Sunday, 30 September 2012
What Went Wrong Against Chelsea?
It's on days like this that mustering the will to whip up a post is hardest -after losing a game especially one we contrived fantastically well to throw. I realise now how easy it is to pound out words on my key boards when the joy of winning a game and the attendant adrenaline are there to fuel enthusiasm. Fuck it, I'm not a reporter who has to objectively tackle the job of sending in a report to his editors on the Arsenal vs Chelsea game. No, I am an obsessive Arsenal fan who is maliciously satisfied when United or any other team I consider competition lose a game. I am an Arsenal addict whose perfect fix is an Arsenal win. That didn't happen yesterday so it's cold turkey day.
I'll be the first to admit that I gave Wenger a thumbs up when the team sheet was published before the game and I saw that he had opted for the central defense pairing of Vermaleen and Koscielney. I, like many other Gunners reasoned that since both were fast and a bit more agile than Per, they were better suited to handle the knavish and tricky Chelsea front line. How wrong I was. How wrong we all were.
Prior to this, there has been so much talk about the depth in our central defense with many feeling that Wenger will be spoilt for choice in settling for a first choice pairing after Koscielney's return from injury. This was largely informed by the fact that Vermaleen and Koscielney had been relatively solid last term when injury allowed both to pair. Per had been injured for much of the time and even when he had played had appeared really sluggish and looked like he would struggle to adapt to the pace of the Premiership. This season started with Kos injured and Vermaleen and Per built a partnership that went five games unbeaten and his performances had many changing their minds about Per's adaptation to the English game.
With Koscielney back from injury, we all cheered at the quality available to Wenger in central defense and the debate turned to who will be the best partner for Vermaleen going forward, who despite his deficiencies is first on the team sheet as long as he is fit. And of course, he is our captain. The question was always going to be who will be his first choice partner in the center of defense.
Koscielney, in my opinion laid to rest yesterday any further debates into what should be our best central defensive pairing. With hindsight now I really don't know why we feared Chelsea's attacking line will pose a problem to Per after all he dealt with City's creditably well last weekend and Koscielney -a late replacement for Vermaleen- was found culpable in the goal that we conceded at the Etihad Stadium. His second start of the season, he's paired with Vermaleen against Chelsea and he's culpable for both goals we conceded. Until something changes I believe Kos should act as back up to Vermaleen and Per no matter the opposition as long as he is fit.
Two defensive cock-ups led to two goals yesterday and it looks like much ado has been made all this while about Arsenal's previously much maligned but now new improved hard underbelly. Faced with the second major test of the season, we were exposed like we've never been done this season. We didn't have a great game yesterday against Chelsea as they controlled most of the game but also instructive is the fact that they didn't create much. Statistics show they had 10 shots on goal to our 17 and only 3 of those were on target to our 4. So where did we go wrong?
Our game plan had to change early on with Diaby pulling up with a thigh strain in the 17th minute (Oh dear. Not again). Three minutes later -in the twentieth minute- while we were still trying to restore balance to the team, Vermaleen gave away a needless free-kick (he keeps doing that) and the result was Koscielney choosing to chase Torres for a bear hug when he should have had his eye on the ball. And we paid for it. The second goal we conceded wasn't much different. Another free kick conceded by Vermaleen and Mata whips in a dangerous free kick into the area that should have been dealt with in the air but wasn't and Koscielney finally helped it into the net. He has amassed quite a collection of cock-ups in his short time with us.
Without Diaby's boundless energy in the midfield, the trio of Oscar, Hazard and Juan Mata made it difficult for Cazorla, Arteta and Ramsy to lay down any markers in the middle of the park. Yet, Chelsea were only just edging control of the midfield until Ramsey was taken off and from then on it was mostly a one way trip in the direction of our goal. Ox who moved to the middle after Ramsey was taken off was unable to find any sort of co-ordination with Cazorla and Arteta. Yep, Jack is needed back in the squad before we can really begin to make any claim to depth in that department. There, I've gone and said it.
Theo who had come in to man the right wing was hardly in position when we had the ball and could push forward. He seemed more interested in running into the middle to receive the ball and continue his quest to show what a good center-forward he is.
We did have our chances to get back in the game but on the day, Peter Cech pulled off a couple of magic saves that showed what difference a class keeper can make in a game like this. So yes, it's back to hoping Szczesny hurries back from the hospital. Not saying he is in the mould of Cech yet but good quick reflexes might have saved at least one of the goals we conceded and Szczesny is the best we have at the moment.
Our full backs are proving to be the most solid parts of our defense line and Jenkinson must come up for special mention. He was the one everyone said was going to be a weak link but he's arguably the most consistent so far. Gibbs has done his defensive duties really well and has added attacking impetus to his game.
I won't belabour Giroud's misses on the day but it is evident that he has to start scoring now as the monkey on his back has resumed growth after it was stunted by that goal he got in the Capital One game in midweek. Credit to Gervinho whose perfect pirouette put him in good position to smash one past Cech late in the first half and got us the equalizer.
Disappointing as the result was against Chelsea, it's not the game that lost us the crown by any stretch of the imagination -it's only the sixth game of the season. What will our reaction be in the coming weeks as we come up against what on paper look like weaker opposition in the form of West Ham, Norwich, and QPR before we face United away at Old Trafford? Can we set a target of nine points out of the next three games realistically and achieve it? That's the kind of form we need to take to United and get a result. Can we get up from this blip and get the critics talking again about our potentials instead of the snide references to the Arsenal of the last few years? Yes, we can.
No better time to start than Olympiakos at home on Wednesday. So heads up, Gooners!
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