3-0. This looked to be a flat game promising nervy moments, with one of them having just passed with Szczesny denying Villa from point-black, and I was still cutting up the video when Arsenal scored three straight goals. After that things got boring and uneventful, and it was the boring and uneventful you like.
It’s like when a doctor has to comment on a patient’s condition and he goes, “After the surgery, John’s heart rate was unremarkable”. That doesn’t mean John’s about to die, no, not at all. It means John’s doing just fine. And that’s what Arsenal were, just fine after scoring those goals as they let the match glide to its formal end.
Mesut Ozil scored after being put through by Danny Welbeck, and in that moment between when he received the pass and the ball went in the net, every part of my being was praying for Ozil to slot that in. He’s been getting so much schtick of late, like being called a ‘passenger’ by the Nancy Grace of football punditry, that he needed this to shut his critics up and a goal is a quick way to do that. A goal can provide brief but sustained period of relief from critics, and it’s a lot similar to when my wife is bugging me about not doing stuff around the house. After I mow the lawn and take out the trash, I immediately buy myself about two nag-free days where nothing is asked of me. Ozil just did that in a football context. That opened the game up immediately, and Welbeck slotted one in from close range, before an own goal sealed Villa’s fate. Going back to lawns though, here’s something I noticed in The Walking Dead which I stopped watching due to that shitty little kid:
Oxlade-Chamberlain got the start ahead of Sanchez, which surprised some people and the cynics would immediately classify that as Wenger dropping him, when in reality it was explained as a guy getting a day off after a mid-week game, and having played in the World Cup. I thought Ox was effective, and he appears to be a great replacement for Sanchez since both are very direct players. If he doesn’t loose the ball (a problem at times) or isn’t making speculative passes (also needs to be worked on), he provides enough thrust in midfield that forces the defense on their heels. That thrust right now isn’t being provided by Ramsey who tends to be drifting out instead of making those incisive runs that got him so many goals last season. Still, early days.
Villa had come into the game riding quite high after beating Liverpool at Anfield, but failed to test the Arsenal defense after the hammer blow of three goals. The defensive unit of Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs and Arteta, were never cut open because Arsenal controlled possession and Villa, other than Abgonlahor, don’t have a threat which could bother us, especially with Benteke out. They tried 19-year old Grealish to up the tempo in their favor but you, sort of, need possession and control to do that, which they were denied.
The great part about football is that there’s a tremendous amount of Schadenfreude at play, and watching Liverpool loose to West Ham was quite pleasing, even more so when it’s topped off by good humour:
This guy travelled all the way from 1721 to watch Liverpool lose pic.twitter.com/rrg8q8Snur
— Pat (@GoalCampbell) September 20, 2014
Here’s The Callout:
Welbeck: A goal a game isn’t too much to ask of an Arsenal striker given the amount of chances we usually create. Sounds too much? Think not.
Ox: He’s surprisingly strong in midfield, you think some big burly midfielder’s about to dispossess him and he evades him with a shoulder shrug. Also made a goal-saving block.
Ramsey: Dat pass.
Cazorla: He needs to start doing his goal celebration after non-goal events. Like, after a throw-in or when a FK hits the wall, it would be fantastic and confuse everyone. I didn’t notice him do anything special all game other than control possession and pass the ball around. Which is what was needed, I suppose.
Ozil: Scored one, created one. MOTM. It’s a good thing his English is poor or else he must be appalled at the hate-on the English press has for him. The goal will help, and even more so will what greets him when he goes home.
Arteta: I find it hilarious when he tries to win a header without leaving his feet. Reminds me of when I try to tear of a sheet of toilet paper with one hand. Not going to happen, you NEED both hands. Even though he struggles at times, he’s still better than Steven Gerrard in that role.
Chambers: Imagine being 19 years old and starting for Arsenal? Damn, it must feel good to be a gangsta.
Mertesacker: Didn’t fall down, except once, sort of. The less you talk about defenders, the better the game the team had.
Koscielny: Nice feint.
Gibbs: Every time I saw him in Villa’s half, I tried to look for whether Ozil was covering for him. He sort of was.
Rosicky: Saving his goals for Spurs. Triple sub executed by Wenger, looked happy to get a trot for his first PL game of the year.
Podolski: Had no trouble finding his shin pads.
Wilshere: Whew, he’s okay.
Pummelled without Hummels. I can’t tell you how proud I am to come up with that line by myself.
So we got drubbed in Dortmund, and in the process saw Welbeck miss three great chances, Arteta enthusiastically invite their striker to score a goal, Szczesny make an error, and Ozil thoroughly Ozil himself till he was all Oziled out. Dortmund had tons more shots on goal and probably should’ve won 5-0 if Mkhitaryan had had his shooting boots on. I don’t know what his shooting boots look like, but luckily for Arsenal he had left him at home and instead wore these, which tremendously helped the scoreline remaining decent:
I haven’t checked out Wenger’s post-game interview yet because it doesn’t matter what he says. He’s wrong. Our problems are so obvious that there’s no need for in-depth reports, statistical breakdowns, or tactical analysis. We play a 4-1-4-1 setup where our most creative midfielder doesn’t get opportunities to create, our chances go begging because there usually isn’t enough presence in the box, we have a striker that isn’t proven at this level we’re very short on defence, and there’s no cover from the defenders in midfield. Simple as. All known problems that haven’t been addressed, or have been dealt with in a way where the best-case scenario for a player has to pan out for things to work out.
So, let me sum this up. Going forward we’re all out of position and scattered, with no pointy edge to our attack (not naming names here). At the back, our defenders tend to get stretched and there’s no defensive wall in our midfield. Having said all that, we should’ve done better. To a man, there’s enough talent on this team that a performance like this should never happen. The whole is not equalling the sum of the parts, which means that the manager isn’t getting the best out of the players for whatever reason.
Going back to Ozil for a moment, Arsenal have to essentially treat him as an American-football quarterback in a shotgun offence – he’s your main playmaker and everything else needs to be setup around him so he can use his passing to cut open the defense. Yeah, you can mix in a read-option and throw a fullback in the backfield to keep everyone honest, but you have to come to the table with your cards showing: we’re going to kill you with Ozil’s passing and everyone else complementing that passing. This is likely to be a lot better than, as some have suggested Wenger is doing, giving Ozil a “freelance” role where he’s free to roam. He’s not a guy you need to send on a scavenger hunt so he can find his role. We all know what his role is, all we need to do is to place him in the right spot and give him the authority to lead.
There are too many players that are too anonymous for too long in the game. I often forget that certain players are even playing until the commentator mentions their name, and I go like, “What? He’s in the game?” to no-one in particular since I usually watch games alone. This is odd since all the players on the roster are talented and clearly motivated individuals. We don’t have any Adebayors or Arshavins that can drag a game down due to lack of effort or commitment, which makes the malaise the team is in even more complex to diagnose. It’s easy to throw mud at Wenger right now and say he’s lost the plot, and that’s possibly unfair, but under the circumstance most supporters have only that channel to pursue when trying to explain the play.
It’s only been two games in and you can already sense why Man Utd was willing to let Welbeck go. His finishing isn’t at the level required for a first-choice striker on a club pursuing trophies on multiple fronts. I mentioned in the last post that, having been deprived of playing time at Man Utd, he’s essentially going to be doing his top-flight learning at Arsenal, and this game saw a lot of that learning happen. I often have weird dreams where I imagine what Arsenal would be like if they had a striker of Thierry Henry’s quality up front again, someone that could put 2 out of the 3 chances Welbeck had away. Maybe Zlatan? Like this guy, one can dream.
Here’s the Callout:
Szczesny: He’s like a maid that does a great job cleaning the house but on the way out of the driveway, slams into your car. Made some serious saves to keep it at 0-0 and was culpable for the second goal, the latter didn’t really matter since we never scored.
Gibbs: I find that the less a defender’s name is mentioned by the commentator, the better the game he’s having
Koscielny: Got bored, tried to play volleyball
Bellerin: Didn’t make any major mistakes despite being targeted, but when you have to play him in the Champions League in Dortmund, it’s a sign of a deeper issue
Mertesacker: Didn’t fall down, made a great tackle, but otherwise was too slow and allowed Dortmund attackers to play off him
Sanchez: I would trade some of his hustle for passing accuracy any day
Ozil: Poor bastard
Ramsey: I forgot he played until someone mentioned his name
Wilshere: If he was a paper boy, he’d never miss a delivery
Arteta: What. Was. That?
Welbeck: He could miss 10 sitters in a game and be picked again, because that’s how desperate our striking situation is
Oxlade-Chamberlain: He’s like the three-point shooter you don’t trust but put in the basketball game when you’re down 25 in the off-chance that he might get hot and shoot you back in it
Cazorla: Regrets not making move back to Spain
Podolski: Lost his shinpads, then found them. #aha