Nothing like putting Tottenham in their place, offset the overall foul mood that was permeating the air after the losses to Zagreb and Chelsea. The injustice served at Stamford Bridge was cruel to the Arsenal and no amount of bans to a certain Chelsea cheater and or unfair red card rescinded to our player can fix that we may have lost out on getting three points away at Chelsea. I don't want to dwell on the result of that match as it was changed drastically changed but he sending off and at this point everyone has had their say.
Following the horror show that was the Chelsea match, we had to travel to White Hart Lane to taken on the scum down the road. I was pretty confident that despite the previous two losses, we would get the win and advance to the next round of the Capital One Cup. My only concern was the team selection Wenger was going to use. With Gabriel's red card rescinded, he was now eligible to play center back but was given a rest, which was probably needed in the aftermath of having to deal with Diego Costa's cheating ways.
Wenger normally treats this competition as a chance for young and fringe players to get valuable game time. With that inexperience usually means we crash out early and we just write off the competition altogether. This was different however, as we just came of the back of two bad losses. We couldn't afford to simply through out youngsters this time. Not only did we need a win to right the ship, but it was against that horrible lot down the road. A loss to them would be utterly unacceptable. No matter the competition, we must win against the scum. As such, Wenger did rotate, making ten changes to the squad which is a gamble but the squad looked more than capable of sending the Spuds home crying into their Bale-shaped pillows.
With the injury to Coquelin during the Chelsea match, it was down to Arteta and Flamini to fill the defensive mid positions normally occupied by Coq and Cazorla (who was out due to his red card). Ramsey was slotted in the attacking mid position with, Giroud in place of Walcott and Ox and Joel Campbell getting the starts out wide. Bellerin was rested for Debuchy and Gibbs on for Monreal. Mertesacker is finally over his illness and he paired with Chambers in front of Ospina in goal. Not a bad selection, some rusty legs but overall experienced players. Flamini was a wild card, as he usually is but he was the surprise of the match as no one expected him to score not, one but two goals. The goals were both well taken and the second was highlight reel worthy as he took the volley first time and hammered the shot home with power and accuracy. I often joke about how when I play FIFA, Flamini always manages to pop up near the goal and skies a shot that could have been put in. This was not FIFA, the real life Flamini scored a brace at Shite Hart Lane and sent the Spuds fans home crying. I would love to meet the guy who bet on Flamini to score two goals. He walked away from the bookie with a fat wallet.
The match overall was a good one with several players looking like the cobwebs are finally being shaken off. Debuchy didn't do himself any favors and it is hard not to feel sorry for him as he hasn't looked like the solid player we signed from Newcastle. His long injury spell only gave Bellerin the time to develop into the starter he has become. Debuchy is still a good player and I expect him to play more matches when we need to give Bellerin a rest. I am confident he will get back to his best and continue to challenge Bellerin for the starting right back position. Gibbs was effective on the left both defensively and offensively and it looks like Monreal taking the spot from him has kicked on his drive. Competition for positions is a necessity for a competitive squad and in the defensive positions we have that competition. For once I am not that concerned that our defense will be the reason we lose goals. We have two capable keepers in Cech and Ospina, three if you could Szczesny on loan, 3 starter quality center backs and one young player who looks like a player can go on to do great things.
Our main issue is still the lack of goals. As great as Flamini's goals were, it shows that we don't have that goal scoring catalyst right now. Alexis still isn't the monster game changer he was last season, Ramsey spends more time out of position and shooting the ball out of the arena, Giroud hasn't kicked on and Walcott isn't winning the contest for clinical finisher. We know the goals are there as we are near the top of the league in chances created. Our striking confidence is low and the sooner we correct that behavior the better. We all wanted that twenty goal scoring machine to come in the transfer window but it didn't happen and we may be suffering from the consequences. Welbeck being out injured hasn't helped either. We manage to keep winning, even without the contribution from our main goal scorers and that fortune will only carry us so far. We need the strikers to score, it's as simple as that.
Leicester City is our next match and they have had a decent start to the season. I would like to see Wenger have the squad watch the video of the Stoke match and show them that we have plenty of pace and skill to run riot against the opposition defense. We just need to put the ball into the net after a chance is created. Easier said than done but once again if you look at the stats from last season, our current squad can do it. I would expect Wenger to return to the same XI that faced Chelsea, with the exception of Mertesacker returning for Gabriel and Giroud will start over Walcott. I still back Alexis to score a goal to get his game going and if he keeps getting closer to notching his first goal of the season.
A win on Saturday will be a fine way to keep the good vibes going from the win against Spuds.
Come on you Gunners!
Arsenal, we just do things the hard way don't we? I am writing this on the back of a frustrating 2-1 loss to Dinamo Zagreb and a relatively good performance against Stoke this past Saturday. But a win is a win and we headed into the match against Zagreb in relatively high spirits knowing that a decent result in the Champions League will put us in the right mind for our trip to Chelsea this weekend. The result was not what we needed.
As we approach the match on Saturday we have to reflect on our current run of form. We have been winning with the exception of the match on opening day and against Liverpool where we got a pathetic draw against a team that is utter garbage right now. We have been winning with some fortunate own goals and our leading scorer only has 2 goals. Walcott has chipped in with one goal and got one in the match against Zagreb. What is alarming is the sheer number of chances we created against Stoke on Saturday and only ended the match at 2-0. Wasteful isn't a strong enough word to describe how pathetic our goal scoring form is currently. We all keep hoping that Alexis is going to get a run going and score buckets of goals but the Chilean is still not looking one hundred percent and frankly he tries too hard by himself each match to make the difference. You have to admire his tenacity but wish the rest of the squad would match that energy.
To be fair, The Stoke match was actually a fairly good one despite our lack of goals. We were tearing through their defense and they simply looked lost as our midfield dominated them with clever passes and excellent runs. We couldn't find the back of the net no matter how hard we tried. Despite this I enjoyed how fluid we looked and I really wanted that fluidity to continue with the exception of adding more goals to the mix. The match against Zagreb was not this. Wenger rotated several positions and it looked as if our chemistry was not right. I have wondered why Wenger doesn't rotate more and maybe this is a reason. Of course it appears that Wenger rotated more than he needed to as he clearly has his focus on the match against Chelsea. I would be lying if I said I didn't agree with putting our effort and energy to the weekend but I do wish we could rotate on a larger scale and not throw our balance so far off.
Wenger has often been accused of ignoring tactics and playing to the opposition in favor of the free flowing and pass heavy game that he prefers. While we all like a nice attacking performance where we play with such precision and ferocity, we have to adjust then things are not going as planned. Our opponents often know that we will attempt to dribble the ball into the net rather than shoot from anywhere. Against Stoke, the squad overall seemed more likely to shoot, even from distance (Kos' shot was a beauty) and this really messed with Stoke's game plan to try and crowd us out. They over-committed and often left holes that were exploited by our faster players. With some clinical finishing that match would have been 5 or 6-0. I have often mentioned how Wenger gives his players free reign to play their way on pitch and while our squad can do this as the match against Stoke was an example, but sometimes it never looks as it it will happen and we give up stupid goals, see the match against Zagreb as an example.
I truly wish Wenger would give more direction to the players on the pitch instead of standing there with his arms crossed and that sullen scowl on his face. I know Wenger wants his players to have the belief in themselves to make it happen but sometimes you have to take the initiative and give direction. Give orders or make a damn substitution before 75 minutes would be a good start. Wenger's stubborn attitude infuriates me to no end. When we are winning 3 or 4-0 and the swift counterattacks and one-two passes are ripping defenses to shreds, than keep it up but stop if we are losing the ball in dangerous areas or are being stretched and exposing our defense. How many times have we watched us play a high line and lose the ball near the center circle because a cute pass was off the mark or we physically get knocked off the ball and before we can react, the ball is nestled in our net and our players are pointing fingers as to who is to blame.
A lot of people have been talking about how badly Chelsea have started the season and as funny as it is you know that Saturday's will be anything but routine. Mourinho isn't going to roll over and let us win because they have been terrible. We need to dust ourselves off from the midweek loss and come back ready to take Chelsea to the cleaners. Our defense has been relatively solid and I expect Coquelin to be back in defensive midfield. Kos and Gabriel will be the center back pairing as Per will not be ready. Bellerin and Monreal as the fullbacks. Ramsey was rested so expect him in the right with Walcott up top and Alexis on the left. Ozil will center and Cazorla alongside Coquelin will probably complete the starting XI. Of course, none of it will matter if we can't find the back of the net. Walcott and Giroud need to be on the training ground practicing their finishing or else we already know the end result.
I could on and on about my frustrations but nobody wants to read that so lets hope that Wenger has a meaningful team talk and our squad is ready to beat Chelsea.
Come on you Gunners. See you at Ri Ra's bright and early.
So the transfer window has been closed until January and once again we watch the chance to strengthen the squad slip away for another season. I don't count the January window because lets face it, as much as Wenger doesn't like the transfer window extending into the season, he has absolute disdain for the January window and the best we will get out of that is an injured midfielder. I didn't have high hopes that we would sign anybody anyway but I was desperate to be proven wrong.
That being said we did sign Petr Cech from Chelsea, liberating him from that hellhole like a POW out of a prison camp in a World War II movie. Mourinho and his lieutenant John Terry must have been getting worse as Cech seemed all too eager to join our club. With his acquisition, obviously it means that either Ospina or Szczesny must go either on loan or permanently and Szczesny was sent out to Roma on loan. He has played well there and our future number one will get valuable experience in another league while Cech helps us win the Premier League. I can dream, plus I would love to rub it Chelsea fans' faces as their former star keeper hoists the Premier League trophy aloft with our far more classier squad.
A lot has been made of our start to the season and no it has not been stellar. We have a loss, 2 wins and a draw. That doesn't seem so bad but the manner of those results is very disconcerting. We have been playing like we already won the title and are just coasting through he final few games of the season. After the Community Shield win over Chelsea, it would seem that our luck was turning and this was going to be our season to finally get back to winning the title but then the horrid match at home against West Ham that slapped that idea out of our heads. We walked out like West Ham would open a path to the goal and we could line up and score as many goals as needed. That didn't happen and we were made to look like chumps. Follow that by a less than convincing win over Palace followed by a lackluster draw against Liverpool. This past weekend saw us get a classic one-nil win over Newcastle. I lied. It was anything but classic.
With Giroud on the bench and Ozil out, Walcott started up top as the lone striker. Not a horrible prospect but I would have preferred Giroud as he fits our game more than Walcott in that position. At 16 minutes Newcastle dropped to 10 men over a reckless tackle and from there one would think, “finally a break and a chance for us to hammer Newcastle and get a deserved convincing win.” That is not what happened. A shot from the Ox did get deflected and in for an own goal to open the scoring but surely we had more to follow. Not at all. Walcott was often nowhere to be found and if he did get the ball he wasn't in a scoring position. Our only striker never truly got a good sight of goal. What is even more frustrating is that this is the type of situation that Walcott should be excelling at. Down to 10 men, we should have been out passing Newcastle, making them run and chase the ball like chickens with their heads cut off while Walcott makes a run to connect with a pass and slot it home. This never happened. We instead played long balls to a striker who is not known for his heading ability or hold up play. When Giroud finally did make it onto the pitch, he made an immediate impact and I thought we might score but that did not happen either as his support was not great and the few chances he had were not on target.
It is unfair to place all the blame onto just Walcott and Giroud. Frankly the whole team was a mess and has been since the opening kickoff against West Ham. Ox has played brightly as has Coquelin and Bellerin for the most part. But those players cannot do everything. Alexis continues to look like he is not fully ready for the season so his magic touch isn't quite there yet, but I have faith we are about to see him get going again. Our midfield has been a concern as they just don't seem to be gelling like last season. Ramsey continues to do whatever he wants on the pitch and frankly I wish Wenger would bench him once Ozil is fit, while leaving Ox on the right. I know that won't happen because ever since Ramsey had that stellar season a couple years ago, Ramsey has been the golden boy, an untouchable player who must always remain on the pitch. Wenger is hoping that Ramsey will have another great season so he can say his normal “I told you so” speech. Enough. Ramsey hasn't had that kind of performance and he is never where he needs to be on the pitch.
This goes for all of our midfielders minus Coquelin who has to stay back. Wenger gives all of our midfielders far too much freedom during the coarse of the game. I am so sick of seeing Alexis cut from the left and look for our right winger to play a pass too and he is nowhere to be found because he is too busy hanging around in the center of the pitch. We have no width most of the time because all of our players minus the fullbacks are crowding the center trying to replicate that Jack Wilshere-Norwich goal. Counter attacks end up being so much more effective against us because our fullbacks have no support down the wings. To their credit, Monreal and Bellerin are stable in the back line and do what is asked of them. We all know that our defense is shaky, so why are so obsessed with making them as exposed as possible. Coquelin cannot cover the entire pitch by himself and more often than not he has to do everything to stop an attack. If our players would stick to a slightly more rigid structure some of the idiotic goals we concede would go away.
This squad has not changed much since last season. We gained a superb goalkeeper and cut some of the dead weight from the squad who weren't playing anyway. This is the same squad that had an excellent second half of the season to see us win the FA Cup for the second consecutive year. Our young fringe players have established themselves as starters and we have an overall more capable team. We are still light on depth and our injury record is atrocious. An injury to Coquelin, Giroud or Alexis will severely hamper our performance even more and we needed a few players to fill the holes in our depth chart. Wenger's refusal to play ball has left us in a critical position. Just like last year, the pressure is on every player to stay fit and play out of their skins every match for one slip is costly. We have the resources, and the allure, but our stubborn manager and board may have screwed us again.
This squad can do it. We can win the league, but it will require a lot of good fortune and perfect players every week. The top teams all have a plan B. We have plan A and only plan A. No use complaining anymore as the transfer window is closed. Only thing left to do is to keep supporting the Arsenal that we all love and just hope that we won't be snake bitten.
Que Sera, Sera
PS, Thanks to all who showed up for the opening match at Ri Ra's. The turnout was exceptional and the voices were loud. Let's keep that up throughout the season!