“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
The summer has come and gone. We’ve sat through yet another tedious transfer window where, as a club, we have failed to land our targets early enough. We went into the game vs Liverpool in terrible shape. Missing players through summer competition is one thing, and an understandable one at that, but to not repurpose our massive amount of funds available was scandalous to say the least.
People have mentioned that other players who played in the latter stages of the Euros played so why didn’t Ozil, Giroud & Koscielny play? Last season it was a case of bringing back Alexis Sanchez far too early so the above criticism isn’t quite justified. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The real issue here, and has always been the case is the ability to get transfers over the line. It’s been discussed to death and doesn’t need too much more attention so I’ll stop there on that front.
The other major issue that I think has now been apparent for almost 2 years has been our identity of football. It had to adapt slightly when Olivier Giroud came in and for the first couple of seasons we retained our glossy football to a degree. The second two however the natural shape of the team has begun to shift. There is an over reliance on the out-ball to Giroud that has instilled a little laziness into our play. That laziness has etched off the gloss from our usually flawless passing game. Because of this we have seen a shift in tactics as well to accommodate for our slightly more direct style of football. Now Euro 2016 finished on July the 10th and our pre-season began on July the 5th so Arsene Wenger has had just over a month to work out how to begin the season without Giroud as the front man. It was looking like, even from that early point on, that we would be playing with an alternative forward; be that Alexis, Walcott or a new signing. Considering that no new signing has been made and that the other two options are both players who like the ball on the floor you would think that we would alter our style of play to accommodate. Why then did our tactics throughout the 90 minutes resemble that of a team with Olivier Giroud as the focal point? The lineup did look surprising for the game with both Walcott and Alexis being picked, but that gave me some fresh hope. I thought that we would finally see a more fluid Arsenal once more. I thought that we would see a 4-4-2 diamond in a hybrid form of sorts. I imagined Alexis and Walcott playing closer together and a combination of Ramsey, Elneny and Coquelin would cover the right hand side and Iwobi would take care of the left. On paper it looked like a sensible option and I thought the main reason that Granit Xhaka was left out. Elneny, Ramsey and Coquelin have all played together so may understand their responsibilities better in a slightly new setup, however I was wrong.
What we found was Theo Walcott stationed wide with our midfield positioned with Coquelin and Elneny at the base with Ramsey in the Ozil position. This left Alexis completely isolated and it’s not the way that he plays up top for the Chilean National team. He plays a lot closer to Vargas and by doing so he won player of the tournament at the Copa America this summer. Why then was this not even trialled? Why haven’t we seen anything change? I mean Granit Xhaka was bought in with the understanding that he may be able to do the job that the Cazorla and Coquelin combination did last season, giving us an extra player going forward. This is what Kante did for Leicester last season and enabled them to counter with real verve and efficiency. For us it would give us the option of filling the whole in behind the striker with an extra runner. Ramsey is perfect for this role, as is Ozil to an extent. It’s why I can’t understand that it’s not something that we have looked to work on. Instead we resorted to playing long balls forward to Alexis who was never going to beat the Liverpool Centre Backs in the air. Why persivere with something that clearly won’t work without a target man? Expecting different results with the same formula is folly.
For all of our tactical naivety we actually started the game really well and could have had a couple of goals to our name. Alexis fashioned a chance with a great back heel to Ramsey who hit it straight at Mingolet (our best bit of football I thought). We then won a penalty thanks to some determination from Walcott (I KNOW!) who then stepped up to miss the penalty. I’m stunned that Alexis didn’t want it even though his record isn’t great for us. I would have thought that the chance to open your account as the front man was too good to pass up. In any case Walcott stepped up and missed with a pretty poor effort. He did well to make up for it 70 seconds later, which more than made up for the miss. A lot of people still slated the man for missing the penalty, but the fact is – the chance would not have been created if it weren’t for the penalty miss in the first instance. So that point is moot. we were in control and Cech had not been busy in the slightest. A couple of half chances aside we were well worth our 1-0 lead and really should have been 2-0 up. Conceding just before half time was frustrating. A soft free kick led to a stunning free kick from Coutinho. What happened thereafter was a capitulation of the highest order. As close a game as the scoreline suggests, we really could have lost the game by 5 or 6. Bellerin switched off for their second. Monreal for their 3rd along with our DMs and everyone simply ushered Mane for the 4th. A great goal don’t get me wrong but defending too honourably has been our downfall for far too long. There was a moment where Lovern fouled Alexis but Alexis managed to wriggle away, followed by a second foul from Lovren on Alexis to bring him down and stop the danger. Cynical but it worked. Chambers could have done that to Mane well away from the box so naivety once more. A good run and some determination from Oxlade Chamberlain and a great set piece goal from Chambers let us back in but we just couldn’t quite find an equaliser. As much as we could well have got one it was a game that we well and truly deserved to lose – no question.
What was an under-prepared squad has now not only got to somehow be picked up by the manager both in the week to prepare for Leicester away but also up-ease the fan base and the squad with some transfer activity. The necessities are a Centre Back and a Striker with a wide man as the nice to have. Lots to do and lots to ponder as we once again start the season on the back foot. The season feels like the 2013/14 type in that we are waiting for a big name signing to push us on. Here’s to hoping for reinforcements as well as some points.
Have a great week folks.
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