1) As I am writing these questions, I'm still unsure of where my emotions are at. What did you make of the game?
@EvaMcL3 - I can write a long story on what I thought during the game, but it can be summarised in just a few words. It was a dreadful and rather embarrassing performance, with most of the players looking like they couldn't care less about the result. Kudos to young goalkeeper Martinez, who did rather well.
@mantomanmarking - Oddly, in a position where I'm debating with myself whether gaining those last-gasp three points are a positive for the club and team. Yes, three points help the table, but easing the pressure can, wrongly, calm minds and therefore performances. On the performance itself, what can be said that wasn't seen? Tenuous display that really didn't seem to have any tactical solidarity, and especially no threat.
@woolwich_1886 - When we went into halftime scoreless, it was depressing and hard to resist comparisons to the results from Tuesday when multiple clubs had jumped out to three- and four-goal leads. I figured that we would limp to another draw (and be lucky to have that). It's frustrating to see how lacklustre we are, even against clubs we should run away from. After conceding the first goal, I was ready to resign myself to a loss while hoping that Anderlecht and Galatasary would crumble enough to let us sneak through anyway. Those late goals saved us the embarrassment for now. On one hand, I'm tremendously relieved. On the other, I'm vexed and irritated. In the end, we got a vital three points but can't keep making it so hard for ourselves.
2) Are you more concerned with our attacking play or defensive displays in the last two games? Explain why.
@EvaMcL3 - Definitely our attacking play, our defensive display has been absolutely shocking too though. However, defensively we did not have our strongest players on the pitch, instead we had 4 players who weren't used to each other working as hard as they could, most of them anyway. Attacking wise, we have incredible attacking midfielders and forwards, but they seem to have forgotten how to shoot and look obsessed with trying to pass and dribble the ball into the net.
@mantomanmarking - Defensive. From start to finish, from top to toe, from attack to defence (position wise). It's bad enough playing Flamini - I truly think he'd struggle at Championship level, let alone Champions League - but playing him in a formation which further exposes and isolates him is ludicrous. The defensive-midfielder is the heart of a defensive transition - which is what Arsenal seem to fall back on a lot, and utilising him, or even Arteta, for that position is proving so very costly.
@woolwich_1886 - I'm much more concerned with our defense. For one, we went into this match down to a third-string keeper and 17-year old back-up, and our back four look porous and fragile. We're without Debuchy for a while longer and might be without Koscielny for a stretch as well. Gibbs, Mertesacker, Monreal, Chambers. Bellerin. Chambers's fouling and booking has got to stop, and we're an injury away from having to shuffle players even more. In 14 competitive matches, we've conceded the first goal eight times. That's shocking. It forces us to chase the game and allows opponents to sit back, dare us to unlock them, and hit us on counterattacks. As a result, our offense stagnates against parked-bus defenses.
3) Which players stood out for you in a positive sense today?
@EvaMcL3 - Gibbs and Alexis. Both players made some mistakes, but both were fighting as hard as they could to turn the game around. I feel like Gibbs doesn't get the credit he deserves, despite being a solid fullback doing exactly what the manager expects him to do. He's unfairly criticised for coming up the pitch, which has been a style Arsène has had Arsenal teams playing for years, but unlike most fullbacks, Gibbs' teammates either lack the vision or just can't be bothered to cover for him. As for Alexis, as always he played to the best of his abilities. He was all over the pitch and worked his socks off. Like everyone today he made a few mistakes, but overall he was one of our best and most passionate players out there.
@mantomanmarking - None. You could maybe, possibly, if you were desperate to shine any kind of positive light on the match, argue for Sanchez - but that would ultimately be it. But, hey, you can't fault their "mental strength," right?!
@woolwich_1886 - The obvious answer is again Alexis. Though the headlines will go to Gibbs and Podolski, and rightly so, this does overshadow Alexis's performance, in which he again was one of the only ones playing with urgency, the only one trying to make things happen. That directness put a lot of pressure on Anderlecht's defense and create chances--directly in the form of his four key passes and "assist" on Podolski's goal, but also indirectly by dragging and pulling Anderlecht's defense out of shape so that others could exploit the openings left behind. I just hope he isn't run ragged waiting for others to find similar stores of energy and effort.
4) Who should have done better? What did they do wrong?
@EvaMcL3 - The other 8 players on the pitch who're not Martinez, Alexis, Gibbs or a substitute. There was no desire, no passion, no communication and no leader. I am disappointed in the team as a whole. If I had to single out one player, I'd go for Mertesacker. The BFG played a nice game of "Freeze and Watch" instead of defending, for one reason or the other he doesn't seem to be able to encourage the team to step up and fight for victory, which is something I expect from a captain, and unfortunately it wasn't the first time.
@mantomanmarking - Everything, ultimately. It's silly to simply blame the system and Arsene Wenger for his tactics, yes it's the majority blame, but it's unfair to blame it all on him - especially as it was his birthday. Attacking phases are lacklustre, there's no cohesion. Anything going forward was done in an attempt of individual brilliance, and mainly by Sanchez. What did they do wrong? Everything, as well. Maybe even winning.
@woolwich_1886 - I felt that Welbeck disappointed today, not so much through the yellow card but because he seemed too wasteful: sloppy first touches, lackadaisical runs, imprecise finishing... After a spurt in which he impressed with four goals and and assist, he's turned in two tepid performances in his last three appearances. Whether this is fatigue, jadedness, or a lack of competition due to Giroud and Sanogo being unavailable, he's apparently regressed. By the time he was subbed off, I muttered to myself, "it's about time". We have only three days before visiting Sunderland, so I hope he sorts whatever the issue is in time for the trip.
5) Is there anything you would do to improve the performances with the current fit players, if the choice was up to you?
@EvaMcL3 - Whatever I had to do to get these men to play for the name on the front of the shirt, not to mention a lot of team building so that they learn to trust each other. Having said that, I'd work on defending set pieces and corners, and scoring from corners, and shooting from outside the box...
@mantomanmarking - Even with no Ozil, I still can't look past a 4-2-3-1 as the system and formation to go with. Yes, it will restrict Wilshere or Ramsey, but what's the point in trying to give them freedom to play when it's Flamini or Arteta covering? Also, a, dare I say it, double-pivot, provides more protection to the defence, and particularly the full-backs - which is where we are so often caught out, especially tonight.
@woolwich_1886 - This is a big ask, not that Arsene will be heeding any requests I make regardless of their size: stop treating possession like it's a meaningful statistic. Teams set up deliberately to frustrate us, knowing that our build-up is woefully slow and that we've entranced ourselves with our too-clever passing. We end up with seven players in attack with only Flamini, Mertesacker, and Monreal back, and we inevitably turn the ball over and are vulnerable to counterattacks, which lead to goals or set-pieces. I'm not asking us to park the bus, but I am asking that we look at our squad. Why lust over the pace of Alexis, Welbeck, and Walcott? Why lambaste Ozil when his through-balls have nowhere to go?
6) Do you think Arsenal will use the result as a springboard for our weekend trip to Sunderland?
@EvaMcL3 - They better.
@mantomanmarking - No. Even with Sunderland being embarrassed, much like we were tonight - Arsenal have nothing to take from this game, even the three points mean little to boosting "mental strength" and "resilience." Week in and week out, we say this result or that result will be a springboard for Arsenal - week in and week out, we're disappointed. There's a tough run of fixtures coming our way soon, and if we manage to stay above water through them, then it's a success. I hate to say I'd be happy with a point at the weekend. That's a very vague, and the most pleasant description of my possible emotions.
@woolwich_1886 - It's certainly better than responding to a defeat. Sunderland were absolutely thrashed by Southampton, and the less reason we give them for hope, the better. Despite the loss, Sunderland are not terrible at home (same points that we have, in fact). They've drawn against Man U and Tottenham along the way. Our dramatic win should propel us going forward, especially after the less-inspiring but still vital draw with Hull. We now have scored six goals in extra time, and opponents have got to start feeling that no lead is safe against us. If we can stop conceding the first goal, we'll start to get the results we crave. This one should serve a springboard against Sunderland, the next in a string of very winnable matches from which we must take maximum points.
7) Any other thoughts?
@mantomanmarking - Bear in mind, this is almost instantly after the match, and my emotions and riled - very much so. But, I've recently come to the painstaking decision that Arsene's time as manager is at an end. I wrote a piece the other day with the title "There's not enough sentimentality left in football for Arsene Wenger." His credo and stubbornness did the club well for years. He's given everything. Sadly, he can give no more. Now, it seems he's just taking.
@woolwich_1886 - It's interesting to note that, for as poor as we've been, we're still manufacturing points. We've only lost two competitive matches, both away to very tough opponents (okay, three including the league cup at home to Southampton). Chelsea may have stopped us from snide jokes about another Invincibles season consisting almost entirely of draws, but the injuries have disrupted our rhythm, to say the least. Any other squad that had won in such dramatic fashion would be hailed for its grit, its tenacity, its ability to win ugly. Arsenal, I'm sure, will be mocked and derided for bumbling along and riding luck to an undeserved result. I prefer to see us finding ways to win. Or draw.
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