Morning folks. Today’s post is here behind schedule. Partly human inadequacies. Partly human adequacy. We apologise.
Well, saw our match yesterday. And its outcome left that question ringing in my ears.
The line-up was pretty-much the same as the one that faced Sunderland, except for the absence of Woj and Theo dropping to the bench. This meant Vito in goal and Olivier up top. Two players that gave me equal dosage of apprehension on the one hand and excitement on the other. The defence stayed the same: Tommy V (fearful of calling him the Capitan. Yal should know why :D) and Per in the middle with Kieran and Carl on either side of them. Midfield also same: Mikel and Abou with Santi roaming in front of them. Olivier up top with Lukas and The Forehead on both sides of him.
With that line-up, I was counting on the defence to screen Vito well. He should do well, I told myself, but the defence had to protect him from those bullies. I was also hoping the midfield would be able to unlock a team more defensive than faced last week. I also expected Gerv, with Olivier in the middle, to get behind the fullback a lot and aim for Olivier’s head, while Poldi would cut into the centre often and Santi would take his place on the left, changing our shape to a 442 in-game while giving our play dynamism also.
In all, the Britannia being a difficult place for visitors nonetheless, I thought we were good to get 3points. A couple cavemen (wilson and wilkinson as they game went on) sent-off would have been the icing. Unfortunately, or fortunately in some quarters, this wasn’t to be.
I do not know if he’s deserving of all of the praise, but Bouldy’s name is all over that defence. Although it can be argued that the cavemen offered little going forward, we were rarely caught out at the back. Kieran and Carl were rarely at the upper third of the pitch at the same time. Our trademark, the offside trap, worked when it had to (and yes, Clichy can goan coman claim his SUB). Kieran and Carl refused to be bullied while TV5 and Per maintained their composure to deal with those aerial balls that always had me (dunno if it did fellow Gooners too) holding my breath last season. Kudos to Steve Bould. Kudos to the defence. I would say, on behalf of most Gooners, that we would like more of such performances and look forward to even better ones.
Mikel did a lot of running. I like him more with every other game (as usual, plenty homo when it’s AFC involved). Tidy and efficient. Should have done better with that goal-against-citeh-last-season-look-alike chance he had tho. Abou yesterday, was, frustratingly, Abou. Showed the nice little touches Gooners have grown to like him for. But for good measure (aarrrrggh), also showed the sluggishness we have come to dislike him for. Kept the ball moving but should have done better with the chance he had to score. Santi!!!!! He continued, from where he stopped against Sunderland, to ooze class. Always wanted the ball. Was at the hub of most of our moves. Foul by wilson on him should have been a yellow card at least. I know little, but I think he has to work on his attitude when things aren’t really working out as we want. Saw it against Sunderland. Saw it yesterday. He (as well as every other Arsenal player) has to keep goin till the final whistle. He seemed frustrated to me as the 2nd half went on. Frustrated and down a gear. He has to get used to the fact he’s left Spain. This, is the EPL! Overall, the midfield did okay. At least, with the pitbulls snapping at their heels every time they had the ball.
Giroud held his own amongst all those thorns he found himself. Relatively well even. Won aerial duels. Refused to be bullied. Even helped out in defence. Almost had two contenders for Goal of the Season. A little selfish you say?. Well, most great strikers had to be. Looking forward to seeing more from him. Not in an expectant way though. Patiently. Poldi did better than in the last match. We should see the Lukas we want to see in a few matches. He seems pretty good in the air too. And showed his strength a few times. Not unexpected though, as he has very low body fat. Gervinho was at his frustrating best yesterday. He made the runs, showed some fancy footwork but did not produce much. If we can, we should find out what it is that keeps attracting him to the byline and get rid of it ASAP. His final ball? Le Sigh.
In all, we lack that sharpness only a run of games gives (if only we had a better pre-season…). The defence is doing its job (we haven’t conceded + am I the only one dreaming of an unbeaten season? Yeah, I thought so). The midfield is relatively doing the same ( we aren’t having problems with possession). The attack isn’t doing so much to give us joy but they will get there. I believe.
The team must not give up. We had 17 shots with two being the only ones troubling begovic. Possession was well and good as we had 67% and 81% pass success with Mikel and Santi running the show. (via @arsenaportal). We only need to begin depositing the ball in opposition nets for safekeeping.
AW, post-match, had these to say:
“Overall we were very strong spirit-wise and we were dominant in the challenges. We were prepared,
highly focused, defensively very strong. Offensively we still have some work to do because we miss a bit of accuracy in the final third in our movement and in our passing. We are used to find[ing] each other [blindly?] in the final third, [but] there’s still something missing.”
“But I still think we should have won the game 1-0 and you have to give credit to Stoke as well; they defend very well, they have experience at the back, are a very strong team defensively and as long as we didn’t score an opener they were happy with a point, you could see that.”
“Is it a point gained or two dropped? I would say it is two dropped on the game but it is maybe a good point because it is difficult for everybody to take points at Stoke.”
Asked if we miss RVP or it’s more of a problem with understanding between the attackers, he said,
“[We missed] an understanding because you have Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud – one month ago they didn’t know each other. And that will come. We have some work to do on the training ground. You can feel the potential but you can see as well that something is missing, they are not spontaneous enough in some situations. I’m very positive about my team, people will say “ok you didn’t score for
two games” – I cannot deny that. But we played against two teams that as a unit defend very well – Sunderland and Stoke – and overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship.”
Asked for the second or third time about RVP,
“Look, if you want to convince me that we lost an exceptional player, you waste your time. I was the
first to say that. We have to find a way to get around that by sharing more of the goals than we did
before with Van Persie; I think we can do that. Giroud scored 20 [last season] Podolski scored 20
[last season], we’ll get some goals I’m convinced from Diaby, Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho, so we
have to share that a little bit around.”
Asked about Jamie Redknapp’ comments that Podolski and Giroud aren’ in the same class as RVP:
“I do not listen too much to what people say. I listen and I try to see “is it exaggerated or not?” I have worked for 30 years on a football pitch every day and I know what it is to improve a football player and what it is to go out morning and afternoon and try to make a player with somebody. Not everybody can say that.”
On Giroud & Podolski forming an understanding:
“It can be very quick. The more you speak about the problem, the bigger it becomes in our game. I think Giroud has not to think that he has to replace Van Persie with the number of goals he has to score. We want to play as a team and if we play well as a team we will score goals, that’s all. I would just like to say I had the same questions when Thierry Henry left, [as now] with Robin Van Persie. And even last year at the beginning of the season I had to answer: “why do you play Van Persie centre forward, he’s not a centre forward”. So you have to take that always into
perspective. What for me is positive is that you feel there is potential there. We played against Sunderland, we played 0-0, we came here today we have taken a point. Some big teams will drop points here. It will be easy for nobody to come here and just take a win.”
Asked if the whole team should have gambled more in the final stages of both opening games:
“I feel we played against two teams who were highly focussed to defend. When you see some other games, you know, they are open games. We played against two teams who were really focussed on defending, defending, defending. They did very well. I’ve seen some teams the other night they go forward, they play, they open their game – after, of course it’s easier to score. But today it was a cup fight, for 90 minutes. What is most important is what you learn about your team, that we are capable to stand up… and we behaved like men who are ready for a fight, and that is the most important [thing] for me.
Asked about the defence:
“Defensively we had no problem. They had one good chance I must say in the second half when we lost the ball in midfield but apart from that in the air we did very well. You know they have six basketball players, size wise, it’s different on set pieces because we had plenty of corners, but when you look at their back four and then the guy they brought in, Cameron, the midfielder, he’s two metres tall, it’s difficult to take advantage of set pieces against them.”
When asked if Arsenal are trying to sign Cheick Tiote:
“Tiote is a good player but he’s not on his way to Arsenal.” (via @Gingers4Limpar)
Overall, I’m no prophet of doom, but we have been disappointing (apart from our defending ‘course). And note, I said disappointing not poor. Two games. Two shots on target. No goals scored or conceded. Two points. Is that a GOOD start or is it a POSITIVE start?
HRHLordSleeK…Victoria Concordia Crescit