Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 17, 2011

It is very hard to write something about a game that seems all too familiar now. Hours have passed since it ended and it is still painful and embarrassing. I thought I had the worst of it against Manu but this is in the same league.

What’s the count for us now in giving away leads after yet another farce? Starting from the season before last, it has now become a norm for us to give away leads. We are hardly over one loss when Arsenal ends up with yet another show of comedies.

I don’t have it in me to go over what happened in the game. In a nut shell, we scored, we conceded, we scored again, we scored (this time at our own end), we conceded, we scored at our own end again! (By this time we had scored 4 goals and were losing by two goals), and then we realized we have to score against the opposition, but it was all too late.

In between all his, we squandered a lot chances either through bad finishing or selfish play. We played the best first half that we have played all this season, despite some bad moments, yet we turned up in the second half as if Blackburn were going to give us the win gift wrapped. Why Why Why do we always do this?

Highlights of the game were we again showed how inept we are at defending and how leads can be squandered away by simply switching off after the half time break. We again showed how easy it is to make the same mistakes because it is quite difficult to correct them. We again showed that our problem is not individuals but the system we play. Although the individuals do amplify all the problems.

I know I am being too negative but tell me what the point of staying positive is when every other game we are going to witness is like this!? Yes, we had a great result against Dortmund, yes, we had a good first half today, but then you don’t have a one-game-season and you don’t have a football game with only one half. You have to fight for the whole season; you have to fight for the whole 90 minutes to have something at the end of it. One great result, one great half doesn’t make a difference in the long run.

The saddest bit is that we usually play like this at the end of the season, like we have done in the last couple of seasons. This time we are doing it from the start and if things are to continue like this, we are heading for a bottom half finish, forget the top four.

When will the team realize this is beyond me. As for Wenger, I am at a loss for words as to what has gone wrong with him. Why has he allowed the things to go wrong this much? Every defeat like this is going to be the final nails in his coffin. Or not!? Personally, I can’t seem to make up my mind on Wenger, one half of me wants him to stay and do well, and the other says his time is over. One thing is for sure, we need changes at the club, be it in the back room staff or the whole management, it should be done fast.

Looking ahead, I don’t see anything at the moment. It is going to take a season long time to finally get over this and that too if we end up in the top four.

I will now come to the player ratings:

Szczesny: (6) Made a couple of good saves but made a few school boy errors too like the one where he came forward in the first half and was caught in no man’s land. Wasn’t at fault for any of the goals, though, could have done better on the fourth.  

Sagna: (6) Going forward produced some good crosses. At the back was solid but did lose his man a couple of times. I hope the injury is not bad

Mertesacker:  (6) Can’t blame him for anything except for not putting the ball in the back of the net in injury time late on. We knew he was slow when we bought him! It is more of a fault with the way we defend.

Koscielny: (4) He produces a game like this every now and then which highlights the problems we face as a team. Nothing went for him today and he ended up with an own goal. Unlucky or incompetent you decide!

Santos: (5) Wasn’t the start I expected from him. If I had my way, I would not have started with him in this game. At fault for the first goal and not good with his positioning. Although his crosses late on in the game were great, defensive stability is what we need right now and he didn’t provide that today.

Ramsey: (6) Surprised to see him start today. Looked lively while going forward and was involved a lot. Produced a great assist for Arteta’s goal. Disappeared in the second half like most of our players did.

Arteta: (6) Opened his Arsenal account with a good finish. Was at the heart of every good thing in the first half. However, he needs to do much more as he was nowhere in the second half.

Song: (6) As I said in my preview that his ability to pick a pass can be useful. He proved it today with his assist on the first goal and started the move that led to the second. A great first half from him but in the second had the complete opposite. Was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he scored that own goal. Should have also done better on the fourth and rightly substituted later in the game.

Arshavin: (6) Looked lively and had a couple of good shots on goal. Created a few openings but it was his needless foul that led to the second Blackburn equalizer. Needs to do more in terms of creating opportunities and improve his finishing which has gone way off.

RVP: (6) He needs to be passed the ball if we want him to score. Had a couple of shots from tight positions late on that were saved and provided the assist for the third goal. Otherwise he wasn’t given the support required.

Gervinho: (6) Scored a good first goal and looked dangerous throughout the match. However, was frustrating at the same time with his selfishness and bad decision making. He needs to learn that the team is more important than individual goals. Needs to learn when to pass and when to go for goal.  Had he found van Persie late on in the first half, things might have been different.

Subs:

Djourou: (2.5) Don’t have anything to say about him as he has forgotten how to play football. Is it his entire fault!? Wenger will know the answer to this!

Walcott: (6) Produced some excellent crosses but then again we don’t attack the ball. Can’t blame him.

Chamakh: (6) It was a welcome change that he found the net with his head today. Should have scored another but really can’t blame him for the dropped points.

 


Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 11, 2011

So after a bad start to the season, we finally recorded our first win of the season, albeit some luck, a top class strike by Arshavin and some good keeping by Szczesny. As for the rest, it was a so and so performance.

We started off very brightly with Arteta creating the first opportunity in the opening minutes for Ramsey to miss the target. Soon after wards, Szczesny produced a great save to keep the score level. Arshavin then created an opportunity for Walcott only for the Swans to keep the ball form crossing the line after some good defending and keeping. The goal for us came in an unexpected fashion, when lady luck for the first time sided with us. It was a mistake by Vorm, Swans keeper that allowed us to take the lead. It was a great first time finish form the Russian from a very tight angle. In between all this, there wasn’t anything of worth created by both teams.

The second half was where we again faded as we have been doing lately. Except a solo effort by van Persie and a header by Chamakh late on, I don’t remember any decent shots on goal by us. Swansea on the other hand had a good second half. They did create a few openings but due to lack of quality upfront couldn’t score. They managed to hit the cross bar from a free kick. They also came close to scoring in the dying minutes of the game when Szczesny made a mistake only for the Swan’s player to miss the target.  Overall, the final 15-20 minutes were the worst for us. We didn’t concede though and the three points were secured, which matters the most. I will take three points any day over a good performance. However, we do need to improve our play if we want to seriously challenge for a top four finish.

As far the performance was concerned, I was always expecting a win, however, wasn’t expecting that we will go through the same scenario that we have witnessed in almost all the final games last season. I was rather hoping for a win with some margin. And that is why we need lots of improvement to really secure our place in the top four this season. It is also safe to say that had this been any other team, the score would have been different. It is going to be a very tough battle this season but we have taken the first stepsin the right direction and we can only go forward form here.

We need to take encouragement from the positives. Against Swansea we kept a clean sheet and ended with three points and 11 men on the pitch, something which we haven’t done till yesterday this season in the league. However we must not turn a blind eye on the weaknesses.

The problem, at the moment, is that we seem to have lost our creativity upfront. Is it our style of play or our formation or the fault lies with our players? I don’t know the answer but something needs to be done ASAP. How will it be solved is one tough question that Wenger needs to answer and rectify and he must do it quickly.

Much has been talked about changing the formation and even though I am a big supporter of the formation we are playing now, I am coming to the conclusion that it’s time now to change back to 4-4-2,  just to mix things up a bit. Van Persie does look isolated upfront and another striker will really help his game to prosper.

We also need to increase the pace of our passing because right now we are slow in releasing the ball. Our decision making in the final third is also not good. Our final ball lacks intent, pace and accuracy and so the opposition doesn’t have a hard time defending against us.

As for the new signings, they all had a decent debut for us. Arteta certainly looked at home with his passing and movement. However, all of them need to increase their pace. It is too early to say how much Arteta and Benayoun will help us in getting what Fabregas and Nasri could do but I am encouraged by the signs. As it was their first game, I hope they will gel in with our style of play quickly.

In conclusion, we got what we wanted. Performance will surely come in time as we have a few players out injured and the new players need time to adjust to our play. Technically we are in the building up process again, so we will have to be patient and make do with the points secured which are going to matter in the end.

This game is done and dusted and now the focus must turn to Tuesday, where a more formidable force awaits us.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny: (7) Made an excellent save early on in the game and commanded his box excellently throughout. Brought into action late on where he missed a ball only for the Swan player to miss the target from a few yards out.

Sagna: (6) Nothing special from the Frenchman. Kept things simple at the back, however, didn’t contribute much in attack.

Mertesacker: (6.5) He was calm, composed and kept things simple. Made a couple of great tackles and his positioning was also good. Does need to increase his pace though.

Koscielny: (7) Solid game from him. Made some good interceptions especially one at the end of the first half.

Gibbs: (6) The usual performance from him. Bad positioning and decision making at the back. He did make a few good tackles but he needs to improve a lot. Upfront he was great as he showed with his cross to Chamakh in the final minutes of the game.

Frimpong: (5) Nothing fancy from the youngster. Misplaced lots of passes but did provide decent support to defense. Still a long way to go for him.

Arteta: (6.5) Good debut for him. Started well and produced some excellent through balls. His passing, movement and distribution of the ball was good but he too needs to increase his pace. Disappeared somewhat in the second half as most of our team does. It was his first game for Arsenal so I am not going to be too judgmental.

Ramsey: (5.5) A decent performance from the Welshman after a weak start. Missed a good opportunity in the opening minutes and he was involved in the move that led to Chamakh’s header. He does give an aura of being lazy at times with his passing and movement. I have been saying after every game that he needs to take more responsibility and he needs to come out of the shell when he plays for us.  

Arshavin: (7.5) Great game! Looked lively, made some great runs and was always involved in the game. A great finish scoring the only goal of the game too. Back tracked a lot (by his standards) too.  Need more of this every weekend from him.

RVP: (6) Had one excellent shot on goal after some trickery where the side bar denied him the goal. Otherwise it was quiet for him as he looked isolated.

Walcott: (5) Besides having a couple of shots on goal, it was not a good game for him. His final ball was very poor and didn’t give the right support on the flanks.

Subs:

Benayoun (5), Coquelin (5) and Chamakh (no rating) didn’t make much impact. Chamakh did get a header on target though.


Arsenal vs Swansea: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 10, 2011

So after a draw, two losses, countless red cards and injuries, frantic last two days in the transfer window and the ever boring international break, we are here, almost a month later since the inception of the season for a fresh start. We are up against Swansea at home and I am already feeling the excitement of today’s game.

International breaks are never a welcome thing, however, this one did came at the right time for us. We needed a break after the thrashing at Old Trafford and our new signings needed time to get acquainted with the team. How will they gel in with the team on the field particularly and the English football in general will be somewhat answered today.  Most of our players (old and new) had some great international games, scoring lots of goals though. Hopefully, they will repeat that today against Swansea.

On the injury front, we have not made much progress though. We have Gibbs back from his injury (hopefully he won’t go out injured today). Otherwise, we have lost Vermaelen for a month, Wilshere for up to two or may be more, Squillaci is still having a calf injury and Diaby is as usual enjoying time on the side lines. Miyaichi and Rosicky have joined them for short durations and will hopefully return in midweek.

I am glad though that Frimpong is back and that we were able to sign five players in the final two days. Otherwise we would still be stretched in the middle and at the back. With Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Santos and Park, we have plenty of options to start with today.

We do need a win (for a change) but if we do it by a margin, it will really set the right tone to our miserable start. However, we shouldn’t be complacent under any circumstances. We have a perfect opportunity to bounce back from the awful start, so, let’s take it with a bang. I know we will have a few new bodies out there, but I am expecting them to give a great performance to send the right message out to the masses.  

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Wenger opts to start with. Based on the team news, it is quite obvious that we will see a backline of Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs. Andre Santos is in the squad but lacking match fitness and knowing Wenger, he won’t start with him. We might though see him later in the game. As for Mertesacker, I am really looking forward to see how he partners with Koscielny.

In the middle, Frimpong will have to start in the holding role behind Arteta and Ramsey. I won’t be surprised if Benayoun deputizes for Ramsey but I have a feeling Wenger won’t start with him today.

Robin van Persie is sure to start up front flanked by Walcott and Arshavin. I am tempted to start with Benayoun in Arshavin place though. Park is another option to start with but I am not sure how he will respond to playing on the wings. Seeing his international goals, he does get into some good scoring positions and is not afraid to have a shot on goal. To properly utilize Park we will need to change our formation and I am certain on one thing that it won’t happen today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Frimpong, Ramsey, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

With this team, we still will have a bench of Benayoun, Park, Chamberlain, Djourou, Santos, Fabianski and Chamakh with quite a few suspended and out injured. It does feel good to have options after failing to put out an experienced team in the opening three games. However, lots of work still needs to be done. We have got our numbers up and we have got some quality and experience in the team, but we will need to show it on the field by giving results.

As I said before, we have been given the best opprtunity and we need to give the perfect response.  

Here it is to a great win today, a first of many to follow. To all the Gooners who will be at The Emirates, be loud and vocal in your support, the team will need it today.

Enjoy the game and have a good day!