Good day and welcome to the first edition of the Queen City Cannoneer, a weekly blog for the Queen City Gooners. Writing this on the back of the 2-2 draw with Everton required time for me to calm down gather my composure and analyze the match with a cooler head. At the pub, I sat at the bar and shook my head at 1-0 down. At 2-0 down, my head was in my hands as the appalling ref blew the whistle for halftime. 2-0 down in the first 45 minutes? Was this the 3-0 loss all over again?
It certainly seemed liked our past was coming back to haunt us again. After a good chance by Oxlade-Chamberlain with his shot that went wide, Everton won a free kick just into the Arsenal half. A series of passes between Barry and Baines saw the incredibly accurate cross sail over our defense to an unmarked Seamus Coleman who headed it high to the near post. Maybe Szczesny should have gotten more on the header, but after watching the replay Özil clearly drops his mark on Coleman which allowed Coleman to run into open space to meet the cross. If he takes those extra few steps to close the gap on Coleman then that shot maybe goes wide or out for a corner. It was poor defending from such an experienced player. 1-0 to the home side but all didn’t seem lost yet.
Mirallas nearly made it 2-0 shortly after the first goal. When Chambers was beaten by the striker but Szczesny challenged well and Mirallas sent the shot wide. Everton were dominating possession but luckily doing little with it. Ox sent another shot wide after good play from Arsenal but the shooting boots were left in the dressing room.
Just before halftime, Lukaku fouled Mertesacker as he was receiving a cleared ball near the halfway line. Per was bowled over but no call from the ref and he sped on. Chambers then overcommitted to the challenge and Lukaku evaded him. Naismith ran between Flamini and Debuchy into an offside position as the ball came to him and he slotted it past Szczesny. The foul on Per was one of those challenges that could have gone either way but the offside miss by the ref and linesman was egregious.
It was no doubt that the first half was lackluster from Arsenal. Ox was the only player taking shots and his energy was high, which is promising from him. He needs to get the shots on target however as all were wide or blocked. Alexis’ defensive work rate was excellent particularly when an Arsenal player (I believe it was Chambers but it eludes me) bombed up pitch and lost the ball with a slow, inaccurate pass that was intercepted and Everton countered quickly. Alexis ran back and made an impeccable tackle to win the ball. I thought his performance all around was decent but not enough to avoid getting the hook at halftime.
The second half saw Giroud come on for Alexis and a cross from Ox to Giroud nearly got a goal back immediately, but he hit the shot too hard and it flew over the bar. Everton spent more time in a defensive shape and tried to slow down our play. As it became clear that the ref was not doing much to penalize Everton, Naismith began diving any time he was near an Arsenal player. We continued to probe the Everton defense but nothing was working. Then a savior stepped up. Cazorla (on for Wilshere) held the ball and saw the run from Ramsey and placed a perfect low cross to Rambo which he tapped home to make it 2-1 at 83 minutes. At the dying moment of the half before stoppage time, Monreal sends in a cross that Giroud (while being marked) heads into the net at the near post, freezing Howard in his place. 2-2 with four minutes of stoppage time added on and despite good possession from Arsenal, we couldn’t get a late winner but a point is better than none.
As I walked out of the pub I couldn’t help but feel like despite we nicked a point in the dying minutes of this tough match, it was glaring that we are still missing something in our squad. It was not good enough. 2-0 down in the first half and took us until the 83rd minute to get our first goal. Whenever we attacked the Everton half, our players stopped running at the penalty box and no one made any runs in behind. Ramsey sat back deeper and played quick passes to Wilshere and Ox but nothing in the form of clear goal scoring chance. The passes were not surgical and more often than not ended up being cleared by the defense. The second half saw us press more in the box and that created far more chances than in the first. Maybe we were looking ahead to the midweek clash against Besiktas but the first half performance was troubling.
It alarms me that we looked like we went back to our bad habits again. We didn’t seem to turn up until we were 2-0 down. The optimist in me says that it is early in the season and we have new players adjusting to a new system, plus our World Cup winners just came back into the squad and are not entirely fit yet. That excuse will only bandage the wound for so long. We have plenty of experienced players in this squad that should be prepared for the new season. Ramsey saved the day against Palace and he and Giroud were the heroes on Saturday.
Giroud has been one of the few players that have been blamed for lack of results. His head has been on the chopping block from fans on Twitter since the first time he scuffed a clear goal chance wide just after his signing. Giroud may not be the best striker we have seen in an Arsenal shirt, but he certainly isn’t the worst. It would take the harshest critic in the world to say he didn’t make an immediate impact on Saturday and without him coming on we don’t get that point. Giroud works hard for the club and that work should not go unnoticed. Unfortunately for him, being the only true striker at the club, he catches the flak for missed chances and poor results. There is a massive weight on his shoulders to score critical goals for the club, and he did that on Saturday. Let’s not forget that this is a team sport and Arsenal has many players that are capable of scoring a goal. Our three top scorers last season were Giroud (22), Ramsey (16) and Podolski (12). Walcott ended with 6 but his injury ended his season early and at a critical part of the season. 30 goal scoring players don’t fall from sky and I think one of our strengths is the ability to get goals from more than one player like it was when the Dutch Skunk had his last season.
In a future post I will discuss the current players that have been standing in line for the firing squad by Twitter “experts” but for now let’s just dust ourselves off hope we escaped a tough match against Everton with no injuries to our players and prepare for a do-or-die match against Besiktas in mid-week.
Until next time,
Have a great week and come on you Gunners!
Since writing this, reports from L’Equipe are saying that Giroud may have a broken foot and could miss three months. With Podolski possibly on his way out and Sanogo being the only striker Wenger trusts in that position. We may have to dip into the transfer market to get an emergency replacement. Walcott will be back however and Wenger may opt to rotate him and Sanchez in that position and right wing. Only time will tell. My personal opinion is to hold onto Podolski but I know he creates a lot of division within the ranks of fans and Wenger doesn’t seem to trust him in that position. All I can say for certainty is we have a busy week ahead of us.