Cardiff City Review: No Defence For Same Old Failings

Winning is a good habit to have. Overall, it masks the bad habits but at some point, those bad habits bite you on the Arsenal. Unai Emery, chirpy in a Cazorla-esque way to the media, will be concerned by our defensive play as much as he is pleased – and relieved – by the pairing of Aubameyang and Lacazette.

Both strikers broke their ducks for the season, scoring well-worked goals with sumptuous finishes. PEA rolled back the years with a curled finish of which Henry would be proud. Lacazette’s venomous shot from an angle proved the difference between the two sides after Cardiff twice equalised.

While I will say they should have scored more, the same applies to Arsenal. Had the final score read ‘9 – 8’ in Arsenal’s favour, nobody would have been surprised. Neither defence covered themselves in glory with attention focusing on Cech.

The goalkeeper is “progressing” according to Emery, in playing out from the back. He very nearly learned the hard way when he passed without looking, giving the ball straight to Arter. His finish ended up in the stand behind the goal, underlining Cardiff’s problems.

Cech’s nervousness summed up our problems, which were very evident in the opening stages as the home side pressed. We gained some relief when they stopped pressuring Sokratis, Mustafi and Cech later in the half. Had Arter scored, I wonder if they would have continued? He didn’t and they gave up, much to the defence’s relief.

Emery later elaborated on his philosophy. We can move onto the next stage of mixing long and short clearances when we’ve mastered the latter, which will be next season at this rate. What calamitous defeat must be suffered for Leno’s chance to arise? One which comes from out of the blue, knowing our history in such matters.

Calm Yourself, Dear, It’s Only Arsenal’s Defending

The goalkeeper’s nervousness is caused by and transmitted to, the defence. Emery called it “taking risks”; local hospitals called on him to stop it as they can’t cope with the influx of heart-related problems supporters suffer. The passes invariably are short and to Cech’s weaker foot. He panics in those instances and the hasty clearances often keep the pressure on our defence. We are improving distribution from there but not comfortably so just yet.

Yesterday saw some Jekyll and Hyde performances. Mustafi’s thunderous header broke the deadlock yet he and Sokratis show little sign of getting themselves together. The lack of leadership from either is a fertile breeding ground for mistakes at set-pieces, which saw us concede yet again from a set-piece.

Fundamentally, I don’t know why I’m surprised. These are mostly the same players whose defending was so poor last year. Four games isn’t going to bring a sea-change in ability and understanding of roles. There are some improvements going on so it isn’t all bad. And the players seem to want to learn, which is a positive in bringing about change.

The same is true further up the pitch. Mesut Özil occupied the periphery of the game during the first half, becoming more noticeable in the second. An influential role in the second half but in all honesty, no closer to providing any indication about his long-term future being in Unai Emery’s side.

His role in Aubameyang’s goal showed how he could be pivotal in the side. A sharp pass to Lacazette opened the door of the Cardiff defence. The issue is not Özil’s talent but his application; a player of his ability shouldn’t take an hour to impose himself on a game. His demeanour doesn’t help and the German is damned whatever he does at present.

Jumping To Conclusions

We remain a work-in-progress, a footballing Sagrada Familia. Lacazette and Aubameyang both reminded Emery that their inclusion from the kick-off is imperative with the Frenchman deservedly earning Man of the Match for his display. Cardiff didn’t get to grips with him all afternoon and his goal a well-deserved reward.

It was created by a slide-rule pass from Lucas Torreira. Like Leno, his absence raises eyebrows. He is a much better defensive midfielder than Xhaka with Guendouzi currently cemented into one of the midfield places. The gaps still existed between the defence and midfield. Torrerira might close those gaps more naturally but he too proved there is an attacking element to his game with his assist for the third.

Guendouzi apparently didn’t lose possession of the ball directly yesterday, according to some stats doing the rounds yesterday. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know, but he did look more assured in his role. Yet Guendouzi is the one to make way for the Uruguayan. One thing is for certain, Emery isn’t swayed by a price tag and he won’t be rushed into making changes to his XI.

Three points was the target and we managed that more comfortably than the scoreline suggests but there’s still a long way to go before we’re convincing.

’til Tomorrow.

17 thoughts on “Cardiff City Review: No Defence For Same Old Failings

  1. Well we won…not sure if that would have happened last season?

    Cech, Bellerin, Xhaka & Ozil lucky to be playing at the moment in my opinion.

    At the very least Torreira has to replace Xhaka next game. The Swiss is an accident waiting to happen. The Uruguayan looked very useful when he came on.

    PEA & Laca have to play together. There will be bags of goals from those two.

  2. We need to sell some players and buy some players. It doesn’t help knowing that we are currently experimenting with our selections in midfield and attack.

  3. Great post YW. While you referred to Unai’s starting 11, surely he is still selecting based on Wenger’s 11. The only change is Guendouzi, as Sokratis fills in for Koscielny.

    Hope we play some better football from here on.

  4. Agree what was the point of pre-season, if Unai hasn’t figured out his best XI yet? We can’t play distribution from the back with the personnel that we currently have. Cech isn’t that kind of keeper and Mustafi and Sok aren’t those kind of defender’s. You would have thought Unai would have learnt this by now. Who ever Watford’s defensive coach is, we need them. Because we look woeful from set pieces. It’s a no brainer regarding PEA and Laca. Torriera needs to start ahead of Xhaka and I’m just not convinced by either Ramsey or Ozil. It just doesn’t seem a natural fit at the moment and midfield shouldn’t be a work in progress 4 games into the season! Neither should the defense. I understand everything takes time, but surely he must know what personnel can do the job that’s required on the pitch. I’m not sure why he thinks Mustafi and Sok are his two best central defensive pairing. And don’t experiment with turning Cech into something he is definitely not.

  5. Morning all
    A welcome 3 points. Cech playing out from the back, its a mystery to me how someone who has been a top professional for years is so bad at passing the ball.

  6. I went to the actual game (had to endure sitting with the Cardiff fans) which always gives a slightly different perspective than TV.

    What stuck out for me was:
    Aubameyang doesn’t offer much apart from finishing (which he is clearly brilliant at) and does little outside the pen box;
    Ozil hardly had the ball and based on what I saw live he was almost hiding and avoiding getting on the ball; and
    Compared to Ramsey there was no contest, Ramsey was on the ball all the time, constantly try to get into attaching posistion with and without the ball and kept going to the lay minute of the game.

  7. Great review Yogi

    We did not win many away games last season and taking 3 points is certainly welcome. We need both PEA and Lacazette to score a lot of goals this season because rest of the team is highly underwhelming. I doubt that Ramsey, Ozil, Guendouzi, Xhaka Mustafi Sokratis, Bellerin or Cech would make the starting lineup in any of the other 5 big teams in England

    I understand the concerns about cech’s distribution and I am sure Emery sees the same thing we do. However, by far most critical job for any GK is to prevent goals against. Leno might be better at distributing the ball but he certainly was not very good at preventing the other team from scoring when he played in a Germany the last couple seasons. I suspect the reason Cech is still in goal is because Leno has not filled Emery with much confidence in training.

  8. HenryNorrisDialSquare,

    He didn’t have a lot of players….and preseason is more for fitness. Can’t judge a preseason for a starting 11 as other team isn’t going to be giving it 100% and chances are neither are our players.

    Additionally, Leno was signed before Emery got in, as was Sokritis. He needs time to get his own played in. I think we can see what he’s trying to do, but the biggest leet downs so far has been from the wenger era signings

  9. My own impression is that so far Mkhitaryan has been the most effective of our 3 main “creative” players and I would start Mk ahead of ozil and may be even ahead of Ramsey.

  10. YW

    I agree completely. The problem is we don’t have good options at wide forward. I am not sure Iwobe or welbeck even make the bench regularly on other big teams

  11. YW…..

    I agree that Cech is spreading the nerves of the defense thin, the Defenders need to know that they can depend on their Goalkeeper in this style of play. Every time they play it back, there is a sense of “Oh Dear”.

    I personally think individually Mustafi and Sokratis both had good games. It’s the collaborative effort that needs working considering this is like the 4th game they play together in a competitive league.

    It’s the Midfield being light with Xhaka and Guendouzi given that Ozil is not much of a defensive factor. Ramsey being in mostly advanced position doesn’t help either.

    Despite Guendouzi’s efforts and how pleased I’m with the 19 year old contribution, it just doesn’t seem to work defensively in the few games we seen them playing together.

    Torreira is being introduced cautiously, not sure why? Maybe there is something about his fitness we don’t know.

    We still have a long way to go… many ways than one.

  12. Guendouzi may be a really nice player some day but I doubt he would be starting or even making the bench regularly on almost any other big team in the world. The fact that he is tells you the state of our squad right now.

  13. Interesting comments…

    On the defence…Cech made 2 1/2 bad passes…HE looks uncomfortable playing the ball out of the back…I don’t think the defenders look uncomfortable. The key, is how quickly our holding midfielder presents himself as another option. Guendouzi and Torreira are doing well there.

    On the first goal, their winger had time to drink a cuppa before he sent in his cross. Bellerin has improved this year but we’ve got to close down the crosses better. On the second, (ignoring the dive taken to win the free kick), I think we at times we have to give credit to the other team. We were there but they won the knock down and reacted quicker to it , to put it away.

    I can’t help but remember some wise words of my coaches. Summed up…a high line is suicide if you don’t pressure their defenders well. Yes, our defence must improve, but our midfielders and attackers are making the defenders look bad with their ‘work in progress’ pressing.

    On the attack…it’s starting to come, and our playing the ball out of the back against the press is starting to help our transition game thus opening up space for our attack. Oezil is starting to find his place.

    Overall, I still think we are progressing. Whereas the WHAM match had me feeling that we were a good mid-table team, today’s match had me feeling that we were a top team that has to sort out a few things. I know that the distinction is mostly between my ears but I felt OK yesterday.

  14. I like the fact that Emery isn’t chopping and changing players after every game, trying to come up with the blend that will “win next game”. This overhaul, after all, is going to be a season-long process and perhaps even longer. You can’t overcome a malaise like Arsenal’s overnight and I think we know that. He’s giving players a chance to play with his system and that makes sense. Eventually, those that don’t/can’t will go the way of all flesh, but not just yet.

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