Southampton 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal were once again left to rue a poor defensive display on Sunday, which completely undermined their chances of securing all three points against Southampton.
Monday, 11 December 2017
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Arsenal 1-3 Man United
As the final whistle sounded on Saturday evening, Arsenal fans around the World had the same stunned expression on their face. They had just witnessed an exceptional attacking performance from their side, against one of the best teams in the league, but yet somehow had still ended up on the losing side.
For several years Arsenal’s attacking play has been lauded while their defensive work has come in for severe criticism. However, there cannot have been many previous occasions when the disparity between the two units has been so vast during a single match. The Gunners were simply outstanding going forward, carving out chance after chance after chance against a side managed by Jose Mourinho, the supposed defensive guru who always knows how to stifle the opposition’s attack. By the end of the match Arsenal had registered 33 efforts on goal but unfortunately could only find the back of the net once as they came up against an inspired David de Gea who made a total of 14 saves to deny the hosts, the joint highest in Premier League history. The numbers themselves were ridiculous, the kind of numbers that would be impressive had Arsenal registered them against one of the smaller sides in the league, let alone one that has had vast sums spent on it during recent transfer windows and is supposedly fighting for the league title. Sure Arsenal were not as clinical as they should have been, but at times the ball seemed to simply refuse to go in, coming back off the crossbar or being deflected just wide or saved by de Gea.
In contrast Manchester United were supremely clinical, converting three of their four shots on goal to take all three points from a game in which they deserved nothing and would have been humiliated were it not for their goalkeeper. All those associated with the Gunners could feel immense pride in defeat but ultimately there were also feelings of extreme frustration. Arsenal should have easily won this game but didn’t, not as a result of bad luck but as a result of a terrible defensive display.
Shkodran Mustafi has been excellent since returning from injury, but against Manchester United the German was simply abysmal and Laurent Koscielny alongside him, so often so reliable, was equally poor. The two were at fault for United’s opening two goals which arrived within the first eleven minutes of the game and ultimately cost Arsenal any hope they had of securing a victory. For both goals, first Koscielny and then Mustafi attempted to carry the ball out of defence, were robbed of possession and panic then set in. For the first goal in particular, five Arsenal players were attracted to the ball, which left Antonio Valencia completely unmarked on the edge of the box and the Ecuadorian had the simple task of slotting the ball beyond Cech to give his side the lead. The fact the shot went in through the goalkeeper’s legs didn’t exactly help matters either. To commit such a grave error after only four minutes was bad enough but to then commit an identical error only seven minutes later was disgraceful. Why Arsenal’s defence were attempting to carry the ball out from the back so early on in such a big game is something only the manager can answer. The main focus in such games must always be to not concede early on, but instead Arsenal committed football suicide and essentially threw the game away.
Even after Lacazette had pulled a goal back for the home side and got them right back into the game, Arsenal still contrived to throw it all away again. With the fans firmly on their side, having witnessed a first half in which the United goal had been peppered with shots, all the momentum was now with the Gunners. Having somehow failed to score in the first period, an early goal in the second half was vital and when it arrived thanks to an excellent delivery by Sanchez, picking out Ramsey, who laid the ball back for Lacazette to fire home, there was a real feeling that Arsenal would soon be back on level terms.
Yet the same old defensive failings arose once more. Kosicelny was at fault once again as he allowed Pogba to get around him in the box far too easily before passing the ball across the Arsenal box to the completely unmarked Lingard who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net for his second of the game. Granit Xhaka had been stood in front of him, but didn’t have any idea that Lingard was behind him until it was all too late. Unfortunately the Swiss international just does not have the defensive mind set to sniff out danger, even when it is blindingly obvious. Lingard was the only United player in the box and therefore the delivery from Pogba was only ever going to go towards him, yet Xhaka didn’t take up the appropriate position to clear the danger and suddenly Arsenal were 3-1 down and completely out of the game.
Pogba’s late sending off therefore did little to change the course of the game as at that stage United were already sitting back to protect their lead and although the Gunners could point to a clear penalty on Welbeck which would have brought them right back into the game once again, in truth Wenger’s men somewhat ran out of steam towards the end. At the final whistle it was difficult to understand what had happened during those frenetic 90 minutes and equally difficult to know just how to feel about the game. Arsenal had been outstanding going forward and had produced quite possibly one of their best ever attacking displays under Arsene Wenger, yet their defensive play had been abysmal. You cannot give away a two goal lead to any side in this league, let alone a title challenger, and expect to still take something from the game. For far too long the Gunners defence has been allowed to be a liability and undermine the team’s progress. Wenger appeared suitably annoyed after the match to suggest that changes may be afoot but this has been allowed to drag on for far too long and therefore it would not be surprising if in actual fact nothing changed at all and the same mistakes are allowed to happen all over again.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Monday, 20 November 2017
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham
The lead up to the North London derby on Saturday was dominated by talk of a power shift towards Tottenham. Having long been in the shadow of their bitter rivals, Spurs were now seen as the dominant force who would no doubt inflict more damage on Arsenal and heap more dismay on their supporters. Several UK newspapers ran articles in which distinguished journalists and former players were asked to name a combined XI from the two squads and not many Arsenal players featured in any of those teams selected. The Gunners, it seemed, didn’t have a prayer.