Top, top quality
Anyone who was at the game on Wednesday will be hard pressed to disagree with Arsene Wenger when he says how good this squad of players are. After all it's not every group of defenders that can provide the sort of entertainment we got the other night. The trouble is that the job of those players is actually to play football effectively, not to have them rolling in the aisles like Del Boy might have done. For Liverpool's first goal there were more prat falls than you used to get in a Norman Wisdom sketch. The second was no better as Arsenal's players decided Jordan Henderson is so crap that there is no need to try and tackle him. I heard that Gary Neville said after the game it had nothing to do with coaching or quality as these are just individual errors. However, is it not the case that top players make less errors than poorer players? Given the frequency of the "individual errors" this Arsenal side makes in its own penalty area I would suggest there is a fundamental dearth in quality.
We all knew what Arsenal needed going in to the transfer window. Before it started we were assured by Wenger that he would be "busy" in the transfer market. That really should have been the first point at which we smelled a rat. As January got going he flitted between his standard soundbites during transfer periods. We had everything from "we work very hard" to "it's difficult to find the players to improve your squad" and on it went. The fact is that we are actually weaker than we were in December. More players left than came in at Arsenal. Moreover, had it not been for Kieran Gibbs getting injured (sadly he is another player who is incapable of playing more than six weeks without pulling up lame) Wenger would not have entered the transfer market at all. As it is, we have failed to add to the squad in the areas of most need.
I noticed on the Arsenal website yesterday they had a feature on Olivier Giroud and his recent goalscoring form. There can be no doubt that Giroud has done quite well recently. He has scored a nice few goals and that is encouraging. However, he has also missed a great number of important chances. At Chelsea he missed the goal completely when one on one with the goalkeeper. Against Liverpool he got us back in the game with a good header, but missed chances to win the game after that (one from six yards out in front of an open goal). He should have had a hat-trick at Brighton. I like Giroud. I think we are beginning to maybe play more to his strengths. He works particularly hard to get on the ball and is exceptional at winning headers. However, he is just short of being a genuinely top class striker. He would be a very good back-up option and, maybe, we could get even more out of him with a change in formation (don't get me started on that again). But when it comes to it Giroud is more of a Sylvain Wiltord than a Thierry Henry or, perhaps a fairer comparison, more Niall Quinn than Alan Smith. I don't wish to pick on Giroud as I think he is doing just fine for a player of his ability, but I want to illustrate that Wenger speaks nonsense about his players. He tells us we can't improve the "squad" yet we went in to yet another game the other night with no centre-forward among our seven substitutes. That is not acceptable at Arsenal Football Club. The bloke we did have up front is good, but not great. And yet Wenger can't improve that by making a signing or two? Really?
Hopefully I'll be in a position to write something late on Sunday. I am going to be at the game tomorrow afternoon, but I have to leave before the end (yes, I'll be one of those annoying idiots) as I have to go to work tomorrow night. I don't know if we'll see anything of our new left-back Nacho Monreal tomorrow against Stoke, but I very much doubt we'll see Andre Santos starting the game either. I expect to see Thomas Vermaelen move to left-back with Koscielny coming in to the centre of defence. We know what Stoke will do because we know what they're like. I just hope Jack Wilshere has got himself a pair of steel shin pads for the afternoon. I will be very surprised if Jack and Theo Walcott are not targeted for what the media might call Stoke's "physical approach" to the game. Beware the Neanderthals.