Is There A Quick Change In Fortunes Ahead?

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Gentlemen, understand this. You will learn how to defend…They are all yours Bouldie

The morning after the night after the day after the day before. It should seem better than this and as we demand the team move on from the Anfield debacle, that advice seems proper for supporters this morning but life does not seem any better. The hurt from Saturday’s drubbing has not lessened in twenty-four hours as questions swirl around like grains caught in sandstorm, the maelstrom’s devastation does not reveal any answers in the calm afterwards.

To be contrary for one moment – and I’ll beg your indulgence for this – does losing 1 – 5 or 3 – 6 actually matter? Take it as read that it does, obviously but is the scoreline relevant in the long-term? Defeat has cost Arsenal three points and the manner of defeat, a fair amount of dignity. It is the latter which concerns me more; not the dignity in itself but the lasting impact of the XI’s confidence, what is the impact of the impotence and incompetence in defence?

Some argue that the opening goal was offside – it was – and that it threw the players. If they are pushed out of kilter by a relatively minor aspect of conceding a goal, the suggestion of any improvement this season hangs by a thread. This is a team, we were told, that is full of character; this is the team which dropped just two points out of eighteen following their drubbing at Eastlands to recover to be top of the table at the end of January. That was character although it could be argued that sixteen points was expected given the opposition played; it’s a fair observation that suggests achieving what was expected of them which is not necessarily the same as showing character.

The players are rightly bearing the brunt of disquiet, as did the manager who stood up to be counted when accepting his portion of the blame. His fundamental problem on Saturday was not of his own making; he could only use three substitutes rather than the eleven he probably wanted to make following the opening twenty minutes. Of course, he picked the starting XI and the vicious circle is completed. Some of the criticism of his choices is accurate; Gibbs is quicker than Monreal on the left but the Spaniard was not the reason for the defeat. Despite this, it will not have been lost on opposing managers how vacant Arsenal’s left hand side can be. It wasn’t the first time Monreal was hung out to dry in a big game by team-mates; it happened at Eastlands as well and it will happen again, there is an air of inevitability about it.

But Arsenal must be doing something right in the big matches as the below summary shows. Home games have in these fixtures have generally gone well; undefeated in the Premier League encounters at The Emirates but away? That still has all the hallmarks of the deficiencies of previous seasons.

Opponents Home Away
Tottenham 1-0
Napoli 2-0
Borussia Dortmund 1-2
Borussia Dortmund 1-0
Liverpool 2-0
Manchester United 0-1
Napoli 0-2
Manchester City 3-6
Chelsea 0-0
Tottenham 2-0
Liverpool 1-5

Actually, I don’t know if it is better but if feels that way. Of course it’s better, we’ve beaten Liverpool at home, Tottenham twice. Yet away from home, the question remains: why are Arsenal so ruthlessly exposed on their travels? A regular excuse is the frequency of matches but that does not stand scrutiny this season; Arsène’s recent assertion regarding recovery times between fixtures might stand true in the long-term but was gleefully undermined by the media for this campaign. Is it simply a case of fates conspiring or just bad luck? Personally, I rule them out. Indeed, whilst the eleven goals in two outings might be considered freakish, recent years have seen Arsenal pre-disposed to conceding readily in matches against top four rivals. We have been adept at letting Chelsea score three or four, United and City have enjoyed themselves regularly at our expense whilst Tottenham and Liverpool have both put four and five past Arsenal in the last half-decade. Perhaps this isn’t as unusual an experience as we might like to think.

Whatever the case, Arsenal need to respond and responses to defeat have tended to be good this season. Twelve unbeaten after Villa, five after United, ten after City hint at recuperative powers. We’ll ignore the inconvenience of the consecutive defeats against Napoli and City, as well as United being the third defeat in six games. In truth, the run of fixtures upon which Arsenal have embarked are more likely to have that staccato pattern of results given the level of opposition than a barnstorming set of victories. The impact of the former is where the manager and his staff earn their corn. A step forward, a knock back; it is key for the players not to dwell on the latter and draw from the former which is easier said than done but that it the characteristic which defines successful sides. Not steamrollering teams occupying lower league placings, they need to be able to do that and in fairness, Arsenal have done so better this season than in many since moving to The Emirates. There has been less of a propensity to drop silly points; plenty of time left for that to creep in but in that respect, so far, so good.

Arsène has some serious thinking ahead of the United game. It would be easy to be sucked into looking at the paucity of their results this season, of how it all fell away for them on the wave of optimism which engulfed their win over Arsenal in November. The points gap at the final whistle was just five; now it is fourteen points following a run of just six victories in the last fourteen games. Their point at White Hart Lane is the only one that United have taken on their top six travels. It is an Arsenal-esque record in that respect.

Arsène cannot worry about them, he has his own problems. Whilst defensive work has to take precedence, what will he do with the midfield that ceded ground too readily in the first half and disappeared under tough tackling. United will do the same and there is no point in bleating about the lack of protection from referees; it is an excuse, the problem is nothing new. Does Wenger keep faith with the Arteta / Wilshere axis or look to counter United by bringing in Vermaelen for example, adding a defender to the mix. The balance in his mind has to settle between protecting the back four and diminishing the attacking array. There is no guarantee that change would work either. Is moving Wilshere centrally and inserting Rosicky into the equation offers a fluidity of movement which can reinvigorate the attack, the solution or just reactionary change. Indeed, is leaving the XI unchanged, allowing a quick opportunity at redemption the way forward.

The manager’s thoughts will have been deeper than superficial questions thrown out at 7am and he is handsomely rewarded to find the answers. So Arsène, it’s over to you.

’til Tomorrow.

108 thoughts on “Is There A Quick Change In Fortunes Ahead?

  1. For me Rosickys greatest asset is his pressing high up the pitch right up against the opposition back 4…and playing him there takes that away…Which is why I hope to see AOC and Rosicky in midfield..I think it will do ozil a power of good to influence a couple of games off the bench..The same with Jack..

    Also If Sagna and Gibbs need to push up we need to have Artetas usual discipline (notwithstanding his shocker at anfield)

  2. i like rosickys energy and drive
    i dont think its a rest ozil needs
    he needs players he can pass to..in space..hes a quality passer but hes not a tippy tapper passer..
    madird and germany dont compress play they attack teams with venom and thats how he fucks shit up..

  3. I agree with Anirudh regarding Rosicky and Arteta.

    I agree with JJ regarding Ozil. Germany has pace but their senior players don’t have blazing foot speed at every position. However, they attack with pace and venom. Same with our 03/04 title team. They had Th14 who had amazing pace but I don’t remember Bobby P, DB10, Freddie, PV4, Petit etc having great foot speed but they would counter attack as fast as any team in the world. You can’t move forward at pace when you are compressing play with you back to the goal. We have really slowed down the game in the attacking end of the pitch this season.

  4. Anirudh is right, JnJon. you can’t play Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil in the center against United and expect to win the midfield battle. Passing wise, they’d be awesome, but without much power in the side. Were Manchester decide to turn nasty, we’d be overrun, I like the idea of Oxlade in there with Rosicky & Cazorla to mix things up a little. The problem with shifting Oxlade means we’d lose his pace running from on the wing. Gnabry could plug that gap (hypothetically). But that is a big ASK to pin hopes on an 18yr old to carry the right flank for 60-90mins at such a crunch match with so much at stake.

    Wenger has tough decisions to make and i don’t envy him one bit. I do have an incline that he’ll start with Wilshere & Arteta , leaving Ozil possibly benched. Podolski might start, with Santi in the middle and Rosicky on the right. On paper that looks great, as did the lineup against L’Pool – except we’ll still lack once again. However way i look at it, we are missing 4 key players custom-made to sink United. These players being: Walcott, Ramsey, Diaby and Flamini.

  5. Very good points YW and I totally agree that the manner of the defeat hurts a lot more than losing the 3 points or the definition of defeat itself.

    Yet, I’m not convinced that it’s just another away defeat. It’s a defeat to a big team, yet again. drawing with Chelsea at home is not a result to brag about, especially if they defeat us on their ground. We lost to Man United, we lost badly to Man City, and now we lost abjectly to Liverpool, and not to mention the CL. It’s the recurrence of the manner we lose to big teams.

    1. Yes the 1st goal was offside and maybe threw us off a little bit, but it was a goal in the first minute. The players must say to themselves we have to face this storm for another 10 minutes at all costs, then we will have 80 minutes to get back in this game. What actually happen is we crumbled drastically, I don’t think we were set up tactically or mentally for Liverpool to attack us this way. I think the believe was Liverpool would have a different, heavily more cautious approach to the game, they didn’t, and we were totally shocked.

    2. I know it’s very difficult for any manager – especially in a big club with big players – to make that kind of change early in the game. Guess what we waited 60 minutes to make a change and admit to making a mistake. Sometimes, as a manager you have to swallow your pride and admit early on that the other manager surprised you. to be fair, it all happened in 20 crazy minutes. Even we made a change 20 minutes in, we were already 4-0 down.

    In conclusion to this defeat, we have improved greatly over the little teams. We still weirdly lose to bigger teams. We still have a few big games coming to turn that around and prove everyone wrong, me on top of the list.

    *****
    Injuries:

    Why is our injuries always highlighted, or have a profound affect on the team? It is most likely because we don’t have enough players in every position. When we had Van Persie, we were always afraid he gets injured. Nothing has changed, we have Giroud and we are still afraid he gets injured. Same with Koscielny, same with Mertesacker, same with Walcott, and so on.

    We have not progressed on this front, and I still think our squad is short. A problem that we had now for a while, since 2006 to be exact.

    Wait, we did buy Sanogo who played a game….And don’t forget Kallstrom, who may be the first player in our history to sign for the first team and not get to ever play a game, even in reserves.

    See you Wednesday…..

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