Arsenal football club, a club with a rich history and known for being unique in the English game for having its style of open attacking football, or are they? An impressive Swansea would beg to differ, and from their performance on Sunday, it’s easy to see why. We were beaten at our own game.
Another day, another frustrating league defeat. Things are looking ominous for us in terms of a top four finish.
Things started brightly enough for us when Robin Van Persie put away his 20th goal in 20 away games to put us up in the 5th minute. It was the early goal we needed, and it gave us some confidence. Arshavin found our captain in space, who coolly slotted it past the keeper from a tight angle. I was hopeful we could make this a fruitful afternoon.
The lead was to be short lived though as they equalised in the 16th minute. Once again we were found out in the fullback regions as they found space down the left. The ball was cut back into the box where it appeared that Ramsey had taken his man down. Replays later would show that it was anything but, as their player actually fouled Ramsey, stamping him on the shin and losing his balance in the process. While I don’t want to make excuses, it is very frustrating that the referee, who was in a great position to see the incident, still awarded the penalty. When the chips are down, these stupid careless refereeing decisions don’t help and only rub salt into the wound. In close games such as this are decided by fine lines. I accept that we should have played better and this incident may not have mattered, but it is frustrating that’s all. Why can’t we get bad refereeing decisions when we’re 4-0 up at home?
Anyway, so throughout the rest of the game we were all over the place. Our passing game was non-existent, and credit to Swansea for dominating possession and playing attacking football. Before the match we learnt that Arteta was out, and didn’t we miss him? Arteta’s ability to hold the ball and show a calmness in midfield might not be as glamorous as your typical playmaker, but it is an important role. We lacked any sense of cohesion in our passing game, our completion rate was hopeless as we kept giving the ball away.
This is where we fell apart, and where the last two goals were conceded. Their second goal came courtesy of Ramsey losing the ball on the halfway line. Some quick passing found some space on the right for them, which made it 2-1. For their third goal Miquel was caught out of position as he was up at the halfway line and was dispossessed also. The vacant space on the right was once again exploited for them to make it 3-2, which is how it ended.
We did score a great goal courtesy of a wonderful finish from Theo Walcott, and an equally good pass from Djourou, but it was a disturbing pattern throughout the match. It seemed as though every player had one moment of brilliance, and then decided to switch off and have a handful of poor moments. The Djourou pass was the only good thing he did in the match, and the same can be said for Walcott’s finish. Arshavin’s assist to Van Persie was impeccable, but he was absolutely poor otherwise. The chance he had outside box where the ball was played to him beautifully, with not a defender in sight, only for him to blaze over the bar infuriated me. Arshavin can’t get the basics right these days, and to say that he’s a shadow of the player he was is an understatement. Van Persie scored a great goal, but was largely anonymous for the rest of the game. Szczesny was solid, until he let in that third goal from a tight angle. Mertesacker was sound, until he somehow missed from 4 yards out. I don’t mean to turn this into a bitching session, but the Jekyll and Hyde performances of our players is just frustrating. There were no standout performances, nor did any one player play particularly poorly. Each player was below par and had to take some responsibility.
It does not paint a pretty picture. It all boils down the injuries and confidence. With our fullbacks out for this long we were always going to have problems with possession. Makeshift fullbacks lacking experience were always going to be vulnerable going forward, and positioning themselves at the back. Our midfield lacking Arteta also affected our passing game. Football is a team game and each player in each position plays a role in a system. It only takes one key element to be missing for the entire system to be affected. The passing game went astray and we looked lost.
One positive was the Theo Walcott goal to equalise. It came against the run of play, and was an ‘ugly goal’ of sorts given that it was against the run of play (the goal itself was taken in anything but an ugly manner). A few more of these ‘ugly goals’ when we aren’t playing well will be useful especially for tough away games such as this. Unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalise on the equaliser and press on for a winner. Another positive is the fact that some players are coming back from injury. This is vital and I hope it can turn our fortunes.
Manchester United visits the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. If we don’t get our players back from injury and/or don’t sign new players, the scoreline could get ugly. We all remember the scoreline last time, I really hope the manager learnt his lesson from that fateful day at Old Trafford and really thinks about the team he sends out.