That was not expected. If anyone was going to win this one it was going to be them. Certainly based on the first 20 minutes. But somehow we’ve maintained our winning streak. Somehow we kept a clean sheet. And somehow we’ve stolen another three points.
I really don’t get our team. It’s weird to watch us play. We’re neither one thing or the other. We are not of the caliber of the top 3 teams. We don’t have the fluency nor the balance. Yet we’re finding ways to win. Maybe that’s all we can ask for in this year (or more) of transition. It’s hard to enjoy watching us play. We always seem on the precipice of hemorrhaging goals – yet we don’t. We’re not creating that much. We barely troubled Foster in goal and yet we scored twice (ok, technically we each scored once).
I’d like to start though on one of my all time favourite topics. How utterly frustrating it is to watch a match when the camera is running endless useless replays or showing us fat, ugly people in the stands while the game progressing. Is there not someone on the control room who understands that we’re tuning in to watch the game? There were so many instances when the game was proceeding and yet we weren’t able to see it on the TV. Then suddenly we’d see the ball up the other end of the pitch with no idea of how it got there. In this day and age how can this incompetence and randomness still be tolerated. Is Mike Dean’s brother running the camera control? Why don’t the Premier League control the product they create? Why are they allowing this abortion of a coverage? Why don’t we at least get picture in picture so we can follow the game from a wide angle view? Why aren’t there more people complaining on-line? I don’t understand why this persists in this day and age. It’s a travesty. Sure, people are starving in Africa. Yes I know we’re about to get our first Supreme Court Justice that will be drinking his favorite drink – beer – while sitting in judgement blanked out drunk for the rest of his life. But dam it. This is important. How can we watch these Arsenal games when the camera is pointed at anything but the game. I’ve searched the thing known at the Interweb for any clues as to who produces these pictures; who directs the camera but to no avail. So I sit here powerless; unable to improve the most important service that the TV delivers.
And if this is not bad enough (though it clearly is) we then have to compound this unforgivable injustice of watching ugly people in the stands with the commentary of Tony retarded Gayle. He is such a monumental penis. A true luddite. You only have to listen to this wanker to understand why England can’t win a world cup. He really did suggest today that Troy Deeney should be in the England team. Really? Galye makes anything up to fit his predetermined narrative. He does not understand Ozil because, we’ll, Ozil is skillful. He loves the blood and guts of the physical challenge. Except when an Arsenal player – in this case Torreira – is fouled by Deeney. Gayle, even as the endless useless replays show us the evidence (and are not actually showing the game) that demonstrates conclusively that Deeney fouled Torreira, Gayle is suggesting Torreria should be booked for making a meal of the challenge when he was not touched by Deeney. Anthony Taylor, who was meek the entire game – letting endless challenges go by and missing at least one penalty for us – actually booked Deeney, Gayle was flabbergasted.
So this game suffered under at least this double hex of the cameras and Gayle. Maybe it’s a miracle that we won. They certainly had their chances. They started brighter than us. The pressed us and gave us little space. In prior years they would have parked the bus, sat back and absorbed the pressure. Not today, they were more adventurous and actually played a decent game. They are really not a bad team. They are a solid mid-table team now. Not unlike Arsenal.
This match was eerily familiar. It was as though we were back playing Everton. And the observations are not that different either. We still want to play out the back when we have players that are not well suited for that. Xhaka was nearly caught once outside our own box. Mustafa is a disaster waiting to happen. His side-kick was the far better of the two center halfs. Bellerin still can’t block or intercept a cross by his winger. And Torreira is the real deal. How good is he? He’s so good he makes Xhaka look like a decent player. Torreira liberates him from the defensive duties Xhaka is so poorly suited for and allows him to stroll around playing long passes.
Balance is our problem. In the first half, as with the Everton match, Ramsey and Ozil were barely involved. How weak was Ramsey? So weak that Ob1 was a game changer when he replaced him. Ob1 was the catalyst for both goals. How depressing is that? Of course, before then Cigarette should have scored a couple of goals. Today was not one of his best performances. He should have gone down for a penalty in the first half and he should have scored with a mistimed header in the second half.
Back to Ramsey. It’s not his fault Arsenal took the contract offer off the table. It’s not his fault that Emery is playing him out of position. And it’s also not Ozil’s fault that he’s also played out of position. But between them we get the worst of both. In the second half at least Ozil came into the game (not that he was anonymous in the first). He orchestrated most of the game. But Ramsey is lost. He’s not a natural number 10. But Emery insists in playing him there. This can’t continue. There is very little fluency in our build up play. We only look threatening on the counter-attack. We need Ozil more central to help create and control. But I don’t know where Ramsey fits. He’s definitely earned the right to start. He’s one of our best players. But he has to be put in the right position. You’d not put Cech at center forward, you’d not put Xhaka in goal and you’d not put Mustafa at center half (ah…..). Anyway, it looks like we’re set up for a reprise of the Sanchez pantomime It’s a shame though because Ramsey has been one of the few constants in this squad. He deserves to play in a position that highlights his box to box skills. Unfortunately, Xhaka is occupying that position. So we’ve got square pegs in round holes. This is ok against the average teams but will be exploited relentlessly by the top teams (in the EPL and Europe). It feels like we’re on a knife edge.
Does this seem ungrateful? We’ve won again. Five league games on the trot? Why the negatives? Because this year was always about transition. We made the biggest change of the last 22 years with a new manager. So let’s embrace that change. Let’s develop a spine in our team. And that spine will never be stable if it includes Mustafa or Xhaka. And heavens above if it contains both. I’m not against losing a few games or points if it helps us evolve and develop. It enables us to find our identify and develop a core in the team that positions us to truly compete for the league. At the moment we seem like we’ll always be a solid team that will consistently fall short. Torreira remains a big positive – aside from when we gave the ball away a couple of times. He helps us move into a future state. But we need to be braver. Maybe I’m too impatient. Maybe I should be grateful we’re not as poor as last year. There are signs of improvement. But it does not take a rocket scientist to see that are fundamental issues with this team.
You have to feel sorry for Cech. He’s been our savior this season. He’s been under undue criticism because he’s so uncomfortable passing out of the back. But he saved us against Everton and has started to come to grips with our new approach. And now he’s been struck down with the Ramsey hamstring curse. This could seem him out for a while. Leno took his chance quite well today. He does not look too bad. He made one excellent save and seem unafraid to come for corners etc. But he’ll need time to get used to the physicality of the English game. In the meantime, I’ll miss Cech. This could be the end of his time as our number 1 goalie. By the time he comes back – which I figure is a couple of months – Leno should have firmly established himself.
I’ve also yet to figure out the right position for Augamayang. Today he seemed a little lost as well. Often peripheral to the game. It’s not clear where to play him. Add this to the Ramsey and Ozil positional issue and it’s not hard to see why we’re unbalanced. We haven’t maximized the best of our defense – because of Mustafa and that no-one has taught Bellerin how to defend . And we have yet to figure out how to slot together the attacking pieces we have at our disposal. Against teams like Watford and Everton we might be able to slide by. In both cases we should consider ourselves fortunate to get three points. But against the teams above us we’ll not be able to cover up these flaws. Not that I ever expected us to compete against them this year. But, again, I want to see progress. Maybe the mental side is improving. But we were never that bad at home last year. It’s away where we’ll be tested.
I was impressed with Holding again today. He managed Deeney quite well. He is more reliable than Mustafa (but then who isn’t). It would be interesting to see Sokratis play alongside Holding at some point. Could you build a team around Leno, Holding and Torreira? That’s not a bad partial spine. Ozil looks to be grinding his way back into his game. After the abuse and racism he’s had to deal with it’s good that he was able to score today. You might even have noticed how he chased back into our own penalty area to tackle and bring the ball out. Not that Gayle noticed. He thought Ozil’s only contribution was the goal. But then when you’re such a caveman (not that I have anything against cavemen) and a cunt, it’s only to be expected I suppose.
So I’ll find ways to be grateful for the three points and look for the silver linings. I must become a glass is half full supporter again. I’ll have to submit to some therapy to resolve this trauma. I used to enjoy the football but the last few years have taught me to prepare for disappointment. It’s the natural English in me. A nation of perpetual losers. A nation of Tony Gayles. But I know we can do better. Let’s see if Emery is the man that can do this. Time will tell. And I’ll try and remain patient.