First off, how crappy are West Ham? And how much did we struggle? It’s a minor miracle we got all three points. Our defense tried its best to help them out. As did our defensive midfield. Or what would be in a normal team.
Given my own rules of engagement, after only three games in I must refrain from judging Emery for another 7 games. But someone needs to explain to me the logic of the selection policy. How is it even possible to Xhaka to be on the bench let alone starting? And why was Torreira not starting? And how does Ob1 start?
I don’t like to rain on our won parade. Frankly we looked a mess for most of the game. I don’t know whose team this is? It’s not Wengers’ anymore and it does not seem like Emerys. Whereas last week there were signs of progress after an unimpressive first game todays seemed like a definite backward move. It started with the perplexing team selection and then proceeded as we played the type of open, unstructured and unprotected football of the last five years. If we were like this in sexual relations we’d have about 5 children by now. How often did they catch us on the break? And how did they score their first goal when we actually 5 players back?
Against even a half way competent team we would have let in 3 goals all on counter-attacks. A combination of Arnautovic being injured and Hernandez being shit saved us. And it how unfortunately ironic was it that one of their best chances fell to Lucas Perez; you can see now why he’s on the West Ham team. But how can we be so exposed to the break from our own corner – as we were in the second half – when we already have the lead; have we learned nothing? I thought things were supposed to be different now with the new manager. It felt like deja-vu watching our game management. It was awful. And that’s besides the awful players we insist on selecting.
Still the balance of this team looks wrong. Our right hand side seems to be structured as a no-defensive zone. Going forward Bellerin got to the their byline and Mickatarien was creative; they setup our first goal. But when they lose the ball; when we were not in possession, we were incapable of protecting that side of our defense. Bellerin has yet to figure that part of the game out and he’s not helped by Mickatarien who is incapable of tracking back with their players. We will continue to be exposed down our right until either Bellerin is instructed in how to defend or Mickatarien is shifted to another position. And it’s not like the center of defense was any better. Our two center half’s have yet to figure out how to play together. Once Sokratis, inside their half, was pressing so high that he was luckily to foul their player and not expose our entire back line. And then there was that instance in the first half when he paniced and whiffed at the ball inside the 6 yard area. The occasions in the first half when they exposed us on the counter-attack were so numerous. And, of course, it did not help that Xhaka was the defensive cover. Or not.
In the second half we thankfully brought on Cigarette for Ob1; not sure if that was injury related or not but Ob1 was just like last years version – shit. Cigarette made a difference even if it meant Aubameyang had to move out to the wing. We had more energy and better hold up play. I just don’t get why he does not start. It’s a shame Aubameyang missed his one clear chance in the second half; that will damage his confidence further. But I figure this is all good because at some point he will, as a natural goal scorer, come good for us.
Then we brought on Torreira. Finally. But even he played too far up the pitch. But at least he became our defensive cover rather than the vacuum we had. And it pushed Xhaka into a less dangerous part of the pitch. It’s apparent that Torreira is, like Guendoza and Bellerin, not quite ready yet. But I don’t mind persevering with him if that helps he’s growth. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. But we have to develop. We have to evolve. Today we regressed. It makes no sense to persist with Xhaka and Ob1; let alone Mustafi. This is Emerys’ chance to implement real change. And I fear that he’s too conservative. I saw no change in how we played today. It was a throwback day. Any against nearly another other team in this league we’d have been beaten. We are too vulnerable in defense and we lack fluency in our passing game. I just don’t see what our game-plan is.
We are fortunate that we have a run of games against less impressive competition. Or teams only marginally worse than us. This gives us more time to find our mojo; to find our identify. Because we lost it this week. I can’t get my head around the lack of defensive discipline. If we play at Cardiff how we used to at Swansea where we’d overcommit and get caught on the break then I will start to despair of Emery. But over the next few games he has to own this team. He has to make the right selection choices. This team needs surgery and I’m not sure he’s the surgeon we need. We have some players that could help. Let’s find out. Playing the same boring and tired failures won’t demonstrate anything other than Emery is a mini-Wenger (without the prior 10 year winning record).
It was pretty depressing watching us today. I’m not at despair yet. There is plenty of time for that. Not being good enough is one thing but not progressing is unacceptable; and today there were worrying signs. The only interesting player I see is Guendoza. He made many mistakes today; he’s passing was off. But at least he played with energy. He was also played higher up the pitch as Xhaka was the defensive cover. Really? That made no sense. But we have to figure out how to have Guendoza and Torreira play alongside each other. It’s a long season though so I suppose patience is warranted.
So, I think we’ve figured out two of the teams that will be relegated – Cardiff and now West Ham. They were awful today; their defense looked about as poor as ours. And, unfortunately, you could see why Jack was on their team not ours. He’s mistake lead to our third goal but overall, aside from the nice short pass he failed to control the game and we expose he’s lack of speed.
As we watch the top 5 or 6 teams though it’s obvious that we’re way off their level. We’re barely in the same league. Today showed this is at least a two year re-build. It’s just remains to see who should be orchestrating this rebuild. Today was the first day I got a bad feeling about that. Emery has the chance to be brave and bold; he has the runway, the goodwill to institute real change and we all know it will take time. He can’t squander that. He needs to make this clearly his team with his tactics and with his personality. Today this team played with the personality of Denilson and the personality of Silverstre.
As an aside, we’ve yet to hear much on the Gazidis switch to Milan. As much as he’s the puppet of our owner Stan it will be interesting to see if he sticks around. For me, if he leaves it will say that he does not own the current structure; he did not choose this manager. That he did really want Arteta. If he does stays then Emery was his choice. I have not facts to support this, but I think he’ll be off. And he might yet be proven to be right. But we won’t know for at least 7 more games. It’s funny how three points that were so desperately needed can feel so utterly unsatisfying.