Sunday, September 16, 2012

At Sixs, but Not Quite Sevens: 12 Thoughts on Arsenal 6 Southampton 1

Well, that was enjoyable wasn't it? Thoughts as follows.

* Let me get some negatives out of the way first. Overall, I found the game reminiscent of the 6-0 drubbing we meted out to Blackpool in 2010. In both cases, we were playing newly promoted teams at the start of the season, and, in both cases, naive defending led us to score a barrel-full of goals. Yet, after a promising start, the 2010 season ultimately ended in that dreadful three month period following the Carling Cup final, when we basically stopped winning games. In short, the season is still very young, and, impressive as yesterday was, let's not rush to conclusions about this team just yet.

* The other negative from yesterday, which has to be mentioned, was Szczesny's performance. The cherry on top of yesterday's delicious cake would have been another clean sheet - instead, we handed them a goal (almost literally). While Jenkinson did block Szcz's path, Szcz should have cleared him out and caught the ball. Instead, and weirdly for a keeper who is so confident, Szcz seemed to hesitate, and dropped the ball through indecisiveness. One wonders if he's fully fit (and if he wasn't, it says a lot about what Arsene thinks of Mannone). The other negative from Szcz's performance was a rash of poor kicks in the second half - an area of his game he really needs to improve upon. It's sad to say, but, as it currently stands, Szcz is now the weak link in our massively improved defence. He clearly has bags of potential, but I know no longer feel as confident about him between the sticks as I once did.

* After so many games/years in which we've started slowly, it was great to see us race out of the blocks, and end the game before half-time. Winning games in the second-half is great, but it's obviously a good thing if we can conserve a little energy by smashing our opponents in the first half.

* It's easy to say that own goals are "lucky/unlucky", but, really, they often aren't. Both the own goals that Southampton conceded yesterday were caused by us pressurizing them into making mistakes.

* It's easy to force teams into making mistakes if you've got a guy like Podolski on your team. I admit to being skeptical about his signing, but, so far, I am more than happy to be proved wrong. I knew that Poldi would get us some goals, but what I hadn't anticipated was the sheer level of effort he puts into his performances. The first goal, which will go down as an own goal, and which came about from a shot by Gibbs, was all about Podolski. He battled in midfield to win the ball, he slipped the ball through the defence, and he harried the defender into putting the ball in his own net. Top stuff. His free kick was an absolute beauty as well. After several years of living under the myth that van Persie was good at free kicks, it's nice to have someone who doesn't just put the ball straight into the wall/the stands.

* Even more than Podolski, perhaps, the performance of Gervinho yesterday was wonderful to see. After struggling for several months now, Gerv seemed to revel in a more central role. While he can dribble with reasonable effectiveness, maybe he's better in a position where he can play more instinctively, and smash the ball on target more frequently.

* That Giroud didn't start the game, and only made a brief substitute appearance, put paid to the hopes of some that he would break his duck against Southampton, like Mssrs Bergkamp and Henry. Now, firstly, Giroud will never, ever be as good as those two. He might well start banging in a few goals eventually, but let's be reasonable, eh? I fully expect him to start against Montpellier, and I would even bet on him scoring on Tuesday. One does wonder at the moment, though, if he will be a regular part of the starting XI this season. I have a feeling that he may start more games away from home than at the Emirates, as he is demonstrably good at holding up the ball, which will help us relieve pressure in away games.

* Coquelin did pretty well in midfield, coming in for Diaby. Diaby is meant to be travelling to Montpellier, so maybe, for once, his minor injury is actually minor. I don't think Coquelin is quite ready to regularly start league games at the moment. Indeed, I think it was notable that after a shaky start to the second half, the introduction of Ramsey for Coquelin seemed to shore things up.

* Ramsey's performance was his fourth impressive cameo of the season, and he was desperately close to scoring a goal. Relieved of the burden of replacing Fabregas and Nasri, Ramsey seems to have regained a little bit of confidence in his game, and, as I mentioned above, I think he helped us regain dominance in midfield after a slightly dicey first twenty minutes of the second half. I expect Ramsey to start in Montpellier, and I think he may well surprise a few people this season who have been too quick to write him off

* Oh, Theo. Aside from a well taken goal, his cameo was laughably inept at times - the high/low point being when he failed to play in Giroud who was open in the middle of the box. It's hard to ask for the wages that he's, allegedly, asking for if you can't even dislodge an 18 year old in the side. I actually think that Chamberlain was a little too quiet once more, but he's certainly better than Theo at present. I really don't know how the Theo situation will be resolved, because, on current form, he simply does not deserve a bumper new deal.

* A quick note on the defence - they all played well, once more. Vermaelen seems to have stepped up a gear this season, and it was heartening to see Arsene stick with Mertesacker, who should surely now be first choice. Gibbs and Jenkinson also played very well, and Gibbs is making sure that Santos can't get in the side.

* So, let the good times roll. When Arsene's teams play like that, it's hard to begrudge him a new contract, which is supposedly on the table. So far this season we have shown great defensive solidity, and we now also appear to have an attacking edge as well. It helps when you have a magician like Cazorla pulling the strings, who, at the moment, looks like a more efficient version of Fabregas. It's also interesting that our best formation may well be a 4-6-0, or a 4-3-3-0, if you catch my drift. After relying so much on one striker last season, we've almost dispensed with the position this year - a potentially genius strategy. It's still too early to tell how this season will go, but days like yesterday should be enjoyed regardless of where we finish in May.


Digital Marketing said...

Comparing Wenger to Ferguson is as futile as comparing apples and oranges.

A better comparison would be Wenger and Moyes (Everton)

Both working on strict budgets, both have teams nearby to dilute the fan base. Both held the Manager role through thick and thin, even when the 'press', not the fans, are clambering for their head.

The final validation / criticism of Wenger's reign at Arsenal Football Club will be when the facts are finally made public on whether there is a huge transfer budget at Arsenal, that Wenger chooses not to use - or he is working with the budget available.

However, I have a sneaky suspicion that Arsenal are going to go all the way in the Champions League this year. Best player leaving them, crisis at Arsenal, Wenger to go - all written for an unfashionable club to complete the story and win the whole thing.

Then, regardless of budgets, league titles or players contacts – Wenger’s reign at Arsenal is truly validated.

R W Rawles said...

Do you think Gervinho will have an assured spot as point man in EPL games?

Anonymous said...

Bit harsh on Coquelin who had quite a good game, evident by the fact that Diaby wasn't really missed. I think he's done enough to earn himself a couple more starts in the future.