Derby disappointment. We now stare down the barrel at being 7 points behind our bitter foes, and the Champions League appearing to be a formidable mountain climb rather than the usual walk in the park. It is the silly mistakes at the back which have cost us once again and these problems don’t look like changing any time soon.
The high line
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing a high line, it is a legitimate tactic and in no way am I criticising the tactic. A tactic is only as good as the players implementing it. You can have the greatest plan in history to bring down your opposition, but if you can’t follow the plan, it goes without saying, you will fail.
OK so the defenders decide to play a high line. Fair enough. In order for this to work, you must do three things. You must not at any costs not allow anyone to run in behind the defence and time his run to perfection. You must not allow that killer ball to be played in the first place. Lastly, and most importantly, you must communicate with your defenders, and make sure you are all in unison, in a straight line to play for the offside. For both goals we failed miserably in all three steps.
Its bad enough you allow time on the ball for that pass to be played. Tottenham, as much as it pains me to say it, were much much tighter with us, didn’t allow us to play killer balls as often as we’d like. For both goals we weren’t tight enough on the ball being played. We didn’t track the runs of Bale and Lennon, two of their most dangerous players. Finally, for the first goal anyway, we played Bale onside. It was the perfect storm, it was a complete shambles, we did all three things poorly, if we had done any of the three properly the goals could have been prevented. Even after all that I’m not sure what Szczesny was doing for the first. He just sat back and waited for Bale to shoot, surely he could have charged and put pressure on him? It was the defending of a mid-table team, not one with aspirations to compete with Europe’s best. The worst part was that we made the same mistake twice within the space of a few minutes. For me, it wasn’t even that upsetting, I’ve come to accept the Arsenal way of defending these days. It is not stable, it can collapse at any time. It will be a long time before we can start comparing our defence to the Tony Adams days.
I think Ramsey played a wonderful game today. He worked his heart out running box to box, chasing the ball and trying to make things happen. Unfortunately, as it seems to be the trend these days, an Arsenal player’s performance seems to have an element of frustration, and Ramsey’s miss in the second half, when he was one on one was one that should have gone in and should have changed the game.
We started the second half very well, and the first 36 minutes of the first half we dominated possession. It wasn’t the worst performance by us, but as is the case so often, the lack of cutting edge, the lack of clear cut chances cost us in the end (not to mention the defensive errors above). Possession isn’t the real currency in football, goals are.
I feel as if the substitutes bench wasn’t used to its full potential. I admired the way the manager took off defensive players and brought on attacking players in their place to show our attacking desire, to find an equaliser. The problem is that Podolski came on so late, in the 77th minute. Ordinarily that’s not a bad time to come on, but when you need a goal, 10 more minutes were required I feel. Why wasn’t a third substitution used either? That’s ridiculous.
Not only was the third sub not used, but I don’t think the substitutions were the right ones either. If I were the boss I would have thrown on Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain. I know its a massive gamble, and I’d be the first to admit how much I hate Gervinho for his inept finishing, but the game needed some spark. We were finding it difficult to get in behind the Spurs defence and I just feel a player who could dribble past players, just like Gervinho and the Ox, would have provided us our best chance to make chances late in the game. The through balls and crosses weren’t coming, so we needed a different sort of threat, and I feel the substitutions could have been better on this occasion.
We now face a lengthy break until 12 March where we take on Bayern Munich. I hope the manager can sort out the defence during this time, and our players can emerge fresh for the final stretch of the season. There’s 10 games left, and we’re 7 points behind. In past years I would be very confident we’d catch them, but this year I’m less confident, but the fact that they have a tougher run of games coming up, gives me some hope. This will be the toughest ten games of Wenger’s Arsenal career, time will tell if he can keep us in the Champions League.
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