The irony of being excited at finally getting the chance to see our first choice back four play together for the first time this season, only to see us undone by individual defensive errors is difficult to ignore. In true Arsenal fashion we had everyone fit in one area only to be down to the barest of bones in other areas of the pitch. Mathieu Flamini was the latest Arsenal player to suffer with injury before the game and was left out of the squad, at least that is what I assume. So Calum Chambers made his first start in midfield alongside Francis Coquelin. Sounds a strong enough platform doesn't it? Seemed like a good base to play a counter attacking game as we did a few days ago in East London. The game did not start that way though, as we dominated possession in the early exchanges and forced the home side to defend.
Both teams had early chances to open the scoring. Pelle, Alexis and Mane. But it was Cazorla firing straight at the keeper from Rosicky's cut back that had me slapping my thigh and wondering what if.
On 34' Szczesny and co flicked the self destruct switch and ran out to meet a chase between Mane and Koscielny in the corner of the penalty box. Doesn't Wojciech know who Koscielny is? If there was anyone I'd be comfortable in dealing with a situation it would have been Laurent. Szczesny then realising the danger started to run back towards his own goal, the trouble was that none of our defenders thought it necessary to protect the open goal and instead Mertesacker and Koscielny stood waiting for a cross or were watching players outside of the penalty area. In fairness to Mane, his lofted effort was perfect and Mertesacker's late attempt to clear could not prevent the ball from landing in the back of the net.
It was a bad time to concede (as I guess all goals you let in are) because we were the better side at that point. For us to turn it around at that stage, we would have needed improvement going forward and not to make anymore defensive mistakes. Honestly, we got neither. On 56' we dropped the pistol and instead pulled out the shotgun and blew off our foot. Davis in the side in place of the suspended Schneiderlin, took down a long pass in the box superbly and cut the ball back but Debuchy had taken the sting out of the cross and would have been able to swing his left foot at the ball and clear the danger but Szczesny intervened and poked it straight to Tadic who probably couldn't believe his luck. 2-0.
Arsène brought on Theo Walcott for Calum Chambers, moving Oxlade-Chamberlain into the middle and I thought that would give us a big threat going forward but in truth it did very little to effect the match. In fact I'd be very surprised if Theo managed to touch the ball more than 10 times in 30 minutes.
If anything we were lucky not to fall further behind as the home side hit the post and missed more chances. We were finding it difficult to create clear cut chances throughout the game and usually had to rely on Alexis cutting inside a crowd of players and try and get a shot away.
Several players were below par such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs amongst others and that is no real surprise given the lack of options we have at present. Some will call it excuses others a reasonable explanation that a team missing Ospina, Arteta, Flamini, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil, Gnabry, Giroud, Sanogo, Podolski and Welbeck were going to struggle with tired legs after having played two difficult away matches in 6 days.
If we continue to have 12 players missing from each squad then I will be deeply concerned but surely that cannot continue surely, even for us. 6 points from 9 it is then. With the FA Cup clash coming up, hopefully we'll be able to rest players who are in need of it. Gain some players from the treatment table and hopefully add something from the transfer window.
A game to forget me thinks.