I tried to be positive after the Everton defeat but after the Manchester City one, I am less so. The Everton game was not a disaster. It was the first defeat in the league since the opening day of the season and we were unlucky – the game was carefully poised at 1-1 and we had 2 shots blocked on the line and a stone wall penalty denied by Mark Clattenburg, a referee who is notorious in giving awful decisions for Arsenal.
A big reaction against Manchester City was essential. The main issues from Tuesday’s game was the lack of urgency or effort from the team – we went 1-0 up and then let Everton back into the game. Arsene cited suffering physically but that is a poor excuse, these are professional athletes who should be in top top shape. Too much is made of tiredness these days.
And the reaction was positive – after 5 minutes Arsenal were ahead. A nice slide rule pass by Hector Bellerin to Alexis Sanchez was moved onto Theo Walcott, who finished coolly and put the Gunners ahead. That early goal should have been the springboard to push on but just like the Everton game, we lost a lead in a big match.
Look, I understand that scoring an early goal and sitting back was probably the perfect scenario for Arsenal – Leicester City showed that Manchester City are extremely suspect at the back, especially from counter attacks. And with Alexis, Walcott and Iwobi we had the perfect players to execute that game plan – unfortunately it didn’t pan out like that.
The first half was good – and we were unlucky not to be 2-0 ahead when Monreal was marginally offside. And unlucky yet again when Sane scored early into the second half when he was ‘more offside’ than Monreal was.
I’m as angry as Arsene about the officials and he has a point about them being massive cunts*, but we still had more than 40 minutes of football to save our season.
Our performance in the second half was abysmal. We weren’t losing yet the players had already given up. The only player who actually cared was Sanchez and that is going to be a massive problem. Alexis Sanchez is in the middle of contract talks and he knows he’s in a team of players with no spines. Nice guys to train with – perhaps, but winners? No.
He’s won the Copa America twice in recent seasons and the issue is that while the Chilean National Team isn’t filled with the most talented players in the world that doesn’t matter – because they fight. They fight for each other and that’s why they win. That’s why although nations like Brazil and Argentina have better players, they still come out on top.
I would be shocked if Alexis Sanchez signs a new contract, based on what he’s seen and experienced in this Arsenal team.
It speaks volumes that we’re 9 points behind a Chelsea side who are less talented that us. But the difference is they have a squad full of winners and leaders. We don’t.
Then we have Mesut Ozil. He’s a player like no-one else. He can do things other players’ only dream of. But his biggest flaw is that his style of play isn’t to drag a team off the floor and drive them forward. Only players like Steven Gerrard or Patrick Vieira can do that. The problem is Ozil needs the team around him to do the work if you like.
But if the rest of the team aren’t moving or running into the space Ozil is pretty much useless. He is a supremely talented player but isn’t going to win us a game unless he has someone to assist – he’s hardly going to go on a run and beat 5 players to score, or even slam one in from 30 yards.
So I’m not sure about the criticism for the German. On one had he tends to disappear but on the other he needs people to provide for. I’ve seen his body language a few times this season where he tries to play someone into space but their movement isn’t right so he throws a hissy fit. But that’s because he wants the other players to pull their fingers out.
The loss to Manchester City is a disaster because it exposes Arsenal as a team who always bottle it and crumble any time games go against us. All the big games this season – Tottenham, Manchester United and now Manchester City – have seen us collapse. The performance in those games was lethargic and looked to me about the players not believing. Arsene talks about playing with the handbrake on and that sums those games up perfectly – we were afraid.
So apart from blowing our title race out of the water by Christmas, we also have issues with contracts for Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – players we can’t afford to lose, yet might not want to stay.
* May not have actually used those specific words.