It was tough going against a resilient Newcastle side on Saturday. In the end, our top striker Own Goal came to the rescue. As long as we can keep him fit we’ll be in with a chance of winning the big trophies this season.
On a more serious note, the two own goals that have gone in our favour both against Crystal Palace and Newcastle came about as a result of the sustained pressure that we placed on our opposition, so we’re doing something right. Personally I don’t care who scores, I don’t even care if ‘own goal’ is our top scorer this season as long as the results keep coming in.
As with Liverpool the one poor decision the referee made in the game cost us a goal. When Thauvin brought down Bellerin I was on my feet shouting for a penalty even though I Arsene Wenger’d and didn’t really see it. (I sneezed and missed the foul). It should have been given by either the man in the middle or his assistant and we would have scored the resulting penalty, (probably) and won the game 0-2. That would have been a more appropriate score and would have more accurately reflected the dynamic of the game. Ultimately it didn’t cost us points, so for that we can be thankful.
10 men and other factors
In real terms an away win in the premier league is always a good result and although in theory it’s easier to win against 10 men, it doesn’t always work out that way in practice.
I mentioned last week that I expected Newcastle to attack, and that we would win as a result, but when they went down to 10 men they shut up shop and tried to defend their 0-0 draw. We see this all the time at the Emirates, which I probably why we’ve been better away from home when teams have a go at us. As an aside, when they dropped deeper Theo became almost redundant. He needs space to be effective so I don’t count this game when judging him as a centre forward.
Their approach remained aggressive even when they were a man down, but not in a constructive manner. Steve McLaren had obviously told his players something like, ‘let them know you’re there’ and the 6 yellows and one red card given reflected their robust ‘tackles’. It seemed to me that they were trying to hurt us, and Mbemba’s approach to Alexis was clearly to tackle the man first and worry about the ball later. In days gone by getting kicked about away from home would likely have seen us lose or draw, so I’m pleased we stood up to the challenges, but the constant fouling clearly disrupted our rhythm, which was another factor in why we only scored one.
Lastly I couldn’t help but notice how dry and bobbly the pitch was. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a team allow their pitch to get dry and bumpy before playing us. It slows down our passing and can make the ball harder to control. (If you watch the game back you may notice some poor first touches, which I blame entirely on the playing surface).
The transfer window
I was surprised that we didn’t sign anyone else because Arsene had maintained that if the right opportunity came along he would take it. Clearly he didn’t feel that the right player was available.
I believe (like everyone else) that Benzema would have improved our starting XI, however I don’t believe the assertion that Wenger either didn’t want to pay big money for a player with little resale value or that any player can be bought if you throw enough money at them.
I think Arsene would have paid £50 million for Benzema if the deal could have been done. This is because he is aware that although you’d swallow a loss in player resale value you’re more likely to win trophies, (which go some way to making up for it in prize money and resulting revenue). As Arsenal supporters we have the painful memory of watching Van Persie win United the league title. Sometimes managers buy a player for short term gain. I have absolutely no doubt that Arsene would have done it, but Madrid did not want or need to sell, and Benzema did not want to come.
Who else could have come in as a striker who is genuinely better than Giroud, Alexis and Walcott and (here’s the important bit) who was actually available? As for buying a midfielder, the emergence of Coquelin meant that we would never have been interested in Schneiderlin but having back-up for him would have been nice. Wenger is probably of the opinion that when Wilshere is fit he can play there in a pinch and I agree based on how well he’s played there for England. Again we’re faced with the same problem of finding a better player who is available. Pogba would have been amazing. Is he available? Absolutely not.
At the end of the day we don’t want the bench full of dead wood clogging up the wage bill. If someone (like Cech) is available who will walk straight into the starting line-up Wenger will get them. If not we have to make do with one signing. We’re still better than last year.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly will remember that I said a few months ago that we already have the squad to challenge for the league. I stand by that statement, especially now that we’ve signed Cech. I expect this team to explode soon and show everyone why we’re contenders.
(Did anyone else notice how well Kos and Gabriel did together?)