STONE COLD FRIDAY: Gunners Win Group Despite Koln Loss

I know a blind diehard Arsenal fan. YW knows him very well too. Hell, even Consolsbob does. Here’s the thing, I’m thinking he can do a penalty challenge against all Arsenal goalkeepers. If he can score, then we can just put to bed the nagging question as to whether Arsenal keepers will ever save a penalty. You somehow knew Ospina was going to pick the ball from the back of his net when Sehrou Guirassy stepped up to take the spot-kick.

That a penalty was awarded with Debuchy protesting his innocence doesn’t matter. You know the game was tedious when the opposing team’s goalkeeper is the man of the match. Koln prop up the Bundesliga table having managed only 2 out of 36 possible points all season. What is more concerning is that a relatively strong Arsenal 2nd XI couldn’t break them down. Understandable, since they placed an aircraft carrier in front of their goal just to make sure we knew they didn’t come to play. Perhaps the knowledge that before kick-off, Arsenal had already won the group got into the players’ heads and they settled for Meh!

Possession, Whatever the Percentage Isn’t the Law

Credit must be given to the second string for topping the group. They had a job to do, and they delivered. More of the fringe players can look forward to a dead rubber with Bate Borisov to improve their match sharpness. There was something eerily familiar though. Loads of time on the ball and no end product. It’s the truism of lies, damned lies and statistics. Arsenal enjoyed 67% of the possession and didn’t know what to do with it.

It can get worrying that more often than not, the lack of a plan B to counter defensively minded teams seems to be something that afflicts our entire squad. Most would now hope that Wenger will introduce first team players as the competition enters the second round. Arséne was less excited about winning the group, adopting a wait and see policy before he decides to change the squad. That seems reasonable in light of the bigger teams who have been relegated to the Europa league.

A more direct approach as a counterbalance to possession tiki-taka that doesn’t yield goals will be refreshing and necessary. The manager found it hard to draw anything glowing to say about Arsenal’s huffing and puffing, the RheinEnergie Stadium refusing to keel over.

We had a lot of possession and we lose a game where Cologne had one shot on goal. And it was not a penalty at all. We just missed a little bit in the final third, we missed always a little something to finish our chances.

Look Ma! Le Coq nearly scored

Rustiness is an occupational hazard when you put 11 folks who don’t play enough games together. On paper, Arsenal had an experienced team, mostly of players capped by their countries. When Francis Coquelin is the one trying to force the issue by grazing the woodwork and trying out a long range shot, you know something ain’t working right. We were fairly comfortable through the game, but it was hard to see where an opening goal, and eventually the equalizer would come from.

It’s reassuring that last night’s unremarkable game will be quickly forgotten as we focus on the next 3 games in 7 days. I could have sworn at some point that the commentator and summarizer on Arsenal player also wanted the match to end quickly so that folks can move right along. Koln’s goal came from a collector’s item, a rare sojourn out of their half in a counter attack. Perhaps the Arsenal players were surprised their opponents could attempt a counter attack and were a touch slow to react.

Jack Wilshere was an occasional bright spark for the Gunners. He engineered a couple of good opportunities at the tail end of the game but Timo Horn stood, impassable. There was no Nketiah-esque Man of the Match performance from Reiss Nelson; Horn’s determination to keep the award saw him deny the youngster as well.

We’re Back at Last Year’s Crime Scene On Sunday

We travel to Turf Moor next, where Laurent Koscielny isn’t the most popular man. Clarets fans justifiably screamed “We was robbed” after he decided we weren’t leaving Turf Moor last year without the points. If the referee says it’s a goal, then it is. It’s not offside or a handball. Any which way, it will be a more interesting prospect than any Europa League group stage match would provide. All we want is for the team to play as they did against them lot down the Seven Sisters Road.

Hopefully, we all get to enjoy the AOL show upfront until the wolves are at the door for Alexis and Ozil. This January if you believe the papers.

Have a great day good people.

25 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Gunners Win Group Despite Koln Loss

  1. Didn’t watch the match, saw we lost, heard Le Coq was the worst player on the pitch and we topped the group, did I miss something?

    Also saw Jack’s comments and he has started to be more vocal about match time, wonder what Arsene thinks about it all.

  2. Thanks for the post Darius. I was celebrating the holiday with family and did not watch the game but I can picture what happened and what you are describing. We went into ball possession mode and our transitions were slow and we allowed the defense plenty of time to set up and organize and we made hundreds of short 1 touch passes around the midfield. Its the same thing that happens almost every game when we dominate ball possession.

    Once we allow the opposition to set up and organize their defense its very difficult to break down any professional football team, even one as poor at Koln has been this season. The answer is to make every effort to move the ball forward with pace and get the ball into the attacking 1/3 before the opposition can set up its defense. You don’t allow them enough time to park the bus. When you attack at pace you will not have nearly as much ball possession but the attack is much more likely to be effective. Perfect example is the way we played against Spurs when we only had about 40% of ball possession.

  3. Man City is a ball possession team but when we played them you could see that their first instinct is to attack as quickly as possible and they only go into ball mode when that first rapid attack breaks down.

    I have never been a fan of Wengerball and its ball possession ethos. I have never believed that ball possession is an effective form of defense. I am also not a fan of having ball possession players such as Elneny or Denison or Song “running the midfield”. Not that its their fault but I think we are more likely to fall into our tippy tappy habit when players like that are controlling the tempo of our game.

  4. The nature of football is that its very difficult to score a goal and the defense has the advantage. The advantage for the defense is exponentially increased when they are set up and organized and can watch the game unfold in front of them and they can cover the space in the dangerous areas, anticipate movement and track runners and cover when someone else makes a mistake . We have often talked about having a plan B as the way to break down a parked bus but I don’t think there is any magical formula that can break down a team like West Brom or Stoke once they have a chance to set up and organize. The only real answer is to get the ball into dangerous positions quickly and not let them have the time to set up.

  5. It was only the beer that kept me in the pub watching this tedious, monotonous, drivel of an excuse of a match.

    Not an ounce of quality between any of those player’s on the pitch for either side. Maitland-Niles was dynamic on the left, but clearly out of position. Should be played centrally in my opinion. Iwobi was suppose to be an impact player and had not effect on the game whatsoever. Even Jack looked bored and he didn’t cover himself in glory either. Le Coq gave the ball away and showed he’s not a top 6 player. Despite him having two pops at goal. Which say’s how bad Giroud and Welbeck were.

    Clearly the team knew it was a dead rubber and that’s how it played out. Debuchy cemented why we were unable to move him on, because he clearly isn’t worth the money we are currently paying him. So why would he go somewhere else for less money. Just to play first team football!? Which further underpins how bad our transfer/contract dealings are, that we would pay an average right back who wasn’t ripping up trees and wasn’t a youth prospect over the odds in the first place! Are you seriously telling me Debuchy is better then Jenkinson?

    Also what are we doing to address the fact that we have 7 players over the age of 30? Shouldn’t we be bedding in their replacements now, before their legs go?

    Roll on Burnley.

  6. The performance last night was as insipid as our choice of shirt colour!

    IMO the most worrying aspect was that the majority of the team that played are nowhere near good enough to be considered for the first XI.

  7. The chance that an attacking team can make something happen is exponentially increased when the defense is running back towards its own goal trying to catch up with a team that is attacking at a quick tempo. The only thought of the defender is to get back into position and they can’t watch what’s going on behind them or think about how to cover the space in dangerous areas and they can’t track runners.

  8. Yogi was correct, Isaac, you did manage to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! Well done, sir.

    We often have different opinions spoken about on ACLF as regards the main driver for fans watching games – is it for the entertainment or is it to win at all costs?
    I would prefer it to be both a win and entertaining – but …. a win, no matter how lucky or poor a performance it was can salve the eyeballs of the afflicted fan ….. but a poor performance, like last night, coupled with a loss, is only mitigated by the fact that the group stage qualifying had already been secured.

    That game was tedious beyond belief, and altho I am impressed with those who thought it was an OK performance — I also think they must be bonkers. 😀

    In fairness I also empathise with those B string players who no doubt wanted to make an impression – at least a good one – but then failed miserably, in my opinion, but as I said to the Welsh Cardie last night, that team played pretty much like a bunch of strangers — and for a good reason.

    Many of these guys are not long passed lengthy injury layoffs, and were playing to try and shake the rust off, or have, perhaps, been pointed towards the exit in January, or in the summer, and were trying too hard, or were caught between being solid defensively in order to ensure a point to top the group, or were unable to switch to attacking mode when they went behind to a very dubious penalty.

    Anyway – no real harm done – except to the players’ pride, and to the fans’ expectations of a good game following on from a great win at the weekend over the Spuds — but then that was a different team playing in the Arsenal colours, who seem light years ahead of last night’s crew.

    Shape up or ship out does spring to mind.

  9. I disagree with the notion about Debuchy mentioned above by Henry, he was played in the back 3 instead of as RWB his default position and he was brighter going forward in my opinion than the actual RWB on the day, which was Calum Chambers.
    Though much of the team’s play was through the left, with the play gravitating towards AMN, it was the inclusion of Coquelin and El-neny that puzzled me, with Jack on the pitch. What started as a 3-5-2 when Welbeck was on the pitch collapsed into a 3-6-1 when Iwobi came on and it was the inconsistent passing in the final third and the wastefulness of Giroud in ball retention and control that caused the loss, not to mention his utter lack of pace and ball control and when he had a through ball played to him and the ball was cleared off him, though he broke past the defense initially, only for him to slow down and find that the defenders hit the ball off him for a corner when a better or mobile striker would at least have a shot on goal, after all the keeper was off the line to close him down, a smart strike would have earned Arsenal a point.

  10. Reiss Nelson is clearly a super talent in the mould of Neymar. I wanted to make that point last night but I didn’t know most people did not watch the game. He had the most positive effect on last night’s game after coming on, though AMN was pretty efficient all through. His execution of a dribble to burst into the opposition box and take a shot, which was parried by the goalkeeper was mentioned on the mirror today, click bait for Arsenal fans. He should be closer to the first team, because he is better than Welbeck.

  11. There was sloppiness in the final third, a desire to play the perfect ball and an inability to create a special moment, which was why Reiss Nelson was spectacular yesterday, because he carved a chance for himself, despite the parked bus. It was after FC Koln scored, that we saw a sense of urgency from the team.

    Jack is better off leaving Arsenal at the moment for the sake of an England call-up, and probably his career. He will not break into the first team and yesterday, Wenger’s plan for him to play through the middle to showcase his talent was not superb due to the lack of tangible end product,no goals, no reliable striker to latch on to the half chances. He had a few moments though, but Elneny’s input was stamped all over the match, which probably meant there were too many cooks tending to the stew.

    I don’t see more opportunities coming to Jack to start a first team game, though Arsene might think differently and we play 3 matches in 7 days.

  12. Another mind boggling team selection by Wenger. A full back, Debuchy, plays as a right sided central defender. A central defender, Chambers, plays as a wing back. A young talented wing back, Nelson, left on the bench.

    Chambers was hopeless on the right, consequently most of our attacking was done on the left and whilst Maitland-Niles did well to get past his full back on numerous occasions his crossing was abysmal.

    Corners and free kicks were utterly wasted, why was Elneny taking them? He rarely, if ever, got the ball past the first defender.

    Welbeck scurried around a lot but was taken off at halftime, according to Wenger “medically it was the right thing to do”. If that was the case, was it medically the right thing to do to play him in the first place.

    I expected more from Wilshire.

    I expected nothing from Giroud and that’s exactly what we got.

    Wenger, quite rightly, blamed the loss on the penalty. They scored from it and we had no answer.

    Should the penalty have been awarded? 50/50

    Should Debuchy have given the referee the option, No!

  13. Jonny,

    Yes but they have to get him back to Italy, from Brazil, and then go through the appeal process which can take literally years.

  14. YW,

    Honestly I was just going by reports, I guess I can only take other’s perspectives since I didn’t watch but if for at ANY time in a match Le Coq is our best attacker than either A. our attacking players need to wake the fuck up, B. Le Coq is trying to be everything he simply isn’t C. we are completely throwing caution to the wind D. all of the above.

  15. Jonny,

    Yup, first off don’t see them getting him back to Italy let alone the appeal process being finished anytime soon. The other thing is he plays for Atlético Mineiro and is a key figure for them so good luck trying to pry him out of Brasil.

  16. Reis Nelson is only 18 and may be he will be different but so far he looks like another in a long line of Arsène youth players who catch your eye but never learn how to turn their technical skill into any end product. Iwobe seems to be heading in that direction.

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