Sunday, 22 April 2012

Stuttering Gunner drop points -AOC is not our savour -Ramsey's critical reaction

I have to wonder prior to the match if a draw had been agreed by both managers. It seems that the teams were set up not to lose the game and if we had taken the game to Chelsea, we would have won it. Hitting the woodwork twice was unlucky. Laurent Koscielny's header was amazing and he was so unfortunate not to see that fly in. Overall though, I thought the game was dire. There were no real chances and Szczesny seemed to have little to do.

Here are some key points about the game:

Arsenal are stuttering
We've looked like we've slowly regressed in the past three weeks. Since the defeat against QPR, where we decided not to turn up, we've not shown the consistency you would expect of a team who had previously been on a seven game unbeaten run. You would hope that we would come back with a win against Manchester City but at Wolves we were fortunate because they had a man sent off and we played against a team with 10 men for the majority of the match. Then we lost the Wigan game because of two defensive meltdowns. Yesterday we were timid, lacking tempo and creativity in our game. Chelsea were there for the taking. But we couldn't find out killer instinct. If Robin van Persie can't score it means we're very unlikely to get the ball in the back of the net. Yes we hit the woodwork twice, but we never really went at them like we all know this team is capable of. It's disappointing we dropped points but it's not the worst result for us.

Robin van Persie and Alex Song are out on their legs
I said it after the Wigan game about Song, but I thought looking at van Persie yesterday, he is looking jaded as well and it shows they've both played so many league games. RVP is on 33 league starts for the season (second highest in the squad) while Song is on 30 starts (joint fourth with Koscielny). It shows when Song can't even be bothered to do his job at the end of the match and in added time just stuck out a leg as a Chelsea played drifted past him in the box. Also his passing was again not up to his usual high standards. As for van Persie, it shows that the burden of being the teams main goalscorer has taken its toll on him. Why didn't the manager rest him more during the season when games were won? Perhaps he might be fresher now.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is not the savour
Don't misinterpret my opinion of The Ox. I think he's a fantastic talent and is going to be a huge player for us in the future but yesterday showed again he's not the saviour lots of people make him out to be. He's had a fantastic season, starting in six Premier League games - including two of our biggest Chelsea and Manchester United at home. But he single handily has not been the great messiah that many expect him to be. There is an unrealistic level of expectation surrounding him and I suppose that's because he's young and fearless at the moment and will try things others won't or have had coached out of them. Perhaps what he needs is a few ordinary games for people's opinions on him to come down to an acceptable level. Who would have thought that at the start of the season he would be the player most Gooners would want to see on the pitch for us.

Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen are a class act 
When players play regularly and form an understanding like these two have, it's great to watch them together. They compliment each other so well and it's surprising that they've only played 12 times alongside one another in the heart of the defence in the league this season - mainly due to Vermaelen's early season injury and our lack of full backs in December and January. They've formed a formidable partnership - one that has kept seven clean sheets - and seen us been undefeated in nine out of their 12 league matches playing central defence in the league.

Aaron Ramsey never hides 
After all the stick he receives - not booing as some would joyfully report - but just the usual Grove groans when players misplace passes or lose the ball, again the Welshman showed yesterday he's no coward and confronted his critics straight on. He had a decent game - yes he still has aspects of his game he needs to work on and does like too many touches at the moment - but one thing you can't criticise him for is wanting the ball and always trying to be positive with it. In my mind he is one player who never stopped working yesterday and left the last sap of his energy on the pitch. When Gibbs and Santos were on the pitch, it was Ramsey working hardest to get the ball back in the left back position while the other two ambled back. Ramsey may not been in the best of form, but he won't let himself or the team down through lack of effort.

Arsene Wenger needs to ensure we have attacking options from the bench 
A point highlighted yet again yesterday was our lack of options up front from the bench. Marouane Chamakh was again there ready and waiting for his chance but Wenger instead opts for Gervinho, Diaby and Santos. Since Theirry Henry returned to New York, the Moroccan has been ever present on the bench in the subsequent ten league games. However Wenger has called on him just once, for an eight minute cameo against QPR. You might have forgotten that we had a third striker Ju Young Park, signed under the noses of Lille back in August, but only able to play against Manchester United, AC Milan and Marseille as well as three Carling Cup appearances. While I'm glad we've all but signed Lukasz Podolski, the manager seriously needs to consider our options behind the German and RVP next season.

It's great Abou Diaby is back 
There were supporters around me opening a betting market for how long the Frenchman would last on the pitch - hopefully it was just gallows humour - but I was pleased with his performance back in an Arsenal shirt. He slotted in behind van Persie in the Rosicky position and looked bright, trying to make things happen. There was some concern when he went into a sliding tackle, but luckily he didn't get injured. At this point in the season when other players legs are tired, it's good we're able to call on Diaby to hopefully get us over the line.

Third place is still in our hands 
With Spurs losing again yesterday and Newcastle winning, the fight for third is realistically down to us and Alan Pardew's lot. At this stage of the season it's all about momentum and while we are stuttering a little, the barcode army are marching on. We have three winable matches ahead of us against teams who have nothing to play for - Stoke, Norwich and West Brom. Win all three and it's job done. That's not to say it's going to be easy, but it's in our hands. We know what we have to do.

A week of hard training ahead before the Stoke game. Let's hope we're practicing our set piece defending!

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