Ramsey - lack of pace seriously exposed
Between the match at Blackburn, and Christmas, one of the most impressive things about this Arsenal team was the apparent fact that they had shrugged off the previous tendency to coast through certain matches. Gone was the attitude of "all we have to do is turn up against this lot." Over the last couple of weeks is has alarmingly returned, along with the kind of amateurish defending that saw us humiliated at Old Trafford and Ewood Park.
For ten minutes at the start of the game yesterday I thought we were looking at a fine performance that would see a very good win. And then the players simply stopped playing. It seemed that they decided Swansea City were not very good and the next 80 minutes could be coasted through with no problems at all. In short, they forgot the need to work hard for each other in order to get results. With only Ignasi Miquel not a full international this one certainly can't be put down to a lack of experience.
We scored a superb early goal through Robin Van Persie, played in by a lovely pass from Andrey Arshavin. We cut through their defence brilliantly, and it wasn't the first chance of the game. In the very first minute Van Persie had sent Walcott clear only for him to fail to control the ball and run it straight in to touch. I have to say my patience with Walcott has finally snapped. There has been no improvement whatsoever in Walcott's basic football skills in his six years at Arsenal. I hear people saying he has not been allowed to play in his preferred role, and that is probably a fair point. However, there is no excuse for any professional footballer to be so incapable to controlling a football, running with a football, and passing a football to someone on the same team. I have never seen anyone play so often, yet be so clueless as to the correct option and the execution of it. In injury-time at the end of the game he was given a pass by Thierry Henry, who had just won the ball in midfield and set us on the attack. Walcott immediately turned back towards his own goal and passed it to Johan Djourou who was faced up by two Swansea players. Theo Walcott is a joke as a footballer. If he is genuinely asking for £85,000-a-week Arsenal should show him exactly where the exit door is. He will never, ever, be a top class player. Just compare him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he came on - twice he was able to run at his man, and he beat him both times before picking out a red shirt in the centre.
Swansea's penalty has been shown to be a joke decision. My first reaction was that it was a foul by Ramsey, but the TV pictures show something quite different. What they also show is that the referee is only five yards away, with a clear view of the incident. Why does he give a penalty? When you've watched Arsenal's matches since the game at Manchester City, and the decisions that we have had not going our way, it gets harder and harder to take.
While it wasn't a penalty you can't deny that Swansea deserved to win the game. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the whole match is that Arsenal were outplayed at their own game by a bunch of second division footballers. On a difficult pitch the Swans' players stroked the ball around with pace and class. They were confident and more than able to mix it. They had superior fitness that allowed them to close Arsenal down for ninety minutes. They were better than Arsenal in every single facet of the game. What they also had was a clear idea of where Arsenal's main weakness would be, and it came in the lack of pace of Aaron Ramsey. Every time he got the ball there were men closing him down and he simply had no answer. The way he got caught on the ball for the second goal was shockingly bad. I read last night where someone was saying Miquel was out of position, but that was because the lad had won the ball and had stepped forward because we looked to be on the break. The goal was Ramsey's fault, make no mistake.
We've heard a lot in recent months about how our good run was due, in no small part, to our new and experienced players. How, then, do we explain the winning goal? On Match Of The Day last night Lee Dixon highlighted the way Arsenal lined up at the kick-off following our equaliser. We had three men - Walcott, Van Persie and Ramsey - seemingly still high-fiving each other on the far side of the pitch. Tomas Rosicky was paying no attention to the situation whatsoever in midfield, while Miquel was a long way from home, with nobody telling him to hold his position. It was schoolboy stuff. When the kick-off was made the ball immediately was won by Miquel and passed to Thierry Henry. For some reason Henry tried a casual flick in to midfield and gave it away again. Let's be clear that, had that been Arshavin, the fans would have been going mad. It was awful from Henry and he deserves to be hammered as much as anyone else. From there Koscielny made his only error in weeks as he failed to track his runner, but I also believe he saw Szczesny coming and backed off. The Pole then stopped coming and got himself in to no-man's land. It was an absolute car-wreck of a goal to concede and you would have to say that, had it been Almunia or Fabianski in goal they would have been slagged something chronic. Szczesny has made a lot of mistakes in recent weeks. For me he has too much to say for someone who has achieved nothing. It's time for him to be taken in hand by the Club and told to keep his mouth shut, and concentrate on becoming a good goalkeeper.
One other thing I want to comment on is how the Manager should be questioned once again. Back in August Arsene Wenger spent £4 million of our money on a centre-forward from Monaco. We have seen precious little of Ju Young Park. Yesterday, when we were losing, Wenger chose to bring on a midfield player, Tomas Rosicky, who hasn't scored (or even looked like scoring) for two years (I'm ignoring his goal at Orient). Wenger must be asked why he spent this money on Park. If the guy isn't going to get a game ahead of someone like Rosicky when we are losing, then what the hell is he doing at Arsenal Football Club? I don't blame Park for not being good enough, but I do blame Wenger for wasting money that should have been invested in a player that might actually be of the standard required.
Fourth place (which is far from good enough for Arsenal) is now looking a very tough ask. In light of recent results I think we can forget the top three. That means we are chasing Chelsea. Now that they have signed a defender worthy of the name I can't see us catching them. We are, once again, in need of quality players. On the evidence of yesterday, in particular, the likes of Szczesny, Mertesacker, Ramsey, Walcott, Arshavin, Rosicky and Benayoun are lacking when it comes to needing something extra. One or two of those believe their own headlines, while the others simply lack the necessary pace to influence a game proplerly. It feels like we are back to where we were in August, but the Manager will do nothing about it despite the millions available. It is going to be a long four months.