Monday, 1 October 2012

Arteta laments defending -Wenger's regret over Sahin and Cabaye -Jack's comeback begins!

Morning Gooners.

There was one thing which I noticed after we gifted Chelsea their second goal on Saturday. The air of resignation around the ground that we weren't going to get back into the match. Normally, the energy from the crowd can help the team forward, but that wasn't the case as quite honestly, the atmosphere went totally flat.

The positive singing from the Block Six area was missing. They managed to strike up a few songs and chants but I could tell that their wasn't the belief around me that we could force a comeback like the one we saw six days earlier at Eastlands.

I think we all knew we were the makers of our own downfall. I can't remember more than one - the Fernando Torres fluffed shot - chance from open play that Chelsea had. It was the set piece defending which made us all so nervous - something I thought we had eradicated from our game.

Quite clearly there is work to be done at the training ground on the defending of set pieces. Mikel Arteta is right that conceding three goals from dead ball situations is clearly not good enough.

The Spaniard said:

"It’s a hard one to take but we’ve conceded from three set pieces in the last two games. That’s cost us points and it’s not good enough. 
"I don’t think it’s something to do with the defence. It’s about an individual defensive set-up in the game which is a free kick or a corner. Today we haven’t defended well enough and we’ve conceded two goals that have cost us the game. 
"It’s everyone’s responsibility. You can’t fault one player on that. We have to clean the lines up quickly and you can’t just allow runners like that in the box."
It was clear for everyone to see that Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen weren't having the best of days at the office. The Frenchman not getting close enough to Torres to prevent him wrapping a foot around the ball and striking it home for the first goal and then slightly deflecting the second Mata free kick past Mannone. The Belgium international gave away the freekicks which forced us to defend these set pieces.

I do wonder had Abou Diaby been on the pitch things might have been different with regards to defending the first goal. We conceded three minutes after the Frenchman had hobbled off. David Luiz was unmarked inside the box and had Torres not had a shot, the Brazilian would have. So who was supposed to have been on Luiz?

The manager has admitted taking a gamble on the fitness of Diaby and Jack Wilshere. He was hoping they would both be available for most of the season and that was his logic regarding letting Alex Song go - not that the Cameroon international wanted to turn down Barcelona's offer in any case.

Wenger said:

"Diaby’s injury record is not good. I was concerned about him of course. It was a gamble, but I was calculating as well that Wilshere was coming back, Francis Coquelin is here but was sick and Emmanuel Frimpong is back. 
"Tomas Rosicky is coming back so we have many midfield players. We don’t have many physical players but Mikel Arteta has shown he can be a great defensive midfield player. 
"He was outstanding in that area against Chelsea. We’ll see overall if it was a good or bad decision at the end of the season."

I agree that judgements can only be made about the decision the manager has made in the transfer window once the season has ended. But I think Wenger knew in his heart of hearts that we needed one more midfielder and that's why we were chasing Nuri Sahin and Yohan Cabaye at the end of August.

There is at least one piece of good news for today. Jack Wilshere is due to begin his comeback to first team action with at least 60 minutes for the under-21s against West Brom at the Hawthorns later. It's going to be small steps like these for Jack which are going to allow Arsene Wenger and the medical team to judge how quickly  he'll be able to play for the first team.

Even with the Diaby injury, I don't believe the manager will rush Jack back. He's got to play the longer game regarding the fitness of one of our best players. And if that means taking it one game at a time and the team missing Jack's input for a few more weeks, then that's a sacrifice we should take.

There will be a clamour for Jack to be fast-tracked back into the first team. But I don't believe that is the right course of action for a player who has been out for 14 months. Let's see how he gets on during these games and then go from there.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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