Monday, April 16, 2012

Overconfident and Outplayed: 12 Thoughts on Arsenal 1 Wigan 2

Our topsy-turvy season just keeps on getting topsier and, er, turvier. A really poor defeat tonight. Thoughts as follows:

* I'm not gonna lie - I had this one marked as a home win. We absolutely bulldozed Wigan oop north earlier this season, and I expected a repeat performance, or at least a reasonably comfortable win. Mais non. I've always hoped that players don't suffer from the same type of overconfidence that sometimes affects fans, but tonight it did seem to be an issue. I don't think we really looked as up for it as, say, we were against Man City. Yes, our opponents play in different ways, but I don't think we would have been so sloppy, and gotten off to such a poor start, if we'd been playing a team slightly higher up the table.

* But, really, we shouldn't have been so complacent. Wigan should have beaten Chelsea at the Bridge a few weeks back, and they turned over United less than a week ago. Martinez is by some distance the best of the managers currently fighting for survival, and Wigan's recent revival is far from inexplicable. 

* The two Wigan goals came from a toxic mix of overconfidence and sloppiness. The first goal just saw too many players forward too early in the game, and not enough of them busting a gut to get back and defend. Kudos to Wigan for being so willing to punish us on the break. The second goal was simply a litany of errors. Moses turned Sagna inside-out, and then Djourou, Vermaelen and Szczesny all need to take a big dollop of blame for not clearing the danger. Just before Gomez pounced to put the ball into the net, all three players seemed to hesitate for a second, allowing the goal to be scored. Really, really poor defending. 
* Indeed, and its a drum I now seem to bang with metronomic regularity, I worry about Vermaelen. He is a good defender, no doubt, but he has a lot of errors in him. His goal showed everything that's brilliant about him as a player, and particularly his incredible drive. But if Koscielny had been on the pitch today, I don't think we would have conceded two goals. That yellow card against Man City might just have cost us three points today, or at least one. There's also no getting away from the fact that Djourou was pretty poor, and a shadow of the player he was last year.

* If the goals were frustrating, then even more worrying was the news that Arteta limped off the pitch, and now has his right ankle in a protective boot. If I was going to be ultra-pessimistic, he is the one player we really, really can't afford to lose. Without him, we're like a jazz-band without a drummer - edgy, possibly even entertaining, but ultimately a bit of a mess. I worry in particular about how much we'll miss him on Saturday against an apparently rejuvenated Chelsea. 

* Every week I have to write something in defence of Aaron Ramsey, and today is no exception. When he arrived on the pitch the score was already 2-0, so the idea that our defeat was due to him is incorrect. He looks completely bereft of confidence, and I don't think he knows what his role is in the team any more. Perhaps if he just stays deep and tries to play the metronome role for a few games, with Rosicky (who was excellent tonight) marauding in front of him, AR can not only gain back a bit of confidence in himself, but also win over quite a few of the fans. Let's not forget, he played 90 minutes when we beat Chelsea earlier this season.

* If we're looking for culprits, I would argue that the likes of Theo and Song had far worse games than Ramsey. Walcott's stats would suggest he's had a good season, but how many games has he this year like the one he had tonight? He was garbage. Song was also completely off his game, giving away a slew of fouls that broke-up our momentum. 

* Sagna also had a torrid night. I was surprised when Moses ended up at Wigan because he was extremely hyped-up as a youngster. A few more performances like tonight, and he'll soon be at a bigger 

* Gary Caldwell is a mug. Don't really need to expand on that.

* Quite quietly, Robin has had a bit of a dip in form. He hasn't scored a goal in open play since we beat Newcastle on March 12. Yes, his chipped penalty was a delight against Wolves, but if we can't get him scoring goals in open play then we definitely look a much less threatening proposition. 

* All credit to Wigan. They may have time-wasted to the nth degree, but they also very effectively nullified us in the second half. The fact we had 23 shots on goal, but only 4 were on target, shows how well they defended. I think they will stay up.

* So, where does this leave us? Frustrated and in a slightly more precarious situation than we might like. We should be 8 points clear of Totts/Newcastle, and 11 clear of Chelsea, but, instead, we remain within striking distance. Norwich at home is probably our easiest remaining fixture. Other than that we have Chelsea at home, and two pretty unappealing away trips to West Brom and Stoke. Unless we beat Chelsea on Saturday, which obviously will not be easy, our passage to Europe may well remain unsecured until the final weekend. Four games to go, and things remain interesting. I suppose that's both a blessing and a curse. 


Anonymous said...

Wenger has slammed Wigan for being disrespectful. You can't blame them for celebrating. It was as if they had won the FA cup.Instead Wenger should focus on why the gunners lost.
He himself has said the epl is better than other Euro leagues in that the teams at the bottom can beat those at the top.The gunners were denied time and space and ,imho,that is the main reason.I find too many passes were made when a shot could have been made.
It's easy to play against the gunners. Soak up the pressure and hit on the counter when many gunners could be stranded upfield.
Be warned. Chelsea could employ such tactics with some variation.

Anonymous said...

I know one defeat doesn't mean Arsenal have to replace the entire team. What this shows is the gunners don't have any guy on the bench capable of changing the game.This could be due to the tactics or personnel. I believe it is a combination of both.
I know the gunners have won 9 out of ten but you can't be winning all the time unless the ref can somehow miraculously give you apenalty in agoal mouth melee.I believe the players were tired and complacent.Tactically their style is easy to fathom.
I don't know.The gunners seem to be reluctant to shoot and make too many passes thereby giving defenders time to close them down.
If you watch other teams and the German/French and Italian leagues,they seem to score from four to five passes.
That I believe is they key to scoring.

Anonymous said...

In summary,ramsey,song,and walcott contributed nothing last night.. As usual,ramsey had a touch too many and was generally very poor,lack creativity in his passing.. Song n sagna had an off day.. Bullied by mosses n dispossessed far too often.. And walcott shows his inconsistency yet again.. I can see only the amazing Tomas Rosicky,Vermaelen,santos n maybe RVP had the right attitude. They are winners,they really are. Special mention for Rosicky who has just won arsenal player of the month,he's trully unbelievable,especially in the first half. Hats off!

Anonymous said...

He was referring to the time-wasting and the inefficiency of the ref to do anything about it. AW then went on to congratulate Wigan for a deserved win.

Anonymous said...

We were already 2 down when Ramsey came on

Anonymous said...

We all know Wenger is a sore loser.It harks back to the game against Robson's Newcastle.The gunners had been beaten 3-1 Dec 2001.Robson remarked that Arsenal meaning must learn to lose like a gm.Thankfully the gunners won the double and beat NU twice .
The Fm must realise tactically he had been outsmarted and yet persisted in trying to pass thru a ten men defence. Please Aresnal are not Barca and this is the epl where robust tackles can go unpunished
For a long time the fans had said Wenger lacks a plan b.
If Arsenal don't win on saturday,the fight for cl qualification will intensify.Btw ,if Wenger plays in the same way as against Wigan,the defence will be ripped to pieces and Drogba will score ahattrick.

bradster said...

Why don't Arsenal try shoot on the edge of the box, so many players in the way can allow anything to happen, deflections, confusion, hessitation and congestion.
I agree Ramsey doesn't know what his role is in the team and taking up Arteta's role may be just what he needs, simple pass and control, tackling and no magic required.
Song was aweful in this game and did not control the middle or stay in front of the defence, still trying the magic through ball too often.
Walcott, still needs some kind of talent against a pacey defender.
Santos was poor as a defender, stayed high and too unfit and slow to get back. I blame him for that first goal because he was no where when the CB's pushed up for the corner.

Anonymous said...

It`s been obvious for a few weeks now that RVP is some way off his usual high standards.
Whether it`s because he has one eye on the Euro`s,his contract or that he`s just jaded after his heroics for the vast majority of the season i don`t know.
Whatever the problem is it`s too late to do anything about it know but he definitely needs a break.
And this is where AW has got his transfer policy regarding forwards wrong.
Everyone knows that RVP is irreplaceable,but if he got injured then who would you put up front in his place?.
Carlos Vela has done well for Real Sociedad scoring 9 times this season (2 against Espanyol last week).
And while Nicklas Bendtner has`nt exacly set the Premier League on fire since his loan move to Sunderland, I`d still pick him or Carlos before Chamakh every time.
He should have gone out on loan instead of Nic and Carlos at the beginning of the season (although i can see how Carlos will benefit from playing more often).
To be honest i`m not a huge fan of Bendtner, but last season he was`nt really given a fair chance to show what he could do.
When he started it was on the right wing 90% of the time,and when he came off the bench it was to replace Walcott.
Bendtner might be a lot of things,but a winger is not one of them.
Hopefully Podolski will join in the summer and take some of the strain off of Robin.
As for the rest of them last night,
Wigan deserved the win but just as he`s been since the turn of the year Rosicky was outstanding,He`s finally showing the form that convinced AW to buy him in 2006.
If some of his team mates had half of his passion,commitment and work rate then i`d be a happy Gooner.
If Ramsey had`nt come off the bench for Arteta then i`m sure he would`ve been the first player to be taken off,not his best game.
But his confidence is so low at the moment that i don`t think AW would`ve considered it.
As for Song(and Gervinho),When will he learn the right time to release the ball?.He does the difficult part but then just runs himself into trouble.
The stand out thing about last night was it showed just how much the team miss Koscielny.
Unfortunately Djourou just is`nt good enough
While imho the Verminator is the superior player, Koscielny is better at marshalling the players around him,and also provides quality cover when Vermaelen goes on one of his frequent forward runs.
I`m not sure that we need many signings this summer,but a couple of obvious ones and a few to keep the squad on their toes and not take their places for granted and that`ll hopefully make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Yes we're already 2 goals down.. But ramsey did nothing for 80mins. U could say the same for walcott(mr.inconsistency).