When Sane’s shot crossed the line in the 5th minute all I could do is laugh. The absurdity of the situation left me with no choice. The goal was a carbon copy of the one Sane scored at the Etihad in December. Long goal-kick, missed/misjudged header, through ball from De Breyne – and Sane finishes it off.
What made the goal even funnier (it didn’t) was the fact it was the second clear-cut chance City had inside 5 minutes. It followed the same pattern too – find a quick player in-behind with acres of space via a penetrating pass. Not only have Arsenal players refused to learn from three months ago, they couldn’t even adapt during the same game.
We once again resembled a hapless bunch of strangers accidentally wearing the same shirts, so having escaped with a point is the only positive really. Let’s look at other key moments below.
Where’s the midfield?
Right before the game it became clear that Ramsey and Ox picked up knocks and wouldn’t feature. That forced Arsene into a change I’m assuming he wouldn’t have made otherwise – in came Francis Coquelin.
Right, I hold my hands up once more. I thought starting the Frenchman would give us at least some defensive solidity. In reality it didn’t. Our midfield, with Ozil as part of the three, was bypassed way too easily time after time. Both Xhaka and Coquelin were either too slow to get back after a failed attack, or dropped too deep, leaving the midfield open anyway.
Diabolical, considering it was Fernandinho and Silva at the basis of City’s attacking unit. Those two dominated our pair without even breaking a sweat. Though it has to be said these were joined by Toure after half-time.
I’m not sure what needs to happen for our midfield to look even remotely functioning at this stage. Obviously we can’t have Cazorla back, and if Ramsey and Ox are out for any period of time, we’ll be stuck with a Coquelin-Xhaka pair for a while.
What the hell happened to Welbeck?
Now, I know the bloke has been out for a long time, but remember how slowly and carefully Wenger eased him back in? One could argue too slowly and too carefully, which might have cost us some points during that dreadful period.
However now that Danny started consecutive games up front, presumably he’s ready? If so, questions could be asked of his performance and I, for one, is very concerned about our striker’s sudden and drastic loss of pace. He no longer seems as mobile as he was before the injury.
Wouldn’t starting Giroud have been a better decision then? It’s tough to say, Danny again didn’t get any service, and it’s not like he’s the crux of the problem, but I do wonder whether he can come back to the pre-injury level and whether Arsene should persevere by starting the Englishman in his current state.
We need to talk about Alexis
Before I go any further, know this: Alexis is a great player. He is our top scorer for a reason, he possesses outstanding individual skill and his never-give-up attitude is unparalleled in this squad.
However his (quite understandable) mistrust in the ability of his teammates to do anything meaningful with the ball has peaked and it’s seriously hurting the team. As good as he is, Alexis can’t do everything alone every time, and so his greed and selfishness yesterday nearly cost us on a number of occasions. The picture of the Chilean losing the ball near our box when trying to take on 4 City players with a quick break on seems burnt in inside my skull.
I like Alexis a lot. He has his flaws, but as I said, he often offsets these by actually being useful. It’s when he isn’t that his flaws show their ugly side. He needs to be more aware of his teammates even when the team looks shorn on confidence and belief, simply because it’s a team game and he can’t take on entire teams alone.
Koscielny injury spells trouble
I’m not quite sure how our captain sustained his injury, but it means now is definitely the time to bring Mertesacker back. We need some leadership and calmness in the centre of our defense. Gabriel is too unreliable most of the time, the fact he wasn’t yesterday doesn’t cancel out the overall trend.
It would be unfair to thrust in Holding at such a time without a senior centre-back to guide him, so reinstating Per seems the obvious thing to do. An added bonus of playing BFG alongside Mustafi is that both are German, so we shouldn’t have communicational difficulties.
That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply worried Koscielny is out, I’ll pray he won’t be for long. He is the only central defender I don’t have reservations about, and we know how quickly things can turn nasty without him. Fingers crossed he’ll back before we can feel his absence.
The last word
This game hasn’t shown we’ve progressed in any meaningful way. The football was still uninspired and slow, the players looked lethargic and only by the grace of David Ospina and some no-less insipid football from City have we rescued a point.
The performance itself hasn’t addressed any issues or eased worries about this side’s ability, however at the very least we’ve stopped the rot and not lost another game. That is some small consolation. The league schedule eases up in terms of names a bit, though now we are in must-win territory in every game.
Starting Wednesday, as Bilic and his crew come to visit. Hopefully yesterday’s result was really something for the team to build on.
Back here soon to preview the Hammers’ game. Until then