Monday, 9 February 2015

It's Back To The Roller Coaster For Arsenal

Arsenal had the chance to make some real progress on Saturday against Spurs in a game which is so important to the fans. After drawing at home to them earlier in the seaon Saturday's game would decide who got the better of their meetings for this season. The stage was set for Arsenal to put Spurs firmly in their place, but somebody forgot to tell the players.

The early signs weren't too good, but then Arsenal scored after only 11 minutes and things looked an awful lot better. They didn't do anything to build on that lead though and were content to sit back and try to defend it. If the Arsenal players had been able to show the desire and commitment of their Spurs counterparts that might have worked, but they just weren't up for the fight.

I assume the plan was to do what they did away to City a few weeks ago, but Spurs weren't prepared to give Arsenal the time on the ball they wanted and Arsenal didn't seem to know how to counter that. It doesn't take the most intelligent of people to realise local derbies are battles and you need to win the right to play football in them, but somehow that never dawned on Arsenal. Spurs were first to every loose ball and second ball and Arsenal seemed content to just hoof their clearances in any direction with no one really looking for the ball.

It was obvious from a very early stage that Danny Rose was getting far too much time and space on the left with Danny Welbeck failing to track him back and Arsenal were lucky Rose didn't make more of the opportunities which came his way. Welbeck was chosen ahead of Theo Walcott with defensive duties in mind I imagine, but he just didn't do them in that first half in particular. I'm not laying the blame for the goals we conceded at his door though, but the inability to track Rose was systematic of the whole Arsenal approach to the game. 

Santi Cazorla didn't have a good game for the first time in a long time and we had Mesut Ozil playing in a wide left role again while Cazorla struggled in Ozil's favoured position. I still cannot understand why Arsenal spent a club record fee on Ozil, but more often than not choose to play him out of position. I think Cazorla has been fantastic in the last couple of months, but surely a time must come when Ozil gets to play in a position where he is one of the best players in the world. He has scored three goals in the three games he has played on the left since his return from injury, but he should be able to influence the game an awful lot more from the number 10 role.

To sum it up Arsenal were not beaten by a better team, but by a team who wanted it more from first minute to last. I don't know if that's an indictment on the players or the manager's inability to get them in the right frame of mind for the game. They are all professional players and surely it cannot come as a shock to them that Spurs were prepared to give everything they had in what is the most important league game of the season for them and their fans.

As it turned out it was a huge opportunity lost for Arsenal as a two goal win would have put them third and within four points of second place after all the other games finished on Sunday. They can't continue to pass up good opportunities to heap pressure on the other teams chasing a top four finish. It looks like there are now five teams chasing the final two places or maybe even six teams chasing three places if City continue on their current path. 

Arsenal need to give themselves an edge over any or all of those teams when the opportunity arises and Saturday was such an opportunity. Thankfully there's not too much time to dwell on it with a home game against the bottom club Leicester City tomorrow night. That's a game they quite simply have to win and win well too. 

There can be no excuses for anything other than a win ahead of some of the other teams challenging for a top four place playing. Three points in the bag tomorrow night will put some of the wrongs of Saturday right, but won't stop fans such as myself from having to admit Spurs were better on the day and deserved their win. As long as Arsenal finish above them yet again that can be stomached, but it's never an easy thing to do.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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