The season hasn’t started yet and Arsenal yesterday showed signs that they’re much the same team that finished last season. Collapsing from a comfortable 2 goal lead against Boca Juniors in the Emirates Cup, the manner of their conceding bringing boos from the sparse Emirates crowd. Hanging on to a 2-2 draw at the end was far less than satisfactory.
On Twitter the anger flared, much of it aimed squarely at Arsene Wenger for failing to strengthen the defense. At one point #Squillaci was trending worldwide, such was the animosity towards the man who has taken the place of Silvestre as our most reviled defender ever.
More anger was aimed at Wenger for making Nasri captain of the side in Fabregas’ absence. Why should a man who is not committed to the club be captain? The official website shows a (c) against Van Persie’s name, but on the stream I was watching it looked like Nasri was wearing the armband – clearly many others thought so too.
Missing The Point
Wenger didn’t help matters when he said in the press conference afterwards “You never want to concede goals, but overall I do not give too much importance to that.” Don’t want to give too much importance to conceding goals?!??! Erm.. isn’t that how games are won and lost? Of course thinking about it reasonably, what he meant was, it didn’t really matter in this game because it’s only pre-season and he’s still trying a few players out, perhaps in new positions. A man of his undoubted intelligence however must have understood how the Arsenal fans felt… it was unmistakeable, even from within the stadium.
Other little snippets from his press conference that won’t make you feel any better:
- “we got caught counter-attacking”
- “we have some improvements to make in some areas”
- “On set pieces we were not convincing today”
Much was also made in the press conference about the Nasri & Fabregas situation but I’m not going to go into that here because I think it’s more appropriate to focus on the football today.
Robin van Persie (c)
Samir Nasri (c)
The first half team seemed pretty lackadazical, the game played a slow pace with Boca Juniors not particularly pressing, or impressing. Arsenal seemed out-of-sorts, as if they’d forgotten how to play with each other.
Looking at the team, there were 4 new starters in there (including the previously woeful Traore), and it is pre-season, so that can be excused to an extent.
They still went 1-0 up, first thanks to a great Gervinho run and slide through to Van Persie who finished expertly, showing his class.
Players of the half were definitely Gervinho, who looked full of running and was always looking for opportunities to get in, or get somebody else in. And Carl Jenkinson who looked keen, and was not afraid to get forward, put himself about a bit, and also put crosses in. If only we’d had somebody chasing those crosses into the box we might have had more goals.
Disappointments of the first half were Fabianski, who looked scared every time the ball came near him and probably Johan Djourou, who looked just a little uncertain, not the man who came through early last season.
Disappointing also were our inability to put a corner in, take a free kick, or shoot outside the box. All of which should be fairly standard tools in any teams toolbox.
Five changes at the start of the 2nd half saw a much younger team, and they started with much more vim and vigour. Ramsey firing home a through ball from outside the box almost straight away. The whole team seemed up for it, more than the first half team, perhaps surprisingly.
Then came the rather painful part. Squillaci lost the ball, and the whole defense looked shaky, unsure and almost confused. Boca pounced, perhaps the first time they’d been in our box, and Mannone had no chance.
That should have triggered a tightening of our defence at least, amongst other responses. It didn’t. What we saw instead was a frantic panic. Players losing the ball all over the pitch, far too easily, then panicking. The defense became a bigger shambles as the just strolled past us at times.
When Djourou went to ground, failing to clear a fairly simple ball, Boca pounced again and that was 2-2. The Emirates crowd, who, over the last season have become less forgiving, booed, volubly.
Rounding out the game, Arsenal were left hanging on with the fans wondering what sort of season this presaged.
The reaction to losing each of those goals was interesting to watch (whilst less ‘interesting’ to feel), because it wasn’t the reaction we’d have seen in previous seasons. In previous season we’d have seen the fans getting more geed up over it, shouting “come ON Arsenal!” and “You can DO it!” Not this time though. This time the reaction was a very muted and depressed “oh no, not again”, and “we’ve seen it all before”.
That reaction, certainly in the stadium, is not going to help the team, except I can’t help feeling some of the players felt the same emotions too.
The reaction I believe the fans wanted from Arsene Wenger was to give his players the “hairdryer” treatment – shout at them, tell them to pull their bloody fingers out of their fat lazy arses. They wanted him to come to the press conference and say “we must get those errors out of our game, we must keep focused for 90+ minutes, not just 60 minutes”. Instead we got the apologist Arsene, the Arsene who fails to acknowledge the failings that everybody else can see plainly.
Normally one thing you can rely on is that I’ll try to bring balance to the viewpoint, being neither too positive nor too negative. The positives for me were that some of the younger players looked eager and hungry: Wilshere, Ramsey, Jenkinson, Vela, Frimpong, and our newest signing Gervinho. They looked like they wanted it. It may also be that as some of the older players display their disinterest, the younger players will get their opportunities.
It’s also worth noting that it is NOT the season proper, yet. We’re still in pre-season, and nobody really takes the Emirates Cup seriously – not even Arsenal fans.
The transfer window hasn’t closed yet either, and we could have one or two new signings coming in to strengthen the team, as well as a couple of the less motivated players leaving for pastures new.
It’s not all doom and gloom, even though much of this post today has been about the negatives. Personally I’m impressed with Ramsey, with his vision and capability, and whilst he’s still young and a bit raw, I can see him very much in a Fabregas-like distributor role down the middle. Jenkinson started building a great reputation yesterday too, and depending on whether Traore has ironed out the errors in his game, it might be that he’s tried on the left instead of the right (since Sagna is unlikely to miss many games).
So let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water just yet and let’s get behind the team… especially those going to the games today. Give them your support, not because they deserve it, but because they are representing Arsenal on the pitch. Your team. Arsenal.