Monday, 11 November 2013

Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey go missing -Vieira spot on -Still league leaders!

Morning  Gooners.

The result at Old Trafford has certainly given us a reality check. But I don't think it's as bad as some would lead you to believe. Given the week we've had, starting with the result against Liverpool and then picking up three points against last season's beaten Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund, perhaps going into yesterday's game and expecting the same set of players to get a win or a draw was going a bit too far.

It's easy to forget that we've been forced to play the same 11 against Liverpool and Dortmund because of our injury list, which should drop dramatically after the international break. Against Manchester United, the manager was forced into making two changes because of illness. Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky were sent home yesterday morning because of a sickness bug which also affected Mikel Arteta, Serge Gnabry and Kieran Gibbs.

The manager brought in Thomas Vermaelen, who I though had a good game on his first start in the Premier League since April 13, when we played Norwich at the Grove. And also recalled to the starting line up was Mathieu Flamini following his injury.

Clearly a sickness bug going around the camp is going to hamper preparations and Carl Jenkinson and Isaac Hayden were asked to travel from London to ensure we had a full bench. Once we got onto the pitch, I thought we contained Manchester United well. We seemed to be playing to the same game plan which had been effective against Dortmund in midweek. Once again we had nothing of any threat going forward, with just one off target attempt in the whole of the first period.

The home team broke the deadlock from a set piece. In these big games, the smallest of errors can be punished. Aaron Ramsey moved forward from his front post zonal position which vacated space which the Greedy Badger would run into and head Wayne Rooney's corner into the far post, where Kieran Gibbs had moved from into the centre of the goal. Two Arsenal players making the slightest of errors led to that goal.

There goal was really the only thing of note to happen in the first half. There wasn't much between the two teams. I thought we were sloppy in possession. Our passing wasn't as accurate as it usually is and we didn't retain possession of the ball as well as we know we can. I thought we went out, as Arsene Wenger might put it, with the handbrake on.

The second period was much more what we've become to expect of this Arsenal team. Dominant in possession and asking questions of the opposition. While we've had three big games this week, the home team walked over Fulham at Craven Cottage last weekend and could only draw with the seventh best team in Spain at the moment - Real Sociedad.

Arsene Wenger's first substitution brought some spirit and fight to the team and Jack Wilshere made an instant impact. We'd not seen Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey get ahead of Olivier Giroud, but Wilshere's first actions were to take the fight to the opposition. Perhaps this was the type of game where we needed his fighting spirit from the start.

Despite our better second half display, we couldn't find an opening to bring us back on level terms. In fact we only had two efforts on target the whole game and neither of them troubled David De Gea.

I was particularly unimpressed with our front three. I thought Cazorla and Ramsey didn't have their best games in an Arsenal shirt and sometimes wondered if Ozil was on the pitch. I know we should give him some room to settle, but after such an impressive start to his Arsenal career, it does feel like the German has been drifting through these past few games.

Games at Old Trafford are when you expect the big players to step up. We didn't see that from Ozil yesterday and it reminded me something that Patrick Vieria wrote in his autobiography.

He said:
"[The games against Manchester United are] when you see who the great players ae, the ones who are made of steel. These games are always very revealing. There is nowhere to hide when you play against United, you can't be half hearted in the way you play. You have to commit 100 per cent."
Clearly any player can have an off day and I'm sure all our players were tired after the efforts shown against Liverpool and Dortmund. I just have expected more from Ozil. Perhaps I'm the one who should readjust my expectations of him but considering the club spent so much money on him, I thought Serge Gnabry had more of an impact on the game than Ozil did.

Perhaps my closing perspective is that it's not all bad. Each time we've had a set back we've responded to it. We've had a packed fixture schedule and maybe for once the international break has come at the right time. It will allow some of our key players to rest their legs and we can we can go again when Southampton visit the Grove in two weeks.

We're still top of the league and top of our champions league group. There is going to be no complacency going forward. This team still know there is room for improvement.

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