We were robbed of our potential self inflicted misery today. Rather than a Liverpool away like performance this one was more Chelski like. But this time the referee and the linesman decided to don sky-blue shirts. How else to explain the season over season suffering at their ground. Two years running now they’ve been given offside goals. And the penalty was absolutely soft. As others have pointed out – at Stoke we “lost” a goal because of a poor offside decision and yet today, when Silva was clearly offside this was not given. And that penalty! What is up with the standard of the refs and linesman.
Man City were outstanding. Their movement, control, short-passing and speed of attack are reminiscent of Arsenal from 10 years ago. They had many chances to beat us so they needed no help from the ref or linesman. They will win the league this year. And they will deserve it (given the amount of money they have spent over the last few years).
I had to check my eyesight when I saw our team. I bet there were few people who expected to see both Ob1 and our Cock in the starting eleven. I assume the BFG was too busy stomping all over Poland to play in this game. Though with hindsight he would have been ripped apart given their speed of their attack. Coq was not too bad. He was clearly unfamiliar with the positioning and got himself all tangled up when Cech would pass him the ball. He tended to drift too far up field and attack the ball too much but he was not the cause of our downfall. Ob1 was more surprising. Leaving our Cigarette for big games is becoming a bad Wenger habit. And in retrospect it looks a particularly poor decision.
The mix and balance in our team – actually, any team, is so important. When Ob1 plays on the left wing he looks lost and quite shit. But when he wanders infield and links up and turns quickly he is quite creative – see he’s movement for our goal. I get that Wenger wanted to play a tight, compact game and Ob1 can work hard on the wing. But you can’t leave out your main goal-scorer.
So aside from the ref giving them the game we also saw some other predictable flaws in the game. And both revolve around our two star players. Alexis today was shit. More a Skoda than a Lexus. Nearly every decision he made was the wrong one. He dwelled on the ball too long in all the wrong places. If I was Man City I would not see how he’d fit into their team. None of their players are as ball hogging as Alexis. Though maybe he is an upgrade on Sterling.
At this stage though I would start to consider leaving Alexis on the bench. If he’s going to sign for another club I don’t see how we can keep him in January. Get him off our team. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. Get the money and put it in the bank for the summer signings. This team will never showcase Alexis. It won’t even get into the top 4. But we knew that at the start of the season. So let’s at least plan and build for the future.
This also applies to Ozil. Whereas at Everton he was stellar today he was absent. Again, we did not lose because of him. But, again, if he’s not going to sign a contract let’s sell him and get the money. As brilliant as he is (on his day) we can’t afford to keep players that don’t believe in us and won’t commit to us. There was very link up play between these two today – that’s unusual. But that was also dictated by the pressure that ManCity put us under. They really are an impressive side. But we had our chances. Ramsey in the first half and then in the short period before the ref decided to give them a penalty and then right after our goal. When we reverted to a 4-4-2 we looked more dangerous.
But, today, we saw the main flaw in our team. It’s not Alexis nor Ozil. It’s Xhaka. I am tired of watching him drift around the game picking up the wrong defensive positions and not providing the defensive cover for the defense. If you watch that first goal which started with Ob1 giving away the ball just outside our area. Once the initial shot is saved by Cech you can see Xhaka start to amble out of the penalty box. He’s so passive though that by the time that Debryune starts the one two, instead of having closing of the space he’s standing around doing nothing. Reminiscent of Watford’s’ winner. It’s not that he’s a bad player. He’s be fine on West Ham or Everton. But not for Arsenal. And, then later in the game we saw Jack come in and play that position. There is no comparison. I know it’s too early for Jack – he needs to build his fitness and he, obviously, will pick up an injury soon. But he’s way better in that position than Xhaka. It’s so infuriating seeing Xhaka make the same positional mistakes over the length of a season. There is real ability there I know but he’s too weak on the defensive side. And therefore he is a liability.
Cech was good today; he’s save in the second half was brilliant. He and Koscelny kept us in the game in the first half. But we got ripped apart too easily on the counter attack – which is why we needed the speed of the Cock in defense. And we started the game well. We attacked them, controlled some of the possession and looked reasonably well matched. Until first Ob1 and then Xhaka made their mistakes. At this level you can’t afford to make mistakes like this let along repeat those mistakes game after game.
Common wisdom states that these type of poor refereeing decisions even out over a full season. I used to subscribe to this view. But now I’m not so sure. These games – against the top six – hang on such fine margins. And today the balance was entirely tilted against us. It’s not like we went their expecting to win. It’s not like we think we’re the better team. And it’s not like they need any help. But I don’t see how post Stoke and not after this it will even up.
The best we can do now is build for the future. There were some good performances today by individual players. There were periods where we dominated. This was nothing like the capitulation at Anfield. This was more like the Chelski game but with a shittyer ref. We need to give incrementally more time to Jack. We need to get Cigarette to start every game. And we need to bench Xhaka. Ramsey worked hard but did not do too much. Bellerin and Kolasinac were pretty reasonable. Monreal was skinned too much but was left exposed by the lack of cover in midfield.
For our next game we had better get our team selection right. We have two weeks now to dwell on this game and figure out the right line up. Today AW got it wrong but will get sympathy because of the shit ref. but that won’t be the case for our next game. If he makes the same decisions and we lose then all hell will break loose. And rightly so. It’s not like our expectations are so high these days. We see both of our neighbors making progress. One of them scarily so. We seemed to have wasted all the revenue and momentum of our new stadium to have fallen back to being an outsider in the run for the title – more Southampton than Manchester United. That is so sad. But with no signs that anything will change any time soon we should at least get the right players on the pitch. And that means playing those that are able to perform in their assigned positions and those that want to play for us. If a player fails either of these two (low) requirements then they should sit on the bench and we should give the opportunity to others.