No Boxing Day Gifts – Arsenal

Arsenal Win – 45 Fans

Draw – 2 Fans

Arsenal Loss- 1 fan

Those were primarily the stats from our Arsenal Predictions League for the game yesterday. Confident Gooners, going into the game thinking the contrast in form for Arsenal and Southampton would play to good effect in our favour. Can you blame them? As administrator I do not play in the league but if I did I too would have gone for an Arsenal win especially given a unique opportunity for us to go top.  The players however had other things in mind.

In my preview for the game I stated my worry as to how much fatigue would play a part in this game given the way we struggled in the final minutes against Man City and also the fact that we had primarily played the same side all through the month. The lack of pace in our approach to the game against Southampton might have given credence to those fears. We just were not going to apply ourselves to the game. Lots of individual and collective errors led to the spanking we received from the home side despite the fact that at least three of their goals should not have stood.

Speaking before the game on Arsenal.com club Captain, Arteta stated

“They’re having some difficulties but it’s a really tough place to go and win,” he said. “We’ve experienced that in the last few years where we haven’t managed to win there. They have some quality players and at some point they are going to turn it around.

“We don’t want that to be on Saturday so we need to be ready for it. However, with games like Manchester City, we have realised that if you don’t focus then you pay the price in the Premier League. We have three home games afterwards, so we have to win this game.”

So primarily, the players knew what they were going into and the focus that would be required to come away with any kind of positive result. I have always wondered with Arsenal if our players find it difficult to motivate themselves to play against certain opponents. Possibly they look at some fixtures and assume “We are Arrseeenaall, Arseenaal AFC, We Are By Far The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen” and we only need to show up to win this particular fixture.

Recently, against the big sides or when the odds were against us, the team found that extra zest needed to win important games. Chelsea in the charity shield, Manchester United at home, Manchester City at home, Bayern Munich at home when we knew it was all or nothing and most importantly Olympiakos away however the games we have lost or dropped points are primarily games you would expect us to win with all due respect to our opponents. Zagreb away, Olympiakos at home, West Ham at home, West Brom away and Norwich away, Southampton away normally wouldn’t be classified as easy but the form they were in meant an early goal would have really created doubts in their hearts. However the reverse was the case as we conceded the early goal and really couldn’t get our foot back in the game.

This is where I feel the lack of players that have won the title with Arsenal becomes a problem. You look at every other team that are or should be competing with us and they have such players, Man City, Chelsea and Man United. The league is long and hard and little things like having someone in your ear who can tell you what it felt like in the dressing room, for the fans and the whole club when the title was won I believe has a role to play in a title race. Someone who can tell you to pull your socks up and dig in and you would respect his opinion because he has won with the club and knows what he is saying. Cech offers that but his experience albeit extremely important is from elsewhere. Reading Dennis Bergkamp “Stillness and Speed” gives you an inclination into how important dressing rooms are in football clubs. If you haven’t read it, you should, it’s an amazing book.

I haven’t been to an Arsenal game before and if I did especially with this team, one thing I would be looking for would be who is talking to who on the pitch. I think that is the part of the game those of us who watch from home miss as we are restricted to camera angles. For instance, with the current team I don’t think we have enough people on the pitch who can call their teammates to order.

The closest we have is Coquelin and he does it only when he sees you don’t make a tackle. I think Cech is too far for to have that kind of effect, Per doesn’t seem like one to talk a lot, Ozil would rather give you the stare, Giroud would show his frustration with his body, Koscienly cuts the I would rather get the job done myself figure, Monreal and  Bellerin are not in those positions yet, Cazorla already showed against Chelsea how he couldn’t take control of the Gabriel-Diego Costa situation as captain on the day.

There should have been someone yesterday speaking into people’s ears, carrying whatever message the manager has passed to the pitch and screaming team mates into positions. Someone should have called Flamini and Ramsey to just sit in the middle for a while as we tried to get back some control of the game. To be fair, not every club is blessed people like that, but it certainly helps if you have someone on the pitch who can read where the game is going and help guide his teammates to react. Whether it’s stopping a particular opponent, or asking a particular player to offer more support to a team-mate, or asking everyone to fall back and cover positions or simply asking more of team mates going forward. Like I said earlier, I might be wrong as watching from home never gives you the full picture of what is going on.

We have missed I think three opportunities to go top of the league and I am sure there would be more chances to achieve that in our next set of games. The manager spoke about it in his post match interview stating.

I said before the game at the moment if we are one point ahead or one point behind it is not too important. It is the performance that counts. We were not good enough to win the game and we have to look at that. On the other hand we can’t look too much at that as in 48 hours we play again. We were disappointed and frustrated and the only way is to respond in 48 hours.

Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20151226/the-boss-on-defeat-pressure-and-long#oPi6ZHoipD97aMUm.99

As he correctly stated, we have another opportunity to erase this performance as games come thick and fast. It is important the players react properly to this loss and hopefully we should be back where we really want to be…ON TOP OF THE LEAGUE.

Until then, I am off to the beach with the family today to enjoy lots of wine and some mince pie. Goodbye!!

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