Before I say anything else, an important notice: I haven’t watched the game. So everything you are going to read is just my thoughts based on what I heard/read. Don’t expect a tactical breakdown from me. But you can bulk up on one right here.
The decision not to watch the game was partly based on medical reasons (I had a kind of allergic reaction and took some pills which have an unfortunate side effect of making you sleepy), but it was also based on a nasty feeling I was not going to see good football from Arsenal. I had a feeling of this kind before the Zagreb game, however that time I decided to nonetheless watch the match, something I thoroughly regretted afterwards. This time around, I was wiser. Thank God I was.
I woke up midnight because of a sinking feeling and instantly knew we lost the game in a horrifying way. I didn’t even need to look at the final score (something I naturally did) to know it all went horribly wrong. It’s an inexplicable bond: I can say most of the time how Arsenal is performing/performed even when I don’t follow the game, live or otherwise.
I opened the app I use to follow games via live text updates. This time around the commentator either didn’t find a stream or just couldn’t be arsed to give updates other than cards, substitutions and goals. As there wasn’t much to read anyway, I scrolled through and something caught my eye: two substitutions from Arsene during the first half. My heart sank: Oxlade and Theo came off in the 5th and 19th minute respectively. There could only be one reason for such quickfire changes: injuries. And so it proved.
Both players sustained muscle injuries, hamstring and calf respectively. The extent of the damage? 2-3 weeks, it seems, which means we’ll be without both for crucial away games vs Bayern and Swansea. Theo and Alex become our 7th and 8th injured players respectively. Injuries aside, though, there are other things I’d like to discuss. Starting with…
I do not blame Arsene for picking the players he picked. Some needed games (Debuchy, Campbell etc.), others featured because the regulars needed a rest. What I do blame him for, however, is playing Walcott.
Oxlade needs games to get back into the swing of things, this bit is obvious. But why, having lost him to an injury, Wenger put on Theo? Why risk our back-up striker and our only viable right winger left? I don’t know what was going through the manager’s head when he motioned for Theo to come on.
None of them seemed to have a good game. Some said Bielik and Iwobi were decent, but that’s about it. Here’s what Arsene said post-game:
“They are not ready to play at this level. None of them are”.
Which is a brutally honest assessment, but also an unexpected one from the boss. I don’t really remember the last time he threw the players under the bus like that. Was at a dig at Jonker? Is that why Brady was called back?
I don’t know and I don’t much care whether we find ourselves amid political games. I do care about our threadbare squad, though. We have 8 seniors out, some of our better prospects are away on loan (though Crowley has been recalled) and a crucial week coming up. Knowing we can hardly rely on any of our younger understudies fills me with dread.
They seriously underperformed. While I don’t get the outpouring of anger aimed at Chambers (the guy is 20, he is a 4th-choice centre-back, let him develop for Christ’s sake), I can relate to criticising Debuchy, Gibbs and Campbell.
Problem is, none of them have been any good this season. Considering Mathieu and Kieran are second-choice in their respective positions, I’m ready to dance naked around the fire and pray to ancient Gods nothing happens to Bellerin and Monreal.
As for Campbell, well, odd thing is, he is likely to have another chance soon, As every single player who could potentially play on the right is out (Ramsey, Oxlade, Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, even Rosicky), Arsene has little choice but to play Campbell. In three crucial games. Someone hold me.
Question is, what should we do with these three in the grand scheme of things? I’d suggest shipping them off unless they improve drastically. Get Jenko back and find a decent back-up left-back and a winger. Maybe Gnabry will make the step up, I don’t know. However the standards demonstrated now by our second-string players is simply unacceptable.
I don’t care much about crashing out of the cup. We all knew it was a sideshow, a distraction from the main event. No one really cares about the Capital One Cup.
I don’t care much about the performance, which, I suspect, stems from the fact I haven’t watched it. I doubt it will have a psychological effect on the team, simply because very few regulars were involved (Cech, Mert and Giroud being the only ones who played the entire game).
What I do care about, though, is injuries to senior players. At a very important time. One of these injuries was utterly avoidable.
What do we do now? Put together a squad capable of beating Swansea and Spurs and at least drawing Bayern Munich away. This is achievable, since Swansea are in piss poor form right now, Spurs are Spurs and Bayern Munich…
Do you remember the squad which beat them at Allianz Arena in 2013? I’ll remind you in case you don’t: Fabianski – Jenkinson – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs – Arteta – Ramsey – Cazorla – Rosicky – Walcott – Giroud. We can arguably field a better XI this time around, even if it includes Campbell or Iwobi. Our bench will be held with Blu-Tack, but that’s another story.
Right, that’s it from me for now. Back with a Swansea game preview.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.