Sunday, 30 September 2012

Lessons to learn from Saturday

Not a lot of optimism in the Arsenal air right now, after picking up our first defeat of the season, which is only compounded by the fact that we were at home to a team containing a man who has to be one of the biggest cunts on the planet, playing next to another massive cunt in defence.

Oh well, at least our legends aren't men like that.

Onto looking back at yesterday's game though, and there's still very few positives to take. The defending for the two goals was woeful and Vermaelen and Koscielny may have to wait a while before they are partnered together again. The importance of Per to this team is so vital right now, and it is really testament to the man that he can make both of these players look like world beaters when playing beside them.

What will remain in the mind is Giroud's late miss, which is pretty unexplainable, even by Arsene who said: "He was in a good position. Why did he not score? I don't know, I felt (he should have scored), yes."

The miss is awful. Any striker who fails to hit the target from there does not deserve their wages, especially given the magnitude of the game. Yet part of me has sympathy for Giroud. He has yet to properly put together a run in the first eleven, despite our evident dearth of talent up front. And the task of coming off the bench to try and change the match is one that is very hard in football, especially to someone who is clearly low on confidence. But he doesn't look like he is anywhere near the talent that we need up front, despite his goal against Coventry he did not stand out, and his PL form in front of goal has been woeful, despite his good movement. Perhaps Arsene is reflecting the fact that Giroud is not the player he thought he was buying by not selecting him for these recent big games, even when his ability in the air was much needed. Only time will tell.

Another slight worry is our reliance on Arteta, and it makes me wonder if other teams may and try nullify his metronomic control over our tempo. Yesterday Chelsea's midfield three pressed us excellently and Torres Hazard and Mata were equally chipping in on the defensive side, meaning Mikel could only complete 59 passes compared to his 100 against Man City last weekend.

Last season we seemed much weaker without our Spaniard dictating the play, and couldn't win without him in the squad for most of the season. With his transition into a deeper role, and Song's exit, there seem to be few who can play his role at the club right now. In such a vital position, this may end up being a problem.

Back to the game though, and I hope that Bould does take aside the whole squad to sort out our problems from set pieces. At the highest level you are punished for minor mistakes but the errors on show by some of our players at set plays have been numerous and catastrophic. At City, Podolski and Koscielny were static and not looking at the ball even, whilst Mannone came hurtling out of his goal for no apparent reason, and even Arteta had strayed from his position on the post. The corner in the first place came about through a lack of communication whereby Gibbs needlessly conceded a corner.

These same mistakes were on show Yesterday. Sure the replacement of Diaby and Chamberlain may have confused the squad, leaving the Ox marking Luiz with about half a foot in height difference between them. Yet being caught on the wrong side of your man is rudimentary stuff, and I'm sure Bouldy will be quick to point this out. Koscielny again was seemingly not interested in the flight of the ball and allowed Torres to poke home at Mannone's near post - albeit the finish was right out of the top drawer it has to be said. Both free-kicks were conceded rather needlessly and given the quality of set piece takers in their side, plus their aerial dominance, then we really shouldn't have given away so many fouls.

Arsene Wenger was equally furious with the sloppy defending, saying "Defensively we were just not at the level you have to be in a game like thatwe conceded two soft goals from set-pieces. At home you cannot concede goals like we did today.

It is easy to realise that had we swapped goalkeepers yesterday we would most likely have ended up on the winning side. Cech is a world class goalkeeper and made some quality save to keep Chelsea in front, and whilst Mannone wasn't completely at fault for either goal, he probably could have done a bit better. After all he conceded from 2 out of the 3 shots on target by Chelsea.

But overall, as long as we learn from the mistakes then they are not completely awful. If we can finally learn to grind out victories when not playing well, and stop conceding from set pieces, then we can make a proper challenge this season. Arsene Wenger was quick to try and focus on the positive aspects of his team, "I believe overall there's a lot of positives in this game and that's what we have to take going into the next one. I'm quite confident because we have a strong spirit and the team wants to do well."

Yet right now we are 7 points adrift of the leaders, with only 2 wins in 6. We have played well and not got the result, and played badly and not got the result. We cannot return to the weak Arsenal of yesteryear, we must move on with this new attacking style we started the season with.

A positive to look forward to is the return of Jack Wilshere, who is set to feature against West Brom in a under-21 game tomorrow. Good luck to him.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The return of the Old Arsenal

There goes the good start we had. Regardless of the opposition 2 wins 3 draws and 1 defeat is not a good start by any stretch of the imagination.

Today kind of sums us up in the fact that we had quality spells in the game and plenty of chances to get something, but were let down by poor finishing and absolutely unforgivable defensive errors from set pieces. After the game Arsene said "It's sad because we have a good team and we gave this game away the way we did. We played at home, we conceded two soft goals from set-pieces. At home you cannot concede goals like we did today." In a certain way all of the goals we have conceded this season have been done so in such a terrible manner, and quite frankly should have been prevented.

There were some poor performances across the side, and the only players that truly impressed were the full backs Jenkinson and Gibbs in particular, who have been two of our most consistent performers this campaign. Moving on to the bad, and as much as he was superb last week, Koscielny had a poor game today. Per's organisational skills, aerial presence and most importantly calming influence on the side were very much missed.

What is great is that we now have a squad which needs rotating, but it highlights how hard it is to get the big selection calls right for a manager. In hindsight, Wenger was wrong to select Koscielny, who made it clear this was only his second game in a couple of months. Even Vermaelen looked a bit out of sorts without the gentle German beside him, as showed by the needless free-kicks he gave away.

Yet is wasn't just the errors of our defence that resulted in our first defeat of the season. We had chances aplenty, and good ones too, which you have to take advantage of in the big games. We had more possession and more shots on target (4), whilst we also had 10 shots off target. The key chances fell to two of our big summer signings. Podolski did well to engineer a well timed header that seemed destined to loop over Cech's outstretched hand and into the net, yet the 'keeper made a stunning save. Giroud entered the match for the last 25 minutes and had two chances. One was deflected and almost resulted in an embarrassing moment for Cech as he almost pushed the shot into his own net. The next was an awful miss. The 90th minute in a game that we needed to win but found ourselves losing. He cleverly rounds the goalkeeper yet the Frenchman couldn't get the ball out of his feet and preceded to miss an open goal.

Overall we were also quite sloppy in possession, and couldn't get our key midfielders into the match. Chelsea stuck to their game plan and Ramies, Oscar and Mikel were working very hard in the middle of the field. Arteta in particular was heavily closed down and restricted from dominating the game. Last week he completed 100/106 passes whilst this week that almost halved to 59/63.

Similarly Cazorla was stopped from picking up the ball in the areas where he can make the most damage. As shown in the image, he had to move all over the pitch to pick up the ball an made few key passes. He also failed to get any shots on target, whereas last week one of his 3 shots ended up with us scoring from the resulting corner.

Added to the decision to start Koscielny, Arguably Arsene Wenger made another key error in terms of team selection later in the game. After the set-back of Chelsea's second goal, we were starting to bounce back in the game and create chances, with Gervinho being successful in winning back the ball high up the pitch. Yet the French manager, who arrived at the club 16 years ago yesterday, decided to take off Podolski and Ramsey in favour of Walcott and Giroud.

For me, bringing on Giroud -  despite his horrific miss - is not a bad choice, we needed two goals and he has the natural instinct of a centre forward which Gervinho lacks. Yet the key decision is to bring off Podolski. When we need two goals, Podolski is not the man you take off. He is the best finisher at the club and was starting to grow into the game in the second half. I always feel that if he gets a proper chance on his left foot he will score it, with others in this team I have nowhere near as much confidence.

Gervinho was his erratic self when switched to the left hand side, while Theo "striker" Walcott was non-existent out wide on the right. The substitutes seemed to halt our momentum and Chelsea were easily able to close out the match bar that Giroud chance. 

It was most disappointing that our challenge went out without a proper fight, plus the way in which we lost the goals is unforgivable and definitely a reminder of the Arsenal sides of recent years. Despite all this though, we could have won the game, and created the chances to do so when we were not at our best. So there are some positives, however minimal they seem.

Overall though, today is a bad day and we need to draw a line under everything that happened and learn form our mistakes. 9 points from the next 3 matches is turning into a must now, if we have any desires to seriously challenge fore the league. More to follow.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Shaky Szczesny Out Of Montpellier Clash

Wojciech Szczesny finally recovered from his rib injury to play in goal against Southampton on Saturday. Yet, unfortunately the Polish goalkeeper's return resulted in the first goal conceded for the Gunners this season, breaking the unusual - yet thoroughly enjoyable - defensive statistic that since Steve Bould's arrival at the club we hadn't conceded.

Whilst the goal was undoubtedly going to be conceded sooner or later, Szczesny's all round game seemed a bit nervous, when arguably he should have been full of confidence. Whilst Mannone had been giving him stiff competition for the number one role, with excellent displays at Stoke and Anfield, Szczesny was given an ultimate vote of confidence by Arsene who put him straight into the side on Saturday. Yet the nerves, or perhaps just lack of match sharpness, were clearly witnessed with his error for Fox's goal plus some awkward distribution.

Arsene said after the match that: "Maybe he put himself a little bit under pressure because he knows Mannone played well at Stoke and at Liverpool. I think he played better in the second half."

"You cannot change a goalkeeper every time he makes a simple mistake, because then you have three bad keepers. The confidence is needed."

Wenger is certainly right and what Szczesny needs is a proper run in the side to get his full confidence back, which is probably still slightly dented after his red card in the European Championships which arguably led to Poland being knocked out of the competition.

However the 6ft 5in keeper has been ruled out of Tuesdays clash with the French champions, with an ankle injury. It remains to be seen whether he will be fit for Sunday, and the Gunners first proper test of the season away at Manchester City, yet it certainly gives Mannone a chance to make a claim to be number one.

In other news, Giroud is not certain to start against his former side despite barely featuring against Southampton at the weekend. The French international has made a less than emphatic start to his Arsenal career so far, and is yet to score for the club, leading Arsene to question whether to start the £12 million striker. The Arsenal manager said: "What I will do on Tuesday, I honestly don't know, I felt that he is under much pressure at the moment and sometimes to get a little breather is good,"

Giroud has not had a bad start though, with some good movement and impressive attacking displays against Stoke and Liverpool - the two matches he's started, He is just not in great form, as shown by his performance for France last week too. The 25 year old is hoping to open his Arsenal goalscoring account against his former club, saying: "I hope to receive a good reception from the Montpellier fans, because I finished the top goal scorer there last season and worked hard for the title, I think the reaction will be good, but there may be some people who will boo maybe. It is always like this."

With Gervinho impressing in a striker role against Southampton, and Podolski starting to find some goalscoring form, there is definitely stern competition for Giroud.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Destructive Diaby, Classy Chamberlain plus International updates

The international break is never great for Arsenal news, especially following our first win of the season. While we would very much prefer to press on with the "proper" football, at least it's good to see our players on top form for their clubs.

Diaby in particular was very impressive on his international return with France, where he scored in their defeat of the Finland. Diaby had a storming game against Liverpool, and seems to be back on top form after all of his injury problems which have plagued him over the last few years. Playing for France isn't the best thing to help him maintain his fitness, when last season he pretty much picked up an injury every time he attempted to sprint. But at least the new French manager is being so full of praise for the midfielder, saying "He is a boy with a lot of qualities, but I knew that. He is a complete midfielder."

Gervinho also had an excellent match, scoring once, assisting two, and winning a penalty as the Ivory Coast won 4-2 against Senegal. That clinical ability is something that has been lacking in Gervinho's performances since the turn of the year. His talent is evident to everyone, but the lack of end product is definitely something that needs to be addressed, especially with the Walcott situation yet to be sorted.

Cazorla also starred for Spain, and continued his goalscoring run as he scored the first in Spain's 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia. The fact that Cazorla has been able to win 48 caps for Spain in this golden age where they have won 2 European Championships and a World Cup just highlights what a talent he is, and since he does not look out of place amongst players such as Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas is perhaps the greatest praise of all. People who have followed the 27 year olds career for a number of years are saying that since his transfer to Arsenal he is playing some of the best football of his career.

All the other international representatives for Arsenal were on the winning side as well, other the Wales captain Aaron Ramsey as he faced Vermaelen's Belgium.

Yet for Chamberlain, apparently his assist and all round performance for England against Moldova was not enough. Whilst Hodgson was pleased with The Ox's first half contribution, he dropped a bombshell to the press saying that Chamberlain "forgot to play in those first 15 minutes of the second half." He should have done enough to maintain his starting place for the game against the Ukraine, but a comment like this will certainly keep Alex grounded - if not a little upset. This is a key year for The Ox, he has immense potential but still needs to work hard to nail down a guaranteed starting place for both club and country.

All in all it was a successful few games for the Arsenal players, but hopefully they can get back to putting in those performances for us.