So I write this blog after seeing The Arsenal succumb to their first defeat of the season at the hands of Chelsea, and Spurs finally ending another one of their hoodoos by beating Utd at OT.
Just in case that whatever I write below looks like I’m demeaning Chelsea, rather than looking at ourselves, let me say well done to Chelsea. They were solid and played fluid football and the best team won today. Also well done to Spurs, I’m glad that someone finally showed Utd up at OT because, by their standards, they have been poor for a couple of seasons now.
So back to The Arsenal today. There I was, Mr Arsenal Glass Half Empty Man, feeling that maybe, just maybe this squad could be the best we’ve seen in The Emirates Years. I put the two 0-0 draws down to the team needing to gel, and the other victories celebrating our new found resilience in defence and exciting, interchanging play up front.
Today brought memories of 2011-2012 pre-Christmas flooding back. We looked like a jaded team who really found it hard to be creative and who just couldn’t find that right pass 5 times out of 10. Oh, and a team at the centre of our defence who looked like they had never played together, seen a ball before or how to defend at set pieces.
For me, the writing was on the wall as soon as Diaby walked off injured, again. Chelsea are a team of midfielders and effectively ran the show because we now had no-one to break up their play or command the midfield. The fact that Ramires got the MOM award by Sky proved how much we needed Diaby or someone like him.
I wasn’t so much annoyed that we let Song go, but more by the fact that come the close of the Transfer Window we hadn’t bought another experienced defensive midfielder. Last season we relied on a man made of glass (RVP) and fortunately the glass was somehow re-enforced. This season we now rely on a vital position again on a man made of glass and somehow we all knew that this was a massive gamble. Agreed that other positions are also vital but we could find adequate replacements within our squad, but not for the DM/Box to Box Midfield position (or in Goal for that matter).
Diaby could be a colossus in the mould of Yaya Toure and at a fraction of the cost. But it is clear at this point he simply cannot stay injury free for any amount of meaningful time. It’s a real shame.
Chelsea dominated and swamped our midfield and it was a hard ask for Arteta, The Ox and Rambo to fill the void that probably they had been training all week around.
As for the goals, well, Kos goes from hero to villain in one week. He and Per was immense at the Etihad last weekend. The problem now is that The Verminator is the Captain and first on the team sheet when fit. Hindsight is a great thing but why change a defence that looked pretty solid last week? You can’t say for sure but Per would have done better for Torres’ goal. Torres took it well but Kos position and sense was all wrong. Because Torres scored it hid the fact that Luiz was in acres of space too. As for the Mata/Kos goal – another poor free kick to give away and although it was a dangerous ball in, Kos/Mannone should have done better.
Two bright points – I think in Gibbs and Jenkinson we have two very good full backs who look like to have come of age. They are talking about an England call up for Jenkinson who, before joining us only played less than 30 games and most of them were at non-league level. A great find by Arsene and great resilience from the player to pick himself up after the baptism of fire he got at OT last season.
The other bright point, and I am clutching at straws with this one, is that despite the fact we were poor overall, we were always in the game against the team top of the league.
There is obviously some work still to do on the training ground – practising defending set pieces and putting the ball away when you get the chance.
Today I tweeted after going 1 down that we will see what we are made of, and unfortunately we saw the oh so often Emirates Years performance. A real shame because this squad could go far – but the loss of Diaby is going to be massive and will leave a rather big hole to fill.