This game against Brighton has to be the worst performance from Arsenal this year. We had 68% possession and were a goal up after 6 minutes yet we could only manage a1-1 draw against a team whose players were shivering with fear at the start of the game. They could not string two passes together and their defenders were tripping over their own legs which was how we managed to score the first goal. I am certain that when Auba scored it, their players were fearing the worst and that we were going to slaughter them.
Inexplicably, we did not improve on our start and the only passes we were able to play without giving the ball away were pure Wenger-esque. Guendouzi was the worst culprit. He is picked nearly every game yet he gives the ball away more than anyone else. His hair bobbing up and down makes him stand out and he is always running which fools many people. Unfortunately his running is usually sideways across the opposition defence and his first glance is backwards to see if there is someone behind him to pass to. He must carry some sort of virus because the rest of the midfield and full backs catch it and they start playing the same way.
I understood that Emery`s game is to play the ball forwards from the defence, starting with the goal keeper, which is why Leno can make howlers and still get picked ahead of Cech. I diverge with that observation, because I meant to dwell on the communal failure of our defence to move the ball forwards and to find our own men with our passes. We had a much superior pass success ratio to Huddersfield, yet they managed to have 8 shots at goal, to our 5. We had far more passes than them which means that most of our passes had no useful purpose.
I was determined that I would not criticise Emery this season so that he would get a season`s break to establish himself at the club. In an effort to maintain that resolution I would like someone with better nous than me to explain what the intention is when bringing Lacazette off every time he is selected, or indeed bringing him on as a sub, when he would have been better accompanying Auba from the start?
I know we are short of defenders and at the moment, Mustafi and Holding are out long term. I know that Koscielny is only back after a long absence due to injury, as is Monreal. We have an old fashioned stopper in Sokratis who needs another like minded partner a la Terry/Cathcart alongside him. What we end up with is Sokratis paired with a top CB who relies upon speed to get him out of trouble. Our best midfielder for producing spring board passes ( Xhaka ) from defence to attack and who seems to be unable to challenge for the ball without conceding a yellow card, playing at CB. He has no idea of how to play CB nor how to pair up with Sokratis. Koscielny does not team up with his neighbour at CB. He does as he always did and runs all over the pitch leaving gaps behind him.
Lichsteiner is slow and whilst his solidity may well have made him a decent sub for a better full back who is injured, if he was a regular at right back, that would be an invitation for the other side to put a runner against him. He will inevitably fail to cope and will acquire a collection of yellow cards. Torreira started his career with us on fire and he has combatted our midfield areas almost single handed but in this game he looked worn out and was easily brushed aside by bigger men.
Iwobi is in the middle of one of his “missing” episodes although it is hard for him when Guendozi rarely tries to find him. I think, that if I said that “I could not criticise Ozil because he did not play*, you would know what I said – nuff said! AMN is a conundrum. I love him as a player and when he first came into the first team squad, he played well in multiple positions, but he is being destroyed because he is young and is being asked to fill crisis positions such as Bellerin`s when he is injured and the central defence is creaking. He is trying to do the job of a winger and be available to cross balls into the central strikers to help pierce a packed defence, whilst also cover for an absent Koscielny or Mustafi. He too is suffering from staleness.
In the light of all of the above, it is clear that the players are tired. The long ball has crept into their game and so has the slow-slow- sideways and back Wengerball returning. I hope that this is a temporary blip and not to our usual end of year collapse.
In finishing this post, I genuinely hope I am proved wrong and that Emery does know what is required to refresh this team. Incidentally when Ramsey came on he immediately brought a busyness to the forwards which had been missing, but it was not because of any flaw or fault with Lacazette,
A sophisticated, articulate Arsenal Man of Mystery. Aged 70 and a bit.