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Monday, 31 July 2017

Don't think we've got a problem?

I went to the game yesterday and got my first look at this new Arsenal squad in the flesh. I had enjoyed the game on the Saturday with some very decent attacking play on show against Benfica, but the defending had been largely woeful. Having seen some good football, however, I was really excited and looking forward to the Sevilla game. I took the family and we sat in Club Level as has become our tradition for the Emirates Cup.
What followed on the pitch was a familiarly frustrating sight of pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, give the ball away. I counted up two genuine shots on target in the whole game from Arsenal. There were a couple of efforts wide, or over the bar, but mostly it was the usual boring passing the ball to death while going nowhere. At the other end Sevilla passed the ball with a purpose, by which I mean their passing was intended to result in an effort at goal rather than making pretty patterns across the pitch. At the same time as this they showed that the "defence" employed by Arsenal yesterday was also totally inept with the notable exception of our most consistent player, Nacho Monreal.
It's time to lay out some facts here regarding our defence. We have three international footballers currently being forced out of the club in the shape of Debuchy, Jenkinson and Gibbs. Two of these lads are Arsenal through and through. Meanwhile we have had a pre-season of Wenger using Elneny and Maitland-Niles out of position at centre-back and, quite frankly, being damaged as a result. Neither of these two players are defenders and it has done them no favours to be ripped apart by Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Benfica and Sevilla in the last couple of weeks. We had Hector Bellerin back yesterday but all we saw proven down the right was that we look a whole lot better at both ends of the pitch when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plays in his position - if Barcelona offered serious cash I'd be more than tempted to cash in on Bellerin, while keeping Debuchy and Jenkinson. On the other side I was impressed by Kolasinac, especially going forward, on Saturday. However, we showed that there is nothing there to cover him in the event of an injury unless Monreal is moved away from his highly effective role in the back three. Cohen Brammall is surely living the dream at Arsenal, and good luck to him for that, but the lad was so far out of his depth it was quite frightening yesterday. It's not his fault, he just isn't a top level footballer. What I've seen from him reminded me a lot of Glen Kamara and Ismael Benaccer when they played in the League Cup at Sheffield Wednesday. You have to wonder why Kieran Gibbs is being shown the door.
Of course the defence has largely been bereft of Holding, Chambers and Mustafi for the pre-season schedule. At the same time should we really be reliant on the promising, but mostly untested, Holding? Or Chambers and Mustafi who have failed to look the part during their Arsenal careers to date? There is also the worrying sign that Laurent Koscielny might have lost half a yard of pace - King Koscielny has always made the odd error at times when his concentration has slipped, but take away his speed and you have a Mertesacker without the ability to read the play. Worrying times for a defence that was already sub-standard.
At the top end of the pitch I was very pleased to see Lacazette get a goal yesterday. He grew in to the game but was having to move in to areas of the pitch he might not like to be just to get some service. As a result we saw some useful link play from him when coming wide, but this was at the expense of having anyone in the centre when the ball was moved on. Aaron Ramsey had a fine game, while Welbeck looked good in the first-half and non-existent in the second. Of course we are missing Alexis Sanchez at this point, but maybe that's something we ought to get used to - who knows how bad his flu might get?! And then we come to my favourite person, Mesut Ozil. That feeling of frustration I mentioned above is almost exclusively a result of him getting the ball. So many times he has possession of the football and you feel yourself thinking "right, now go at them!" What you get instead is a three yard pass to the nearest Arsenal player, usually one of the full-backs, while he trots off to find space to do it all over again when he gets the ball next time. Something that summed him, and the way Wenger has this Arsena team playing, came in injury-time. There we are, 2-1 behind, and Petr Cech comes charging forward to joint he players in the penalty-area for a corner. Ozil, having just passed up the opportunity to score down in front of us, is standing over the ball. He chooses to play it short and the ball never does get crossed in to the penalty area. Frustrated? Is it any wonder?
It's wrong, of course, to judge too much on pre-season games. Until recent years very few people even saw these games as they weren't televised - there wasn't much call for Southend v Arsenal, for example, to be on the box. As a result, if you weren't at the games then you only had a brief newspaper report to find out what went on. Following the pioneering Makita Tournament's, Amsterdam Tournament, and now the far-east and American "tour" matches there is a market to see these glamour friendlies so we all have a chance to see what's going on. Most of it remains irrelevant until the league starts, but that doesn't mean I can't be worried and annoyed already! Roll on Members Day this Thursday...will Alexis be there?

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