We can now say we have a goalkeeper
I was on holiday for the whole of last week, hence no writing before or after the Crystal Palace game. Given that we still haven't signed anyone I doubt there'd have been much other than space filling in any case.
I went to the game last night, my first competitive match of the season in the flesh, and I'm still stuck on one home win in the whole of 2015. Having seen Liverpool rattle the bar in the first couple of minutes I thought we then hit our stride for a short while. There was some decent football from the Arsenal players and we had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside - Liverpool are enjoying something of a rub of the green in that regard in the first few games of this season. It was a pretty awful decision. When you're at a game you get a feel for whether certain decisions are correct or not and, even from the other end, you just sensed that Ramsey wasn't in an offside position. You could see his run had been made well. When the lad who sits next to me showed me a picture of the incident on his phone shortly after it just confirmed pretty much what we already knew.
After that we were all over the place for a long time. The defence (and by that I mean Bellerin and Chambers) and Cazorla seemed intent on giving Liverpool possession of the football within 35 yards of our goal on a regular basis. I thought Gabriel tried manfully in the absence of a fellow centre-back while Francis Coquelin was totally imperious as he bailed Chambers out of the mire time and again. I've said it before on here but Calum Chambers simply isn't good enough for this level. With Mertesacker and Koscielny both missing I would far rather have seen Monreal or Debuchy playing next to Gabriel. It is a shame for Chambers that he came to Arsenal with an £18m transfer fee as, at the moment, he isn't proving to be worth even half of that. If ever a player was selected for England by virtue of playing for one of the big clubs then it is Calum Chambers. He is slow, he can't turn, he is generally out of position, and he is incapable to making a challenge without fouling his man. Quite simply he isn't Arsenal quality and he should have been loaned out instead of Carl Jenkinson. If nothing else it would have given him a chance to prove himself, or otherwise, without the potential to damage Arsenal's points tally.
With Benteke dominating the woefully out of place Chambers, and Coutinho tearing apart Hector Bellerin, we needed Petr Cech to perform heroics. That was exactly what he did. He made two of the saves of the season in that first-half to keep it at 0-0. The save from Benteke at close-range was incredible, while the finger-tips he got to the shot from Coutinho on half-time was almost from another planet. I have concerns over the way he is glued to his line most of the time (he never needed to come and dominate his area with John Terry playing in front of him) but last night Cech proved that he is a cut above anyone we've had in goal since Jens Lehmann was dropped by Wenger. His handling at times was superb as well, with one stinging shot from Milner brilliantly held in the second-half.
Thanks to Cech and Coquelin and Monreal (for me the two best players at Arsenal since Christmas) we got to half-time at 0-0. After that we played quite a bit better. Gabriel took on the task of challenging Benteke and pretty much put him in his pocket. Bellerin was still being totally outclassed by Coutinho and it was a relief (as well as an indication that Rodgers is totally clueless) when Liverpool took him off near the end of the game. I would happily see Debuchy back in the side at right-back on Saturday. I thought Ozil improved a fair bit after the break (not difficult when you've been so totally anonymous) but still refused to take on responsibility all the time there was a stat boosting five yard backwards pass available. He went on one run late on where he beat three defenders, ultimately giving the ball away, but that kind of thing is what I want to see from him, especially when one-on-one with a full-back around the penalty-area.
Olivier Giroud has had plenty of stick today and his performance last night totally merited it. He was in one of the moods he usually reserves for Chelsea or Stoke where he doesn't seem to fancy the physical battle. He didn't seem to win a single header all night, but he would have actually had to try and challenge for one in order to do so. He was static for the majority of the game making service to him next to impossible, while giving Lovren and Skrtel an easy time of it. When he did finally get in with his chance to score he fluffed it - it may have been a foul but nobody, least of all Giroud, seemed to claim anything from the referee.
As usual Arsenal's attacks were mostly up to the edge of the penalty-area and not much further. There weren't enough shots worthy of the name and we really didn't test the dodgy Mignolet anything like enough. The less said about our corners the better. It was crying out for something different but, for me, that didn't mean Theo up front on his own. For all that I've had a pop at Giroud here I'd have kept him on and taken off Ozil or Alexis to allow Theo to play up front with Giroud. At the same time we should have seen either Cazorla or Ramsey taken off to get Oxlade-Chamberlain on with at least 30 minutes to go. The first thing Ox did on his introduction was to beat his man and put a cross in that Skrtel nearly turned in to his own net. Having spoken of the need to play with pace we saw our Manager only introduce any of it to the pitch with less than twenty minutes left! It's bizarre.
We have now worryingly dropped five points in the first two home matches of the season and not scored a goal. Dropping cheap home points is not the stuff of Title challengers. I read Ozil and Mertesacker talking yet again in the media at the weekend about what we "need to do" against Liverpool. I'm sick of reading stuff from our players and then not seeing them produce it. Do your talking where it matters and keep your mouths shut the rest of the time.
The lack of points and lack of goals only makes the clamour for a new striker ever louder. This is totally understandable. Olivier Giroud is a very good striker, but he isn't a top class striker. Giroud is the bloke I want to see on the bench who comes on and finishes teams off (he actually has a great record from the bench). I'm not necessarily upset that Benzema seems to be staying at Real Madrid as I don't think he's really any better than Giroud, but we need someone. Surely Wenger must see that? If he doesn't then we're doomed. If he does then why has he not done the business yet? He says the transfer window should close before the season starts, yet he fails to get deals done before now. As I said, we've dropped five home points already. If we sign a player or two now and miss out on the Title by two or three points then we've simply wasted the opportunity to win the Premier League before we've even got started. It's the madness of King Arsene.
Amid all this we still haven't seen Danny Welbeck in months and months. He was supposed to have been "available" for the FA Cup Final but is still out injured now. There was a rumour that he'd refused to be a sub for a game near the back end of last season and I said at the time it was nonsense. Now I'm not so certain. I see today that Wenger says he might be back after the international break, but will that be at Arsenal? I do wonder if there has been a falling out with Danny Welbeck and Arsene Wenger and his prolonged absence is simply a ruse. It would come as no surprise to me that, if we were to finally bring in a centre-forward worthy of the number nine shirt, then Welbeck would be on his way out of the door straight away. At the very least his "injury" must be regarded as suspicious as far as I'm concerned. Time will tell, and I hope I'm wrong.