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Sunday, 21 February 2016

So much for momentum

Iwobi impressed again yesterday

Yes, Arsenal changed a lot of players from the Leicester game. However, I would venture it is not unreasonable to expect Arsenal's squad players to be stronger than Hull City's - they made ten changes to their starting XI. Annoyingly the fringe Arsenal players mostly lacked the desire required to beat an inferior opponent. There was a lack of effort and movement from a group of players who should have been using yesterday to lay down a marker to Arsene Wenger for the Premier League run-in. With the notable exceptions of Chambers, Welbeck and Iwobi there was nothing even remotely showing inspiration. 
Arsenal were entirely predictable in their play. Wenger got it badly wrong, yet again, by playing Walcott through the centre and Welbeck out wide. Hull played with their usual three centre-backs against Arsenal and, just like in the 2014 FA Cup Final, our lone-striker could do almost nothing against them. We all know Arsene doesn't do tactics so it was no surprise. That doesn't mean it isn't continually frustrating to watch. As much as anything else it's not really fair on Theo Walcott, regardless of his own shortcomings, to put him through the middle all alone against three big centre-halves. The decision to play Walcott there instead of Welbeck tells me that Danny would not play in the absence of Giroud and that worries me greatly.
Hull also came with the intention to get men behind the ball and make it difficult for Arsenal to get through the middle. Of course this meant that we kept going from side to side of their penalty-area with no intention whatsoever of putting a ball in to the box. Doing so would have been pointless in any case as Theo is not an Olivier Giroud who might  be able to win the odd aerial challenge - as he did when he came on later. Mertesacker was seeing far too much of the ball as Arsenal failed to break down the Hull defence. When we did get in and produce a shot we found a goalkeeper who made one or two very good saves, but largely he was made to look good by our usual woeful finishing. 
The pass, pass, pass was almost totally ineffective. Welbeck occasionally ran at a defender, and should have had a penalty for it, but it was mostly Iwobi who seemed to understand that committing a defender and going past him might actually open something up. I don't know if Iwobi is going to really make it at Arsenal and it is unclear what his real position might actually be. What I do know is that he has impressed me when he's played in the first-team because he will occasionally try and do something a bit different to the others. I fail to see how Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain (and on yesterday's display, even Joel Campbell - though he was desperately unlucky to not score with a superb free-kick) can be ahead of him in the pecking-order at the moment.
Mohamed ElNeny should also have been given a penalty after his goal-bound shot was stopped by the deliberately placed arm of Alex Bruce. Aside from that, and one very good pass inside the full-back to Flamini, I wasn't impressed by the new man. Against Burnley he seemed to like a shot or two, but Wenger has quickly coached that enterprising approach out of him. Yesterday he was, again, weak in the challenge and easily knocked off the ball, while displaying an uncanny resemblance to Ray Wilkins in his penchant for the square pass. I imagine the stats show he completed a lot of passes yesterday, but I'd be hard-pushed to think of too many that were in a forward direction. As my Dad said during the second-half, on that performance it is hard to think that there aren't players in the lower divisions who are at least as capable. He's just settling in still, but I haven't seen anything from him yet that makes me think he will have a massive impact at some point in the future. I don't think we'll see too much of him outside the FA Cup this season.
Calum Chambers had a decent game yesterday. He is another who should have been awarded a penalty when he was brought down by Meyler in the second-half. I've just watched Match Of The Day where they excused the tackle from behind on the grounds that he got a touch of the ball. The BBC pundits and their failure to recognise what the laws of the game actually say is becoming a weekly source of frustration. They also totally ignored the fact that Laurent Koscielny should have been sent-off for two yellow-cards by not even bothering to show it! Koscielny is a very lucky man to still be in the frame to play at Old Trafford next weekend and it was gambling in a big way to leave him on the pitch after he had been let off by the cretinous Mike Dean.
We might even have lost the game had Hull taken their best chance. Meyler got in down the left and David Ospina decided to do his best Bob Wilson in the '71 Cup Final impression by walking towards the edge of the six-yard box. Fortunately Meyler is no Steve Heighway and he mis-kicked his shot in to the side-netting. If they had nicked a winner, such was the paucity of effort and performance from Arsenal, you couldn't really have argued that Hull might have deserved it.
The draw was not ideal as it means another game. In reality the players that will largely make up the team at the KC Stadium will not be spending much time on the pitch in the Premier League and Champions League games that will surround it. Ultimately the 0-0 draw is far better than a defeat as we are still in the FA Cup at this point and that is a good thing. I still fancy us to go through as, maybe, Hull will have to come out just a little bit more at home which might leave more space for us higher up the pitch. It's also unlikely that Jakupovic could play quite so well again. The loss of the momentum and the feeling of being "up" from last Sunday is what concerns me more right now, especially ahead of what will either be a great night or an absolute hiding on Tuesday evening.

I'll be writing a post tomorrow about how Arsenal might need to change their attitude and become a lot more nasty if we are to go on from here and do something special this season.


  1. JUST because you got lucky against a 10 man lcfc side & a moment of madness in the dieing seconds. Doesn't make you Prem champions & FA cup winners

  2. JUST because you got lucky against a 10 man lcfc side & a moment of madness in the dieing seconds. Doesn't make you Prem champions & FA cup winners