We won a European match away from home last night. Victory puts us in a very good position to qualify from the group. Players from the bench made an impact on the game and we've had no injuries. Yet I can't shake off the disappointment I felt at the full time whistle. I even feel somewhat guilty about not enjoying the finale as much as I should. We all have our own unique way of following a team. Some people couldn't care less how we win a game as long as we win because the feeling that everybody wants to share is that winning feeling. For me, winning is a consequence of playing the game well. I get my entertainment from Arsenal playing well.
The game last night was anything but entertaining, at least from an Arsenal perspective.
I had hoped that Hector Bellerin would have started at right back following his good showing at the weekend. Clearly Arsène went for experience over natural positions but as I've said countless times this season our backline shouldn't be as much of a problem as it is because if we were on our game then we have a very good chance of being out of sight before 71 minutes.
As it was, our game was purely about possession not because that was our intention but because we are not swift enough with the ball to open teams up. We've quickly transformed into a rather individualistic team in a matter of months. That is the complete opposite to what Arsène Wenger teams are about. Alexis is dominating the Arsenal team now, he is now the go to man. Even if he isn't passed to, he goes to get it from the opposition. His style is to run at players and take many touches of the ball. Jack Wilshere is dribbling past players and I think it is unbalancing our game. I read a stat somewhere that Arsenal have had the most dribbles this season so far. That is not typical of an Arsene Wenger team. Watch the goals against Aston Villa early this season, those goals were typical of Arsene Wenger's team. Is it any coincidence that both Alexis and Wilshere were on the bench?
Just to clarify though, these dribbles are happening high up the pitch where as we are passing from back to midfield. Last night our build up play from the back was very slow and was never going to pull the home side out of position.
The first half was stale but the second half was pretty woeful. As I mentioned in the preview, Anderlecht have been strong domestically at home but quickly turn into the whipping boys when it comes to the Champions League. Last night their keeper didn't have much in the way of a save to make.
This is proof that a component in Wengerball is damaged and is in need of fixing. We don't shoot speculatively, we pass to get into better scoring positions and when our game is faulty then our chances don't arrive frequently.
Anderlecht started to get encouraged by our poor showing and that allowed them to grow into the game. You could sense that they were capable of getting a goal and eventually it came. We allowed a cross to come in from the right as we did against Hull and we couldn't win the header which was excellently dispatched I may add.
That goal hit us like a huge uppercut to the chin, we were all over the place and could not stand straight for ten minutes, in which time the home side should have put us to bed. They had the chances but failed to make it count. They actually reminded me of a young Arsenal team during the periods 2009-2011. Going ahead, missing chances and then showboating. As time was ticking down the Anderlecht players started flicking the ball to each other and over elaborating when seeing the game out should have been the goal.
Interestingly Arsène sent on Joel Campbell ahead of Lukas Podolski. Oxlade-Chamberlain also came on and gave the team a more direct option. Podolski finally came on for Wilshere on 82. Podolski put up two fingers to Alexis Sanchez to indicate the system change to 4-4-2 and we began to pressure the home team.
Chambers cross on 89 minutes fell invitingly to Gibbs to place into the corner on the volley for 1-1 and in stoppage time Alexis chested and nicked the ball past his marker in the box expertly in one swift movement. His cut back bounced off the unsuspecting defender to the left foot of Podolski who took a touch and placed high into the net for the winner.
The situation required urgency and we were able to go up a gear. We did the same against Hull at the weekend and snatched a draw. Sometimes I feel our patience is our worst enemy at times.
Overall it was a very poor performance, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks otherwise I'd imagine but I think too many people are jumping to conclusions too soon.
We have lost one starter from last season. An experienced player no doubt but still only one player from a team that finished seven points from the Champions. We have bought a player who has been our best performer this season. Alexis Sanchez is the one shining light from our last two games, and I am sure he will get even better. Danny Welbeck's goals to games so far in an Arsenal shirt is proof enough that he will contribute a lot this season, even if we miss Oliver Giroud's ability to bring others in around the box.
Our defensive display at Stamford Bridge all over the pitch was very good and that was only a few weeks ago. We were impressive going forward against Manchester City, Aston Villa and Galatasaray. We looked like a team starting to click but injuries and I suspect confidence needs improving and quickly.
We are in a good position to qualify now but I don't care too much about that right now. A better foundation for this team will be to improve our football and as I said at the start of this article, winning will be a consequence of playing well.
Someone please fix that faulty gear box and lets get out of first gear and start a winning run already. Starting on Saturday.