And on the eighth day the Lord created Newcastle United. A gift to the world. Based on the arse end of the earth frequented by drole northerners and inhabited by the most ardent fans. But destined to be represented by the most average, bland and unforgettable eleven players you’ll ever see. Doubt me? Ok, let’s see if you, dear reader, can name even 4 players on their team? OK, too hard. Try two. Too hard? Thankfully they were our Christmas present today. And boy did we need one.
Today was a game where the points were paramount. We got them. But nothing else. Aside, that is, from the predictability of the performance. And the predictability of my observations. As and when AI is available I’ll be able to use that to write my reviews. Save me the trouble of finding new ways to say the same thing.
There was a different look to the formation today. Expecting a parked bus we were able to include a more offensive mid-field. And offensive it was. I was offended by Xhaka and, unfortunately, even by Jack. But mostly Xhaka. He continues to make careless passes in dangerous areas. Suffice it to say, after 1+ years of watching him, I don’t get him. If I was going into battle I would hope he was the guy I was fighting. For Jack, I’d been expecting more. He played higher up the pitch today and was hardly involved. And when he dropped back he demonstrated that he’d been carefully watching Xhaka by – late in the second half – giving the ball away on the edge of our box.
And as for Bellerin. WTF. He had little defensive duties but he’s so one dimensional it begs belief. And I see little if any progression in his game. He is our own Spanish Theo. All speed and no technical skills nor tactical acumen. Too often he’s faced with opportunities near the opposition goal and he does not know what to do. Sure, he was involved in our goal but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Like Xhaka he makes too many stray, careless passes. And he also prefers to play the ball sideways or backwards. He won’t use he’s speed to attack the opposition. On too many breakways he makes the wrong runs and the wrong decisions. And nothing seems to change. There is now growth, no development, no evolution. I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing in another 3 years. Though hopefully by then his Barca-DNA will force them to acquire him for £35m. Because it’s not like we have anyone else challenging him for that role.
However, on the left we had Maitland-Niles. He was a bright light in the dour coal-minds of this game. Technical, fast and football aware. A player with a football IQ. It’s a miracle. Maybe we can try him on the right hand-side. Against real opposition you might not want him on the pitch but he shows progress and development. Maybe he can be our savior.
Because last years savior is a shadow of his former self. I’m desperate for the January window to open so we can take him down to Waitrose or Sainsbury’s or even Tesco’s and exchange him for a Christmas tree and three glasses of muld-wine. The only positive thing was that he finally got substituted before the end. Alexis is now an impediment to this team. He will score goals at some point (and maybe not for us) but currently he over elaborates, takes too many touches and is way too predictable in his movements. He slows the game down and exposes our defense by going backwards when the teams’ momentum is forward. In another 10 days he could be gone. In the meantime, he should be on the bench. We should have Giroud and Cigarette up front. Not that Cigarette was on form today. But with Jack in the #10 spot he received little service again. But he also screwed up his chip on the goalie. I like this boy (not in that sort of way, of course) but we need to just let him play the full 90 minutes.
The defense was hardly tested today but we saw Monreal return to his usual solid performance whereas Kosclieny still looks like he’s a game away from being out with an Achilles problem.
We won 1-0, we got three points. But this was basically due to one man and one man only. Ozil ruled this game. He ran our team and dominated the game. He was the only player out there that was pure class. If Alexis wants to leave to be able to play with world class players, when Ozil looks around he can only wish he had that supporting cast – and that includes Alexis. Today Ozil was masterful. And he’s goal was sweet perfection. He read that entire move and drop back in anticipation of the ball being cleared to him and then, demonstrating perfect technique buried it in the next. If only Alexis would take note. Based on the last three months if we only have to sign one of these two, as I’ve said before, grab as much money as you can for Alexis and invest in Ozil. He is our creative spark. He is our creator-in-chief. Alexis is energetic, passionate and talented. But he’s also flawed. And we’re seeing those flaws. An ideal place for him would be Man City. They have tons of money and he could not do much damage to us there. It’s not like they haven’t already won the league. It’s not like they are not already going to beat us in our next encounter. It’s not like him going there will tip the scales in their favour. So, let’s take their money. And then invest in a Khaka replacement. And let’s play Giroud up front with Ciagrette.
I appreciate that Wenger mixed up the formation today and the selection. He knows it’s not working. For all our famed creativity, we are struggling to score goals. That’s two goals in the last four games. Somehow, somewhere we have to find that right balance. It just feels a long way away. We are now entirely dependent on Ozil for our spark. Jack is missing fitness and touch. Xhaka is too bland. And Alexis is too disruptive. You know Alexis is off his game when Ob1 looks like a bigger threat.
Next up – ignoring the mid-week encounter between our reserve team in the League/Milk/Corobo/WhatsItCalled Cup – on Friday has us playing against the mighty Ox. Will he come back to haunt us as he snuggly sits on the bench? Can we possibly play as bad as we did at Anfield? Wenger will be conscious that this is a big game and that we’ll need more defensive stability. Newcastle barely troubled us. But Liverpool are an entirely different proposition. If Mustafi is fit we can resume our normal Nazi contingent and revert to a back three. Wenger might go all DarthVader on us and try parking the bus. But there won’t be a place for Jack and I suspect Kolinsac will be back – BTW, where is he?
Your humble write will be traveling over this period so normal service might be disrupted. I know this might sour many peoples Christmas period. For this I can only apologize. I realize how pivotal this website can become to the lives of so many people. How we have brought food to the hungry. How we have brought joy to the downtrodden. But, fuck it. I need a holiday. I can’t deal with watching the dross we saw today. I might even write the Liverpool review tomorrow where I bemoan our early defensive lapses and then struggle to get back into the game only to be hit on the counter-attack as we overcommit with 5 center-forwards on the pitch.