger was wrong in my opinion. In fact this game brought an end to a run that should prove that we can win the league under Wenger.
12 games, 10 wins, 1 draw & 1 loss. 31 points from a possible 36 is title winning form. If you were to replicate that over the course of a season you’d have at least 93 points. That would almost certainly be enough to win the title, and this team is more than capable of putting runs like this together.
A good friend of mine wrote in her blog that we could potentially win the league “even without any ‘top class’ additions.” I’m inclined to agree, because as I said, this team is capable of putting those runs together. If we keep our players fit, (which we have been) then we have a chance. Having said that Arsene will definitely buy this summer, and I’m excited to see who he brings in.
For me the Swansea game was an anomaly. One of those rare games where our players were having an off day and the opposition players get lucky that their only real attempt on goal goes in. These things happen in football. The best team doesn’t always win.
They set up to hit us on the break and they were happy the cede possession and entice us forward. The plan was obviously to then attack down the wings and hope for the best. Montero was always ready to run forward when they won possession, and it was his cross that lead to the goal in the end.
Their defensive plan wasn’t quite as straightforward, as they had to find the right balance between pulling us forward to create the space they needed to counter, whilst not inviting too much pressure. Although the score line suggests otherwise, I don’t think that they executed the plan very well, as we had a few good chances that we should have put away. Alexis and Theo both missed glorious chances to score before the Swansea goal. Furthermore, we were camped in their final third for most of the second half, so they didn’t get the balance right.
Ospina came in for a lot of stick after the game, with some sections of our support saying that he’s not good enough or tall enough to help us win titles. Whilst I understand that his positioning when the fateful cross came in wasn’t perfect, I don’t think he can be blamed for the loss. Ultimately we didn’t put our chances away at the other end, so Ospina can’t shoulder such a large portion of the blame.
Speaking of the other end, Giroud had a quiet game. Like Chelsea before them, Swansea realised that our big Frenchman likes nothing more than to attack a low cross at the near post. With this in mind the Swans did two things. They made sure they always had a man to come across and cover the near post. They also pushed their entire back line forward when they could, knowing that Giroud was unlikely to try to run in behind, which also nullified him as a threat for large portions of the game.
I strongly suspect that this was the reason Theo and Jack came on, because as the game progressed bigger gaps were opening up when Swansea had possession which Giroud couldn’t work with but they could. Unfortunately they regained their defensive position and cohesion almost as soon as they lost the ball, and we were faced with 8, 9 or even 10 men defending deep in their final third.
Like Ospina, the accusation levelled at Giroud is that he’s not world class. Personally I don’t think that there are too many world class centre forwards genuinely available out there, so an upgrade will be very hard. What we might consider is a slight alternative. Possibly someone like Chicharito, who will bury a six yard shot in a crowded box. If he was available, (which he isn’t) I’d love to see Thomas Muller in an Arsenal shirt. He’d be the man to help us break down stubborn opponents who park the bus.
We know what to expect from United at Old Trafford. They will come at us and attempt to use Fellaini as a battering ram. He’ll play as an attacking midfielder and try to get in between our centre halves and full backs, and he’ll put a challenge or two into our players to try to unsettle them.
Apparently Rooney is injured, which means that either Van Persie or Falcao will play up front instead. Personally I’ll be delighted to see a team sheet without Rooney on it because he always scores against us. Ashley Young and Juan Mata have been good for United of late, so our full backs will have their hands full. Going forward Alexis will be relishing getting stuck into Valencia again, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see most of our attacks target that particular weakness in their back-line.
Getting a result against them will be extremely important for us. Finishing 3rd or above can make a difference when trying to buy players for next season, as apparently some players would rather wait to see if you make it past the Champions League qualifiers before signing for the club. Ultimate I just enjoy beating United, and even the idea that they might finish 4th and end up losing the Champions League qualifier makes me smile.
Follow me on Twitter (@CaptainDeeg) if you like talking about some of them points I’ve raised here.