Morning all, a quick one for you today as I have to go talk into a microphone very early.
“Come on down to Crazy Mick’s Good Time Right Back Who Can Play Centre-Half Emporium! The prices are only famous …”, or something.
As is the norm (Norm!) after a game like the one we saw on Tuesday, there’s much talk of picking ourselves up and reacting against Villa on Saturday. These stories are part and parcel of the media landscape now, and there’s no point getting worked-up about them.
Mikel Arteta was straight up about what happened on Tuesday, saying:
I am very disappointed because we knew their strengths, what we had to avoid and what we did was encourage them to play their game. We have to analyse what we have done wrong and try to improve.
He then analyses it perfectly, saying:
We encouraged them to do that by giving the ball away so many times in very difficult positions.
Job done. Sometimes you have a bad game, all the analysis in the world won’t change that, but as we mentioned the fact that this has happened in our first big (sorry Everton) away game of the season is the real worry (and even at Goodison there were signs of this brittleness).
Perhaps one of the issues was the lack of rotation in the squad. Dortmund ran further and faster than us, but apart from Hector Bellerin and Mikel Arteta in for Flamini, we played the very same team that went the distance with Man City on the Saturday. Dortmund’s game the previous weekend, admittedly against inferior opposition, allowed them to rest the likes of Immobile, Bender and Aubameyang, and the way the two forwards proved so effective against us surely was informed by that.
I have no doubt that if we’d been playing the Premier League equivalent of Freiburg we might have seen some rotation, but when you play City you have to play your best team. Facing Dortmund means the temptation is obviously great to keep faith in those players, but the physical side of the game is important too and that was certainly area in which we were found wanting.
Would playing the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have really diminished us in terms of footballing quality? It’s hard to argue it would after seeing the players we selected perform the way they did. I mean, I get the idea of playing players into match fitness and form, but that was a decision which looked counter-productive in the end.
Oxlade-Chamberlain himself has been talking about his desire to play, saying:
I feel good in myself and when I get told to play I will be chomping at the bit to help the team. That is up to the boss to decide when that is but I will be ready. I know what this game is all about. I am a young lad in a very good Arsenal squad and understand that.
Then, he goes on to hint that the players on the bench might be a solution to the slight rut into which our form has fallen this season:
I want to play as much as I can but I have bought into the idea of what our team wants to do this season and that means it will need all of us to pull our weight to start games or come off the bench. We have to be 100 per cent focused for when our chances come.
I think those chances have to come at Villa Park on Saturday. Between form and the fact it’ll be our third game in a week, we’re going to have to change things around a little bit. And having seen Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive and energy have a small impact against Dortmund on Wednesday, I’d be very tempted to start him.
Wilshere’s ankle is a worry at this moment in time, as is the form of Aaron Ramsey. The manager has long said that he sees the Ox as a central-midfield player, and his very best performances for the club have come in that position. I’d be very tempted to give him a run there on Saturday, freshening up the team and reminding others that their place shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The other issue is the system we’re playing, which really doesn’t seem to be working, but whether or not the manager is going to stick with it remains to be seen. The change has been subtle but it’s made a team which, for the most part last season, looked solid and coherent look distinctly uncomfortable and has served more to exacerbate our weakness than bring out of the best of our strengths.
Perhaps it’s a question of getting used to it, hence the fact we’ve yet to click this season, but I do wonder if reverting to the way we set up last year might be the best option at this point. Anyway, no doubt that’s stuff the manager will be asked in his press conference this week and to which he’ll give a straight bat answer, it’s definitely something he should be considering.
Right, that’s yer lot. Tim Stillman’s column will be here later. News throughout the day on Arseblog News. More here tomorrow including the Arsecast.