As I tried to decide on a headline for this report, I encountered a few problems. Referring to our defending I was going to put ‘We keep making the same mistakes’ but realised I’d already used that for the Blackburn debacle. Other headlines I’ve used recently were ‘Can’t defend, won’t defend’ and ‘Same old story for sloppy Gunners’ which both would’ve fitted.
My point is that our weaknesses are not new — they have been a source of frustration and dropped points for a long time now. Wenger’s arrogant disdain for the art of defending cost us the game today as he stubbornly refuses to accept that his approach is wrong. To build a team concentrating purely on attack is admirable but foolish — even free-flowing Barcelona have Busquets shielding their back four and ironically we sold them our only defensive midfielder!
Despite this, Wenger refuses to acknowledge that his side has a problem, let alone do anything about it. Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, someone had better call the men in white coats for Arsene because this is getting ridiculous now.
After the game our once glorious leader lamented:
“In the first half there was nothing [in it] and then we were 2-0 down. I don’t know how it happened.”
Then allow me to explain Arsene. After dominating the opening 35 minutes, albeit without fashioning a really clear opening, we fatally allowed our concentration levels to slip. When Bale nodded the ball back to Sigurdsson in acres of space just inside our own half, he was allowed to run at our retreating backline. Wilshere realised he was the nearest midfielder, looked around him in confusion and spread his arms wide as if to say “Why am I having to close him down?” as our lack of organisation was exposed. Bale meanwhile was making a run between our static centre halves as Arteta ball watched and failed to track him, allowing Sigurdsson to release the Welshman for a neat flick past Szczesny. 1-0 down and all our previous good work out the window.
Last year we had RVP, this year they have Bale
What’s really annoying is that a short while earlier Sigurdsson again had plenty of time in a similar position and almost picked out Bale with another good ball. Thankfully it was too long because Bale was through had he been able to control it. Needless to say we failed to heed that warning.
Two minutes later Ramsey is harried out of possession and the ball breaks to Parker in his own half. He roams forward unchallenged with no pressure on the ball allowing Lennon to make a diagonal run infield. Monreal pushes up to play him offside while Vermaelen and Mertesacker retreat (do these guys talk to each other at all?) and Lennon easily sidesteps Szczesny for 2-0.
It was such a shame because prior to that collapse we’d been as impressive as I can remember since the second half at Chelsea. Spurs had looked nervous and Arsenal were pressing high up the pitch, harrassing them and cutting off the supply line to Bale. It was good to see us working hard and defending as a team (something I’ve been calling us to do for months now) but we lost concentration for those few minutes and were punished.
It’s no good complaining about being the better side though. Football is about attacking and defending. You need organisation, leadership, concentration and communication at the back and we are sorely lacking in all these attributes. It gets worse every season as the sad decline of Wenger remains unchecked.
A Mertesacker header deflected in off Bale on 51 minutes to give us hope of another Spurs collapse, but they are made of sterner stuff these days (witness their win against West Ham last week). They picked us off on the counter a few times with Bale missing from six yards before Defoe shot wide and Sigurdsson tried to pass when clean through. We couldn’t make them pay though as two late chances were spurned when Ramsey dragged a shot wide before Walcott hit a decent free kick just past the post.
We had our moments in the match and worked hard, but the more balanced side won. Our attacks were generally snuffed out by Dawson and Vertonghen who were much more impressive than Vermaelen and Mertesacker. When we did breach them, Lloris looked confident and assured.
So we’re seven points behind Spurs and five adrift of Chelsea with 10 games to go. Much is being made of our ‘easier’ run in, but when you defend like that even the simplest looking fixture can be troublesome — look at the meal we made of Aston Villa last weekend. I copped untold abuse from blinkered AKBs for being critical of that display even though we’d won, ending my report by saying “Ask yourself if that performance and lack of defensive nous will suffice next week at White Hart Lane?”
I think we have our answer.
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