September 30, 2012
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that yesterday was a harsh wake up call – but at the very least it was a sharp nudge in the ribs from a partner who’s sick of hearing you snore another night away.
The fact is we weren’t terrible against Chelsea. We should and could have picked up at least a point but the failings that we showed were all too familiar. Despite recent evidence of progress this could have been a performance by any Arsenal team in the last seven years. A decent amount of the play but when it really mattered we missed our chances, we gifted a couple of soft goals to the opposition…oh, and we watched Abou Diaby hobble off injured after 17 minutes. Plus ça change, as Abou is no doubt sighing from the treatment table this morning.
This was not a day that Laurent Koscielny will be putting in his happy time memory scrapbook. He should have done better with both of their goals, allowing himself to get outmuscled too easily by Fernando Torres on the first and presenting him with the chance to poke the ball home and on the second he appeared to lose all sense of place as he helped Mata’s free kick into the bottom corner. Two very avoidable goals and had they not happened we’d all be in a much more chipper mood this morning.
I said yesterday that I thought Per Mertesacker should have kept his place but I’m not exactly feeling smug about calling it. You don’t expect performances like that from a player as strong as Koscielny and I’ve no doubt he’ll get back to his old self soon enough but perhaps it was a mistake to drop a player in such good form.
Even with the goals we conceded we should have got something from the game but Petr Cech wasn’t in the mood to make things as easy as we made for them. There was nothing he could do about our equaliser, a smart ball cut back from The Ox to find Gervinho in inexplicable amounts of space in the penalty area. He turned and took it beautifully, firing home into the roof of the net. But in the second half Cech’s saves from Podolski and Giroud made all the difference. Lukas’ header looked certain to loop into the top corner but for Cech’s instinctive and strong hand while Giroud looked to have got lucky with a deflected effort only to see the keeper claw it wide.
It’s these key moments that separate the men from the boys though and Giroud had another chance to put himself in the former category with minutes to go. As the cliche goes he did the hard part in collecting the ball and drifting past the keeper. Although maybe we should revise the cliche. Maybe the hard part, for Giroud at least, is actually sticking the ball in the back of the net. Not for the first time this season he swung a leg and failed get his foot around the ball, instead slicing it wide. I’m starting to suspect Emmanuel Eboue has been sneaking back into the dressing room and smearing Vaseline on the Frenchman’s boots. I’m sure it’s just a confidence thing though, right? When he gets into the groove he’ll be tucking those chances away like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Arsene Wenger unusually wasn’t mincing his words. He didn’t sound too impressed:
Giroud should have scored. He was in a good position to score. Why did he not score? It is hard to identify.
I told you, boss. Vaseliney boots. Get it sorted. AW was not happy about the defensive situation either and may well be regretting the Per decision:
I am deeply disappointed. We gave two cheap goals away, they had three shots on goal and scored two goals.
Was it a mistake to leave out Per Mertesacker? Maybe. But we will never know. We cannot play the game again.
Here’s the thing. We didn’t play badly against Man City or Chelsea, two of the major threats we’ll face this season. But we’ve only picked up one point from both matches and after six games we’ve only mustered nine. Which at least shows that while we’ve come a long way, we still have a way to go.
There’s still plenty of work to be done on the defensive side of things, particularly when it comes to our positioning and ability to dominate aerially. But I don’t believe what we’ve witnessed up to yesterday was a false dawn. I think we’ve improved and I hope that we will continue to do so. But it’ll take work and it’ll take time.
Up front we need to be more clinical. It’s as simple as that. You can’t go through an entire season constantly wondering what might have been had a certain Dutchman been on the end of all 0f our big chances, but you have to hope that the men in place find a way to snaffle a greater percentage of their chances, especially in these tight big matches.
In the end it will be the difference between a genuine title tilt or another season spent battling for fourth spot.
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