Same old Arsenal
Same old Arsenal, same old problems. After the 5-2 win against Spurs and the 2-0 win against Montpellier, there was an understandable buzz about the side. Back on track, surely.
It must be remembered that we beat a 10 man Spurs, they dominated us for the 15 minutes they had 11. We beat Montpellier relatively comfortably, yes, but they are a vastly inferior side. So, a game against a side third from bottom who have recently been thrashed 5-0 should be no problem, right? Wrong.
Villa played very well, I’ll say that right off the bat. Paul Lambert said before the game that they have to restrict Arsenal’s passing game, they certainly accomplished that. Whenever the centre backs (basically Mertesacker as Koscielny was always marked) tried to play it into midfield, a Villa man was onto the receiver in a flash. Arteta spent his 90 minutes playing the ball straight back to Mertesacker because he had no space to turn.
It was a tactic that was deployed all over the pitch and it worked extremely well. There were a few neat turns and flicks from Arsenal which left Villa slightly exposed but there was never any cutting edge (sound familiar?). In the last 10 minutes of the first half the game opened up a bit, there was some end to end stuff and I thought Villa were starting to tire a bit.
No way could they keep up that intense pressing game for another 45 minutes, surely? Wrong again. The second half followed exactly the same pattern as the first- Arsenal struggle to make any kind of inroads in the final third, they lose it, Villa counter attack. That was basically it.
Arsenal were pretty solid at the back. Mertesacker was imperious once again, forget Cazorla, he’s my player of the season so far (controversial, I know). Szczesny in goal was encouraging too, he made an incredible save from Brett Holman which in the end rescued a point. But those are pretty much the only positives.
Arsenal have been solid in patches this year, but it seems to come with the caveat that there is no attacking threat. Whenever the goals have flowed, they’ve also flowed at the other end. Frustrating doesn’t even cover it.
There were some late chances, Gervinho nearly popped up in the box before a flailing Villa leg denied him. Ramsey had a few pops from range (he had his best game in an Arsenal shirt for quite some time) and perhaps the best one of all was Coquelin right in the last minute.
The defensive midfielder found himself in the box with 3 or 4 options to cut back to in the box. He decided, surely in a blaze of not knowing what the hell to do, to blast it as hard as he could across the face of goal. It flew at least 20 feet high and wide of anyone in the box and went out for a goal kick. That wound me up a bit.
He shouldn’t even have been on the pitch. Wenger brought him on for Giroud with 5 minutes to go (you have to hope he was carrying some kind of debilitating injury) with Wilshere sitting pointlessly right next to him on the bench. If you’re going for a win, you don’t bring on a defensive midfielder for a striker, not when you’ve got one of your most creative (and passionate) players sitting right there raring to go. Argh.
There are always going to be rash ‘Wenger out’ calls after a game like that (I nearly wrote loss there, that’s how it feels). I’m sitting on the fence, and I have been for a while. I think I’ll wait to see what he does in January before I make up my mind either way.
That being said, if Pep Guardiola became available tomorrow…