Before we kicked off yesterday, I predicted that if Mesut Özil started against Dortmund we would lose convincingly. As it happened, he did start and we lost convincingly. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only reason we were convincingly beaten.
Worryingly, there were a few reasons why we were completely outplayed last night. Including:
Danny Welbeck’s Finishing:
Manchester United fans will no doubt be having a little chuckle to themselves today. In a game where it was obvious that Borussia Dortmund were going to attack us with relentless pace and running, it was a game where we needed to take our chances when they came, and we did have a massive chance to open the scoring in the first half.
A clever reverse pass from Aaron Ramsey completely cut open the Dortmund back line and Danny Welbeck was clean through with only the keeper to beat. It was a big chance which he really should have scored with but he managed to drag his shot wide of the far post.
And even in the second half, when Arsenal were 2-0 down he had a chance to get Arsenal back into the game, after using his pace and power to evade a couple of defenders and have a shot on goal, which unfortunately flew over the bar.
And even before the first chance, he had a tap in from 3 yards out when a cross came in and wasn’t dealt with properly by the Dortmund keeper. A bit more composure there could have got us the lead.
His finishing, of lack thereof, is the main criticism Manchester United fans (and their manager it seems) had of him and it would be easy to blame Welbeck for contributing to our defeat. But he is new to the club, still needs to settle into our style of play and it would be over the top to start criticising him now. We’ll get a better picture of his performances in the coming months, and it would be pointless to criticise a player who’s only been at the club for about a week.
Our Line Up & Formation:
Clearly Arsene now prefers the “more fluid” 4-3-3 formation (well, more of a 4-1-4-1 line up) with a sole target man with a creative and flowing midfield. The only positions that are set are the defensive midfield role (Arteta) and the centre forward (Welbeck) while the rest of the midfielder are free to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the personnel we have just don’t cater for that formation.
It’s almost too predictable to play against, and leaves us open to counter attacks over and over again. Instead of having Mikel Arteta left as the only defensive midfielder, we need to chance our formation so that he’s not left overrun time and time again.
We needed to play a more compact game with players who were willing to run for the team.
Mesut Özil should never have started, and Aaron Ramsey should have been rested as well. Ramsey seems tired (and would be a good option from the bench) and Özil’s form at the moment is poor. He’s just not doing it and it probably has something to do with the fact he played a full season in a new league, had to settle into a new country and played all summer with Germany at the World Cup. Give the guy a break and let him recharge his batteries.
And I don’t know why Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla are so out of favour. Santi has been one of our most consistent performers and Tomas is a player we usually rely on for the big games – he sets the tone and his desire and determination rubs off on the other players. Last night we were extremely lackadaisical.
So here is how I would have lined up last night:
I would have had Arteta and Rosicky (or even Oxlade-Chamberlain) as the defensive midfielders, Wilshere as the Number 10 and Santi alongside him. Welbeck and Sanchez offer the pace and we have several midfielders in that lineup who are willing to work for the team and track back.
Arsenal almost have a embarrassment of riches when it comes to midfield selections, and Arsene Wenger needs to make sure he gets it right – otherwise we might see our season going downhill very quickly.