Written by Mean Lean on Thursday, 25 October 2012 19:11
I wish I had written this last night now. My body is in the middle of digesting another poor display but now I have to bring it back up to the surface. Uncomfortable and painful.
I stated in my match preview that I had a bad feeling about the game so in some ways I think it had lessened the blow at the final whistle somewhat.
Confidence is such an important factor in this sport and with the Germans coming off the back of a fantastic away win at the German champions, along with our quite pathetic display at Norwich, well only one team would step onto that pitch with a spring in their step and it wasn't going to be us.
The Emirates stadium is not a place where the Arsenal players can snuggle into a bosom for comfort, the Arsenal supporters wanted to see a reaction after the weekend so it was a case of that football, supporter catch-22 that we witness so often when a team goes through bad form.
Before I get onto our own display, I think we should all give plenty of credit to the opposition who were fantastic in every department, and perhaps should have won by more than two clear goals. They are not Aston Villa, and deserve respect. They have many top class players and were the better side on the night without question. Schalke had started the game with the aim to keep things tight, get behind the ball and not allow us to score the first goal, when they settled down, they then took the game to us.
They obviously had a game plan to play passes in behind Andre Santos and get Farfan sprinting after the ball much in the way we do with Theo Walcott. It worked. They had torn us to shreds over and over again in the first 45 minutes. I expected Santos to sit a little after the first few times but he kept coming forward, kept moving into central midfield areas and he was not being covered by his team mates.
We were lucky to go into half time with a clean sheet. Like many have said, it is amazing to think that nothing was done tactically to stop our left side of the pitch being exploited the way it was.
The team's attitude and commitment was questioned last night but I get the feeling that some are lumping last night's display with our game against Norwich. There was nothing wrong with our commitment last night, we just simply played very poorly. Especially offensively. Our attack has become a real issue and for an Arsene Wenger team that must be a concern.
Gervinho has lost his early season sharpness, Podolski has been stuck on the wing deep in his own half at times. While Aaron Ramsey on the right gave us very little on the night. We look very disjointed going forward and it doesn't help when the personnel in attack are being rotated on almost a weekly basis.
The two Dutchmen scored the goals for the Germans, mistakes were made as ever when goals are conceded. It is the nature of the beast. I do not need to explain how they came about. It is too late in the day for that now.
Beyond the goalkeeper, tactics, personnel and what have you, what is most worrying is our bluntness in attack. It is very concerning that we have not been able to create chances for two matches in a row.
It must be worrying Arsene because for any of his faults, building creative goal scoring teams has certainly not been one of them. We look completely devoid of ideas. We are having possession and doing very little with it. Very little interchanging, very few quick combinations and the movement from the front players is almost nonexistent.
The question Arsene needs to find the answer to, is why has the International break disrupted us so badly? The Chelsea defeat aside, we had been doing very well. Even against Chelsea we had enough chances to have won that match but since all the players have come back to Arsenal from their travels, they look like they have never set eyes on each other before, let alone understand each other's play.
This has been the problem with Arsene's football for a while. When finely tuned, it is one of the best in the world to watch and also hugely effective but when something goes slightly wrong, we break down. Then it takes plenty of twiddling and adjusting to get us back to where we need to be to win games.
I would love to look back at the data and write some analysis on this subject but I am guessing that our results depend on our form more than most teams. I guess it is difficult to measure teams out of form though so researching could be tricky.
You do not need to be in a rich vein of form to defend as a unit defensively and then cross well and attack the ball. Manchester United have done this many times and showed this recently against Raga after going two goals down. But to play a pass and move game, relying on confidence in your technique requires a high level of belief and consistency in your game. Injuries, tiredness or a drop of confidence can put a stop to that and my guess is that we are seeing just that at the moment. A wire has been cut in our system and the whole team has shut down.
I have no question that we will improve as a team. I mean, we have a list of players to come back into the team of quality but I refuse to use injuries as an excuse because we have players on that pitch at Norwich and yesterday against Schalke that are good enough to create chances, keep clean sheets and win games.
It is just a worry how fragile our position is regardless of how well we are playing. We need to find an automatic gear that will still win games. Perhaps that most fabled story of the wonderful plan b.
I am tempted to once again talk about Arsene Wenger's management style but it seems like something I do every season when we go through a bad run of fixtures so I am staying clear of that for now for the most part. His strengths keep us in the Champions League every season even though we have sold so many top players but his weaknesses do not seem to be addressed. A vicious footballing circle but perhaps that is something for another time.
I do want to jump back to the match for a second and end with something remotely positive, because quite frankly I much rather enjoy bathing in positivity than the raging negativity that is going around right now.
Francis Coquelin was included last night, his first game for a while now and the boy done good. We have had issues of players coming in without games and not being able to produce due to lack of game time. Coquelin looked sharp, passed cleanly and as Tom Watt would say 'the boy loves a tackle'
Based on the last two matches, I would say that he deserves a place in the team ahead of Aaron Ramsey who seems to have come back from the Internationals out of sorts like most of the team.
It may well be a little unfair or too much pressure for Serge Gnabry to be given a starting spot during this period of bad form but quite frankly, he looks like our only fit attacking player who is making things happen. He has done more in his last two cameos than other senior players have done in 90 minute games.
He gave the ball away late in the game which cost us the second goal but he is purposeful, quick and the ball seems to get drawn to him. He showed some of his potential only seconds of coming on the pitch. A drag in between two players gave him room for the cross and it was one of the few times the crowd stood to their feet. He was also the only player to get a shot on target during the whole game.
I want to see Cazorla feeding passes into him, that could be the one thing that could spark this team back into life.
We are still in a good position in our group to qualify so this defeat is not the end of our season although back to back defeats feels a little like that.
We are much better than this as we showed against Manchester City and Liverpool not so long ago and that is why these results feel so bad.
Whatever the issues are post Internationals, we need to fix up and get some players back from the treatment table. Let us shut the door on what has been an awful week and get back to our best.
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