A Valiant Effort…

Winning 2-0 in Munich against a very good Bayern Munich side is no mean feat.

In fact, I have to say, I didn’t expect us to beat Bayern. I didn’t expect us to get anywhere near them. When I heard that we’d dropped Szcznesy completely, relegated Vermaelen to the bench and that there was no Podolski or Diaby in the squad, I feared for the worst. But the team did something great. They did what they should have done in the first leg and defended valiantly against a very good Bayern side.

As far as stats go, the home team had the possession, the shots and were more dangerous – but hats off to the back five who played their hats off – Fabianski’s best game by far, without a shadow of a doubt, pulling off great save after great save. Koscielny gave his all and Jenkinson and Gibbs showed why they are the future of the Arsenal.

The game ended 2-0 with an early goal from Giroud who looked so much better than he did in the first leg. If he could play like that every game, then we’d be slightly higher up the league than we are now and probably still in the Champions League. It’s great that we won and I believe it will be very good for us moving forward for the rest of the season. But why can’t we play like that all the time – well, the stats don’t lie, we weren’t very good – but at least we fought with passion!

Our very own Super Totti was out there in Munch supporting the team…

totti

And he witnessed a great victory… a victory which ended the game at 3-3, meaning we go out of the Champions League on away goals.

The best thing we can take from this is the spirit and fight we had. If we can take an ounce of that into the weekend, when we play Swansea, and pick up the three points we desperately need in the league, we could close the gap on Sp*rs and Chelsea and revive our last possible chance of getting into the top four.

It was a bold move by Arsene to drop Szcznesy and I was very happy with his deputy – Fabianski showed that he can challenge Szcznesy and perhaps should be in the sticks against Swansea. Another interesting move to relieve the captain of his duties. Vemaelen hasn’t been the TV5 we all know and love, he’s been out of sorts and Koscielny stepped in and showed why he should in the team.

Yes, we’re out of the Champions League, but today was full of positives – so let’s focus on them – and get behind the team – this weekend’s game against Swansea is our biggest of the season. We need Champions League football next season. Simple as.

Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

Evening all…

This is probably the worst time to choose to write my first blog on the new look WOA site… but nevertheless, it is time… I’ll start by reflecting on today’s game against Sp*rs… the game was typical of the team at the moment, and three points sum up the game:

  1. Slow start
  2. Conceding silly goals
  3. Second half come back

Typical of a lot of games this season, and we fail to pick up the three points again…

At points in the game, it was very clear that we have a better team, but for the first half, our mental state was not in the correct zone and we really didn’t grab the game by it’s horns. We had a lot of possession, and to be fair the better chances in the first half, but we weren’t quite at the races until the game was out of our sight. Why? Let’s take a look and the key reasons – not just for this game, but I believe the undercurrent to our whole season.

Szcznesy’s Form

The keeper definitely got a great future ahead of him, but he’s a bit erratic and a little too cocky. He is capable of world class saves, and he’s won us quite a few points this season – Sunderland away comes to mind, when we could have easily conceded if it was not for the Polish stopper – but at the same time, he has no real competition and lapses of concentration mean that he undermines himself. His form is a Jekyll and Hyde and you have to think that this happens because he has too much license to roam around and do Cryuff turns. A better discipline from management and a serious threat from anther goalkeeper would be exactly what he needs.

The Central Defenders

We have three very good defenders in Mertersacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny. I say “very good”, but not excellent. Starting with Mertersacker – he is a great reader of the game in a one on one or long ball situation, but he doesn’t quite like the ball with pace and for some reason seems to not quite understand the offside trap. His lack of pace is a thorn in our defence sometimes – but having said that, he’s probably been better than the other two. Koscielny is having second seasons syndrome, he is generally excellent – he is actually one of my favourite players – but at the same time, a little clumsy and he seems to have a mistake in him at all times. And then you have our captain and unfortunately, I think the pressure of being captain is too much for him. He was Mr Reliable, but I don’t think anyone would disagree if I were to say that this is his worst season in an Arsenal shirt. A no nonsense defender with a strong mentality, a defender that no-ones likes to play against is what we need, and then one of the current three to compliment him.

Too much expectation from Jack

Without of a shadow of a doubt, there is way too much expectation on Jack at the moment. You could see against Sp*rs that there was an expectation for him to create something out of nothing and to carry the team and if he can’t then we don’t seem to be able to do anything… we need more personalities in the team.

Giroud

He’s our main striker but unfortunately for me, he just isn’t the number one we need up front. He’s miles behind the likes of Van Persie, Eduardo, Henry and even Ade… I watched the Real Sociedad game and Carlos Vela was so much better than Giroud, it was crazy. He doesn’t seem to ever stamp his authority on a game. Today he had the ball in very good areas and he just seemed to play like it was a training game. There was no fire in his belly, no desire to be the best and win the game for his team.

Tactics

Now this is definitely Arsene’s fault… playing the wrong players against the wrong teams. Today, Podolski, Rosicky and Koscielny should have started ahead of Giroud, Ramsey and Metersacker – yes, easy to say in hindsight, but I think most people agreed that before the game too…! Taking off Jenkinson and moving Ramsey to right back is just bizarre. Not just today, but most games, there is a weird surprise in the team selection. Every year their is a weird selection of personnel, a weird recruitment and selling policy which has resulted in a very unbalanced squad and a really laboring to achieve anything.

Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

We’re fifth now and 5 points behind 4th. It’s not impossible, but baring in mind the above, it won’t be easy. We do have a series of winnable games, but when you lose to Swansea and Norwich, then you can’t consider any game as winnable unless we actually go out and try and win and bring home the three points.

The remaining league fixtures are:

  • Swansea (a)
  • Reading (h)
  • WBA (a)
  • Norwich (h)
  • Everton (h)
  • Fulham (a)
  • Man United (h)
  • QPR (a)
  • Wigan (h)
  • Newcastle (a)

We have a better squad than every team in the next 10 games except Man United. We can go on a run. Will we? We’ll have to wait and see. We have to wait for 13 days until we take on Swansea. And that game won’t be easy at all…

Welcome back to WOA and from now on, we’ll be blogging once per Sunday and once midweek, around Weds or Thurs… and instead of mini-blogs, we’re turning into more of a digest, a summary and a discussion…

Let’s discuss!

Reading 2 – 5 Arsenal: We’re back…

From a very low low to a very high high in the space of a week… today we were awesome. It was great to see – the old Arsenal were back in full force, and we looked the part. Our play was quick, dynamic and creative and the line up was spot on. It was great to see players playing with confidence and playing well together…

It was Theo Walcott’s first game up front, and it seemed to work well, with the England International very lively – pulling the ready defence apart at every opportunity… the line up was:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vemaelen (c) – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

Walcott’s movement was a problem for the Reading defence and there was a good level of interaction between the front four. It was eventually Podolski who opened the scoring with a good finish from close range when he controlled a cross and tucked it in with a great left footed finish…

It was then Cazorla’s time to steal the limelight – with Walcott as a foil, Cazorla was afforded more space and the Spaniard took full advantage, making it 2-0 from a header, 3-0 from a swivel and shot and his third and Arsenal’s fourth from a great overload on the hour mark. Reading got one back and then two, but Theo scored our fifth with an acute left footed strike after some good build up from that man, Cazorla.

It was a great game and a great team performance, and the manager was delighted.

The target was to win and we won in a convincing way. You can only give one answer – on the pitch. Success came with the quality of our game. We played and didn’t bother about the rest. We focused on the quality of our game and played. I think it was in continuity of the game we played gainst West Brom. That’s what we did again tonight.

We’re up to fifth now and it’s important we concentrate on getting better and better and better each game. We can’t rest on our laurels and think we’ve done anything good yet – this was just one game – we need to ensure we can push on and beat Wigan on Saturday. The club is on a knife edge, the fans are on a knife edge too and right now, we have no room to go wrong.

Short blog today, more analysis tomorrow…

Bradford 1 – 1 Arsenal, Bradford win 4-3 on penalties…

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that I thought we’d play a weakish team, but tonight’s game saw one of the strongest line-up’s in the history of the Capital One Cup. We played Bradford – a league two side – and the eleven players chosen were:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Metersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs

Coquelin – Wilshere

Ramsey – Cazorla – Podolski

Gervinho

Wenger rested only Arteta, but made the same mistakes as he’s done before – the same mistakes that saw us lose against the likes of Norwich and others…

  • Don’t play Ramsey on the right
  • Don’t play Gervinho up front
  • Don’t play so many central midfielders (Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, Coquelin) in the same team
  • Don’t play Podolski out wide

It doesn’t matter who the opposition is, but if you play round pegs in square holes, then you’re going to have a problem. By playing reserve squads in the past, it was a fail safe mechanism. If we lost, it was because we played a reserve side. If we won, it was great because we rested our main players and our reserves / kids got a run out.

However, today we played our best team and lost (albeit on penalties) to Bradford.

Examine anything you wish, but this is unforgivable. I don’t think any other team in the top ten in the Premier League would have lost to Bradford if they played their top side.

I’m not going to start battering the team or the manager, but this season is a massive turning season. I’ve heard more anti-Wenger than ever before and people who were pro-Wenger are now doubting him. With the exception of Jack Wilshere, I don’t think any fan really “loves” any player…

The stats were eventually amazingly in our favour, but with players playing in different positions and all sorts inability to play, it doesn’t really matter. Normally I’m not one for talking about players, but this group is the worst under Wenger and we has to seriously figure out who will fight for the cause and who will won’t.

The answer is to buy. We won’t get anywhere with this group. I don’t know how we got to this stage and the problem is, I don’t think Arsene does either.

According to Arsene, credit to Braford…

“We had many, many chances, their keeper had a great game and we could not convert out chances,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “When you go out it is never good enough. We lost on penalties against a team who defended well. We have to give credit to Bradford. I cannot fault the effort of the team, they gave everything for 120 minutes.”

Ouch, right?

Til tomorrow…

Blog Suspended Until Players Can Be Bothered…

This blog is officially suspended until our players, manager and club can actually be bothered. *

£7m per year for Arsene, £2m for Gazidis and about £3-4m per player per year. And we get this rubbish? The entire wage budget of the Swansea team was the same as Vermaelen, Cazorla and Arsene. And they showed up and kicked our arses in more than one way.

* The blog is not actually suspended, but I’ll wait a day or two until I calm myself down…

Aston Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal: Stalemate…

Normality resumed yesterday with an evenly matched game against Aston Villa. The problem I have is that we were evenly matched. We shouldn’t be evenly matched, we should be superior… we shouldn’t be drawing against the 17th placed team in the league, and failing to score.

With Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen on the bench, we lacked a level of urgency in our game in the first half. Was the fact that we rested three key players a sign to the rest of the squad that this could be an easy game? I don’t know, but questions have been seriously asked after the event…

We expected a difficult game because we played a very tense game last Saturday against Tottenham. We had a Champions League game on Wednesday night and we knew [that] when you play away from home after the Champions League, it’s a difficult game. You have to say Aston Villa did fight very hard. They had some chances as well. We controlled them quite well. I think we had room to win the game but we lacked a little bit of accuracy in our final ball today. I cannot fault my team for the spirit we have shown for 90 minutes. We lacked a little bit [of] sharpness in the final third.

There were a lot of questions to why Arsene didn’t bring on Jack. On the Arsenal web site there are a few normal quotes about why he was rested and didn’t come on. Apparently he was tired and Arsene didn’t want to risk him. Although when he asked by journalists, he didn’t react quite the right way, suggesting that perhaps he was aware that he didn’t quite get it right… why else would he react the way he did?

“What is the thinking behind the substitution? I will not explain every decision I make. I have managed for 30 years at the top level and I have to convince you [journalists] I can manage the team? I don’t want to comment on that. I do my job and do my best for the club. Why should I create a rift? I have given you the answer. I leave it to you to judge. I try to be as good as I can be. You are all great managers! I read the newspapers every day and I can tell you that you are always great managers! You judge the game for the papers and I sit here and explain to you our game. How many games have you managed? I promise you if you manage one I will sit in the stands and chant ‘you know what you are doing!’ You can discuss every substitution. You think what you want. I do my job and I let people judge it. I do that every day and I do my best every day. I know why I do it.”

The way he reacted showed too many signs of weakness. He needed to keep his calm but he failed to do so. It’s a shame, but it’s a sign of the pressure he’s under and the mistakes he is making, week in and week out. There has been a lot of talk about Arsene and where his state of mind is. Rants like this don’t help.

We weren’t quite there against Villa and with Ramsey in a deeper midfield lying position, we always look vulnerable. Arteta works well with Diaby, Coquelin or Jack, but not Ramsey and it’s strange that we can all see that but Arsene cannot.

It was a bore draw weekend for some others too as Benitez’s Chelsea drew 0-0 with Man City and Swansea held Liverpool to a 0-0 at the Liberty Stadium. Games every 3 days seems to be catching up with a few of us, except the likes of Sp*rs and Man United who both won 3-1.

Personally, I thought we had more of a chance to beating Aston Villa than we did of high-flying Everton, and by resting some players and drawing against Villa, it seems like a missed chance. The same Villa that United beat a couple of weeks ago at Villa Park and the same Villa who lost 5-0 at Man City last week.

It’s a little embarrassing explaining the results and explaining the team selections and substitutions. I believe in Arsene, but it would be nice for him to get it right now and again…

Til tomorrow…

Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: We’re through…!

It’s been an interesting week in the world of football, that’s for sure. Man City getting knocked out of the Champions League was big news and Chelsea defeat to Juventus yesterday also putting Chelsea on the edge, resulting in the departure of Roberto Di Matteo. It made the evening even more telling – the Champions League is no mug’s game, it’s proper teams versus proper teams. Home games don’t necessarily mean home victories, and we saw that when we played Schalke here last time out.

 

Tonight’s game was very very important, and the team line up saw Oxlade in for Walcott and the likes of Gibbs and Gervinho on the bench:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Mertersacker  Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

We didn’t quite get going until the second half, but the first half did show us a few things… The back four seems more balanced with the four players in the line up. I’m not sure who will give way for Gibbs on the weekend, all three centre backs (including the captain) showing good form – but I think Mertersacker and Koscielny are the best partnership.
The stand out player today was Wilshere – he was everywhere, and he just brings so much energy to the midfield – he’s an inspiration to the rest of the rest of the team. And it was fitting that he scored the first goal… some excellent play and an excellent header down into Jack’s path followed by a sublime lift over the keeper from the midfielder.
And it was Giroud who was involved again, for an amazing goal. A one-two with Podolski saw the German strike an excellent finish – RvPesque to be honest. I can’t describe it – you have to watch it:
It’s a great goal. I can watch it time and time again. It reminds me of what RvP was doing last season. If Podolski can start reproducing this game in and game out, it will be a really good catapult up the various tables & competitions we’re trying to win!
Arsene spoke after the game and praised Jack:

“He’s getting strong physically. Tonight he got in the box – he’s the complete midfielder you know. I believe he can defend well, attack well and these kinds of matches will give him confidence.”

We’ve got one more game in the league which could make the difference between finishing first or second… but in reality, either position has a certain level of difficulty:

“We will try to finish top of the group. You always feel a bit guilty if you don’t do it. There are groups where you have Dortmund first, Real Madrid second – you don’t really know what is the best. In this competition you just want to get to the next round and win the game. That’s all you can do. Now of course we go into a cup (knock-out) competition which is a little bit different. We have some time and it’s important we go into March with our best team available.”

A great goal from Podolski, a great performance by Jack, a clean sheet, progression to the next round. Happy days for the Arsenal, and time to rest and recuperate for the Villa game…
Til tomorrow…

Arsenal 3 – 3 Fulham: Where has our Arsenal gone?

I’m sorry, but I can’t endure this week in and week out. It’s horrible, it’s not on, and as an Arsenal fan, it’s torture. How can we have a team as bad as this, where we simply cannot do anything. This season is by far the worst season for Arsenal and Arsene. Despite the random victories… the general consensus is that we can’t really play that well.

In this league, you get what you deserve and we deserved only a point from this game.

Arsene decided to re-instate Coquelin to the starting XI and continue with Vermealen and Podolski on the left. The starting line up was:

Mannone

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Coquelin

Walcott – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

Ramsey and Santos aren’t in favour with the fans and the manager left them both on the bench. It looked like the best team we could field, which says something quite big  about the quality or lack of quality that we have at the Arsenal. We were very fortunate to go 2-0 up with goals from Giroud and Podolski. Walcott being instrumental in the game. An assist from the Englishman and another one for Arteta.

But from 2-0 up, we found ourselves 2-2 at half time. Some shocking defending and some shocking goalkeeping allowed Berbatov and Kacaniklicto show their class, with Ruiz pulling the string. Their first came from a corner when Berba knocked it in – unmarked 10 yards out – and the equaliser through Kacaniklic when Berba threw the ball back in the middle.

Some silly defending saw Arteta in trouble in the box and all he could do was foul his man, conceding a penalty, which saw Fulham go 3-2 up.

The man of the moment, Olivier Giroud soon equalised through some excellent work which saw him through on goal. He hit the post and the ball went out to Theo who spun it onto the head of Giroud who equalised with a thumping header.

And at 3-3, you expected us to press on – that we did… but we couldn’t find the break-through. On the 94th minute, we were fortunately awarded a penalty. Did we deserve it? No. Could we score it? Let’s see. My faith of our team made me send the following tweet before the penalty was taken.

Is that a penalty to Arsenal on the 94th minute? No way. Does anyone on the pitch have the bottle to take it? Nope. Doubt it.

And Arteta duly stepped up and fluffed it. 3-3 it ended.

Arsene spoke about the game afterwards and looked at the positives:

It was frustrating because we had the opportunities to win the game. We were caught in a bit too comfortable a position because we did the most difficult thing – we scored two goals to go 2-0 up, we were at home and yet at half-time we found ourselves at 2-2. At that moment we lacked urgency defensively. In the second half we gave absolutely everything and I have to give credit to the players, in the last three games what they have done physically is amazing. Even at 3-2 down we didn’t give up and continued to go forward and we had the chances to win the game.

My thoughts?

Well, personally, I don’t think we’re good enough at the moment. We’re not quite hitting the heights as we should. Conceding three goals at home is not good – it’s simple. We’re missing Alex Song. Arteta is suffering. The rest of the team are struggling.

I’d prefer to see one or two players come in and add to the team. We’re not going to do much with the current team, it doesn’t quite have the cutting edge that we need. We’ve got a lot of quality, don’t get me wrong, but the team is missing the special something or someone to drive the team forward and protect the back four.

Is Jack Wilshere the savior? Only time will tell.

Til tomorrow.

Schalke 2 – 2 Arsenal: We’d have taken it before the game…

It’s all been quite negative in the press in regards to Arsenal. The players, the manager and the board have all been criticized heavily by the fans and media. Fans haven’t quite been too nice about the team or to each other, but that is what happens when things don’t go the way we want them to go.

I’ve been saying for a while that we have a plethora of players, and they do need time to gel. Tonight we played another change in personnel and this time we saw Vermaelen move to left back. I agreed with the decision before the game and we all thought that the switch would give us some defensively stability against a team who we knew would attack.

With Theo Walcott a surprise starter, considering the news he was ill before the game, the line up was:

Mannone

Sagna – Koscielny – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Walcott – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

And the inclusion of Walcott paid off as he was involved in everything. He is relatively fresh compared to the rest of the team as he’s not played too much the season, and it was no surprise that he scored the first goal of the game hovering around Giroud who latched on a mis-judged back header fluffing his chance, only for Walcott to knock the ball in.

It was soon 2-0 when Podolski threw in another great cross to the head of a diving Giroud who added another goal to his season tally. For me, the movement forward was a good sign. However, to be honest, it was against the run of play, as the home team had been playing very well up until the two goals.

But as individual mistakes have been costing us this season, it struck again a minute before half time, when Cazorla slipped just before the centre circle, giving the ball away, three passes later, the ball is in front of Huntelaar, and it’s 2-1 to the Arsenal – Koscielny accidently keeping two Schalke players on-side.

Schalke stepped it up in the second half and when Vermaelen forgot he was a left back, he left Farfan free on the right of midfield, and then conceded an own goal trying to rush to block him. 2-2.

At 2-2, neither team took many risks and both teams had good chances. Before the game, we’d have taken the draw – the key thing now is to beat Montpellier in the next game.

Arsene spoke after the game and was pleased with the performance, believing the team is gelling well.

For us it was important first of all not to lose and if possible to win. We managed the first part, not the second one. I felt that overall we played reasonably well, but dropped physically in the second half. The regret we have is that we conceded the goal just before half time and we missed the [Theo Walcott] chance at the end of the game. I think the two, of course, have a big impact on the result overall. Schalke never gave up and worked hard. I believe we have shown a good response to Saturday’s game and you feel the team is getting better. I think in one month, if we continue to develop, we will be there.

We now return to the Premiership with a key game against Fulham on the weekend. We’ll be without Jack, but hopefully we’ll have enough in us to get a very important three points in the league…

More tomorrow amigos.

 

 

 

Arsenal 0 – 2 Schalke: Worrying Times…

One of the hardest times to write a blog is after a defeat. A defeat that you thought was coming, even worse. A defeat after a defeat, even worse. So, here goes.

Arsenal 0 – 2 Schalke: Worrying Times…

After the painful defeat to Norwich, tonight’s game was very important. Arsene and Bould had to make changes to the team, as we were simply too lethargic. The midfield wasn’t in the game, and that was one of the major changes that was made, with Coquelin coming in into central midfield. I was happy with that change, but not happy with Ramsey being moved out into righ midfield and Giroud being dropped. It kind of felt like we were playing 4-6-0.

Mannone

Jenkinson – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Santos

Arteta – Coquelin

Ramsey – Gervinho  Cazorla – Podolski

That’s how we ended up playing, and no wonder we ended up with only one shot on target.

From the kick off Schalke looked the better team, they probed and prodded and looked far more interesting than us. We looked tired, lethargic and devoid of ideas. I don’t quite understand the game in tactic. I don’t know quite why we play in a way we’re not used to.

Personally, I say play players where they are most used to. For example, for the kick off, play Podolski up front, and Gervinho on the left. It’s confusing to understand why we don’t do the simple things like play players where they should be played. Ramsey on the right? That would never work. Without Walcott, or Oxlade, surely this game meant Gervinho had to play on the right.

At home, surely we had to try and win, so why not play Giroud? All very baffling. Schalke actually deserved to win, as did Norwich on the weekend.

The problem with the game was the balance, and with a strange balance and a tough team, we had a rely on discipline, and as much as I live Andre Santos, he wasn’t disciplined in defence, and to be fair, didn’t have much cover. He was exposed for both goals and his lack of matches really told. We will get better, but it may be too late.

Steve Bould:

We haven’t played anything like we can, I think that’s the big disappointment. We haven’t performed today. We lack a bit of confidence, for whatever reason, but it’s a tough competition and they [Schalke] are a good side in all fairness. They beat Dortmund at the weekend and played really well. A 0-0 would have delighted us I think.

When the management talk about being delighted with a 0-0 at home, then you know things aren’t going quite right. We’re currently 9th in the Premier League and just lost at home in the Champions League.

We have our annual AGM tomorrow, and boy, is it going to be interesting. I don’t think we’ve ever had an AGM when we’ve been so low in the table, with so many disillusioned fans.

The good thing about football, is that we play again on Saturday. This time against QPR and hopefully with Wilshere and Chamberlain back in the squad and hopefully with Giroud up front!

It’s not all over yet, there are many games to go in both competitions, but we need to find some form and find some form quickly.

Til tomorrow…

Norwich 1 – 0 Arsenal: Wenger: “The gap at the top is unpleasant.”

In football, people say they are no such things as easy games. For Arsenal, I’d have to agree that is the case. Norwich away from home was simply – by fans and by the players – underestimated. On twitter and facebook prior to the game, all the talk was about how much we’d beat Norwich by. People talking about winning 4-0, 6-0… we thought it would be a walk in the park. The players obviously thought that too, and the 1-0 loss is exactly what we deserved.

We’re 10 points behind Chelsea and in reality, we’re throwing it all away. Our form in the Premiership is bad, very bad. 8 games in and 12 points is surely worse than last year (someone please let me know!)…

As an Arsenal fan, it was plain and simple to see – we gave away yesterday’s game completely – don’t get me wrong, Norwich played well, but we didn’t show up, we didn’t play well and we just mentally were not there. Arsene spoke outside of the game and acknowledged that things are going wrong. Injuries are piling up… and we are not taking the Premiership seriously:

“The gap at the top is unpleasant. We had an opportunity to close the gap but we didn’t. It does worry me but what is more disappointing is we didn’t score.”

“We will wait until we see how players are when they come back. We did not create enough that is for sure”

“It was a poor collective offensive performance, although we have scored goals up until now.

“I believe we have to face the reality of the Premier League and if you are not ready from kick-off then you have no chance”

“What can I do now? I am angry because we have not created very much. ”

“There was always something missing – defensively we were not at our usual level.”

Those are some upset, angry and questionable quotes from Arsene. Sometimes he defends the team, but sometimes he has to lay into them because, without a shadow of a doubt, the performance we saw yesterday is not acceptable at our club. It did have the potential to be a bogey fixture, being straight after the international fixtures, and we suffered two casualties in the break, with Koscielny and Walcott missing through injury. Throw in Diaby, Sagna, Rosicky, Fabianski, Szcznesy and Gibbs and we’re slightly lighter than we’d like to have been.

BUT… we did start a lineup that include a whole host of great players. On paper, none of us thought the XI wouldn’t be good enough…

Mannone

Jenkinson – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Santos

Arteta – Ramsey

Gervinho – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

With a bench of Martinez, Djourou, Coquelin, Arshavin, Gnarby, Oxlade and the eagerly awaited return of Jack Wilshere

Yes, we had the majority of the squad away in international duty, but these players are all top top quality players who should be able to beat a Norwich side who were languishing at the bottom of the table. No matter what, this team is good enough to win. But the battle is sometimes psychological… and we failed.

The problem sometimes does become the scoreline. As I talked about yesterday, we do prefer away games, because the home team will attack and give us space, but if we lose a goal to them, it changes everything. Yesterday there were two main problems:

  1. We didn’t close down in midfield
  2. Our goalkeeping was very very bad

So let’s look at the first issue – The Arteta – Ramsey – Cazorla combination. It’s very attacking, that’s true, although we didn’t really get going in the attacking third. But it can’t compete with proper midfielders – what I mean by that is that they are three luxury midfielders – just imagine Chelsea playing Oscar, Mata, Hazard with three strikers, it would be footballing suicide. Just imagine Man United playing with a central hub of Kagawa, Nani and Young… it wouldn’t be able to compete with proper midfielders, that’s for sure.

We miss Diaby – in fact, since he got injured against Chelsea, we’ve looked a shadow of our former self. Arteta is trying, but it’s not natural for Ramsey to defend. Personally, it’s Arteta along side either Diaby, Wilshere or Coquelin. Ramsey in that position won’t work – he can only really play where Cazorla plays. We have options, but if we use them in the wrong places, then we only cause ourselves problems.

And then over to the goalkeeping situation. Szcznesy is injured, Fabianski is injured and therefore, we have Mannone in goal. He has been solely responsible for a few goals conceded this season, but yesterday, it was completely down to him. Firstly, he parried a shot that should of been handled, and then secondly, he didn’t get up to even attempt to get the ball or block the rebound in a timely manner. Yes, he’s our 3rd choice, but he needs to be better. It’s unlikely United will lose De Gea and Lindeegard both at the same time for large periods, so yes we are unfortunate. But this is basic goalkeeping and basic mistakes.

But in life and football, you will concede goals, and it’s up to score them to ensure we win games. The team just didn’t have the something something about them up front that they needed and that’s worrying. Gervinho is regressing, and it’s not a good sight to watch. Arsene – this is where you show what a great manager you are. Fix this quickly, chose the right players and get back on the training ground. 12 points from 8 games is simply not good enough.

Arsene said after the game that they deserved to win, and that’s the biggest condemnation of your own team:

“I hope it will have a positive impact. It was a shock to the system today. But you have to give credit to Norwich today. They played well, were completely committed and they deserved the win. Maybe we underrated the difficulty we would face. But the Premier League is the Premier League. If you are not ready for the fight then you will always have bad surprises. There is a big difference between the amount of possession we had and the amount of chances we created. That is down to the fact that Norwich defended well and we did not create a lot.”

We go into an important week where we play in form Schalke at home on Wednesday followed by another home fixture to QPR – two very vital games. Winning both will give us confidence, but turning up will not win us those games. We need to work hard in the next few days to ensure we’re back and on form and capable of beating them in front of our 60,000 fans…

We’re in a precarious position now… let’s try and push on for our next two home games and see where that takes us… until tomorrow amigos, until tomorrow.