October 22, 2012
The fallout continues from the great lameathon that was Saturday’s defeat against Norwich with players, coaches and fans desperately searching for some answers as to how we could have turned in such a tepid performance. Arsene Wenger at least has been fairly brutal in his assessment:
I am angry. We did not create a lot. It is very disappointing that we were not in the game in the first 20 minutes, without complete focus, and gave an easy game away.
Perhaps the use of the phrase ‘an easy game’ offers something of a clue as to the mindset that might have produced such a lacklustre display.
There were clues elsewhere too. Mikel Arteta had this to say:
We’re really down because we expected to win the game. They raised their game, they made it very difficult for us.
Call off the search! Phrases like ‘we expected to win’ and ‘an easy game’ are completely at odds with the standard line usually being peddled of ‘no easy games at this level’ and as I mentioned yesterday if we continually refuse to learn that lesson maybe we need to take more drastic action.
Only two sides have ever overcome a ten point gap to win the Premier League and while there’s clearly a long way to go this season, Le Boss is aware of what an issue that is:
The gap is very unpleasant. We had an opportunity that Tottenham could win and we could win, and we both lost.
That, of course, makes the gap a lot bigger and you cannot say you do not worry about that.
Unpleasant is a nice little understatement. Particularly when you’re in danger of being ruled out of yet another title race only 8 games into it. It’s all the more disappointing when you consider how improved the squad has looked this season but for all the promise we’ve shown 12 points from 8 games tells its own story and we have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks to turn things around.
Injuries were a factor of course on Saturday but we still had the man power to beat that Norwich side. I think Gervinho on the right is an experiment that we probably won’t see too much more of this season, at least I hope not. The kindest thing I could say about him is that he’s so much stronger on the left and even as a centre forward and in hindsight I suspect the boss would have started with the Ox out there. As it stands though, following the knock he took on the hip when he came off the bench he won’t be available for Schalke on Wednesday and with nobody else to come back from injury there’s little chance to send a message about the evident lack of concentration shown on Saturday.
The only possible changes I could imagine would be the inclusion of Arshavin or even Serge Gnabry but while the latter looked particularly lively coming off the bench I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to start throwing too much responsibility at the feet of a 17 year old. Better to keep him for the ten minute cameos for a while and simply demand greater application from our more established names.
While the 6-1 against Southampton has put a more positive spin on our ‘goals for’ column this year the fact is we’ve failed to score in three of our eight Premier League games so far. That’s not good enough and the lack of goal threat at times is a definite worry. Arsene Wenger’s stated aim without the guaranteed return of Robbing Van Purse-y was to share the goals around but that means we have to get more from the wide forwards. Podolski was off his game on Saturday and that ankle problem he’s been nursing is becoming a real reason for concern. With him not firing we were relying on Gervinho to have his shooting boots on and unfortunately he was having one of those days where spectacular air shots were more likely than spectacular net busters.
In the midfield Cazorla’s uninspired display just seemed to highlight how quickly we’ve become reliant on him for unlocking defences so it’s timely that today should hopefully mark Jack Wilshere’s second full 90 minute outing for the U-21s as they face Everton. If he gets through that one you can definitely expect to see him back in the first team against QPR on Saturday. I’d always hoped he’d be able to feel his way back into a confident, winning team. He may have a bit more pressure on his shoulders now than we’d hoped.
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