Arsenal Vs Reading. A Bollywood script
I wanted to restart this blog on a positive note. Took a break for various reasons. Not that I wrote prolifically before. In hindsight I regret not writing during the period when we won at Liverpool, drew at City and hit Southampton for a six.
Well, it looks like I have not waited in vain. What an unbelievable night of football it was. These cup games are a bit tricky. Wenger has clearly laid out his priorities for the club. You can disagree or agree. But as the man in charge he has complete right to do so. One of the perplexing things about many people disagreeing with Wenger is they have taken the list as straightforward priority.
Wenger outlined his priority was
1) Premier league
2) Champions league
3) Qualification for champions league
4) FA cup
5) League cup
Now many of the people, media and former players have obviously brought out the “Arsenal lack an ambition argument”. However, I feel many are reading the list incorrectly. I am sure Wenger will not throw away an opportunity to win multiple competitions. After all we did reach the 2011 league cup finals and fielded our A team which went down. So for me it’s more of option 1 and Option 4 not Option 1 or Option 4.
The league cup or FA cup needs intelligent planning. Of course a full strength squad will help us massively. What we need is that one success. Cup or league. I remember in the Arsenal history DVD, Frank McLintock explains the psyche of a team which is looking to win something. He goes on to explain how the victory in Inter-cities fair cup of 1970 gave the team belief and created a platform for the double which followed. More on this later
Now coming to the game against Reading. The moment we went into extra time, the first thought which came into my mind was, this is almost like a script for Bollywood. For people who are not familiar, for many decades and even now in some cases, Bollywood movies were made keeping a complete family audience in mind. So you would have some comedy, action, tragedy and drama. For me the game at Madejski Stadiumwas no different. Now, I don’t think we need to go into which parts were tragedies etc…
As I said these games are really tricky, remember the 1-0 loss to Ipswich in 2011.Teams from lower leagues or low rank in the EPL get a chance to have a go at bigger teams which usually field a second 11 or a mix of academy/reserves. For teams like Arsenal, the team has to gel and win. There will be players playing for the first time , who will not know how other players move. Going out of a cup tie witch a chance to go to the quarter finals at stake doesn’t sound great. At the same time the demands of various ties and rotating the squad make it difficult to field a first 11.
Mistake in selection?
A first look at the team sheet made me slightly nervous. It was definitely not the back four which was the weak point. After all, except Ignassi Miquel at left back and Martinez in goal, our other 3 can be called first team contenders. But the concern for me was the midfield. Defenders at Arsenal have become used to the shielding from our defensive midfielders. The work rate of even the wingers and forwards has gone up. So the first line of defence is now higher up the pitch.
For this game however, Wenger decided to start with both Coquelin and Frimpong. Though both of them have their own qualities, I felt a lack of experience and composure could hurt the defensive side.
I like Frimpong for his attitude, passion and love for the club. They are qualities which are difficult to imbibe. He did say he was not fit enough to stake a claim in the first team. Don’t know if that was the reason, but he did go missing in the game.
It’s not correct to blame any single player for what ensued, if there was one word to describe it, I would say it was “Chaos”. It was also a result of a lack in some sort of leadership on the pitch. It’s quite surprising that Djourou was given the captain’s band. Not that there was a clear candidate for the honor. But when you are running around and lacking cohesion, it helps if one person takes charge, shouts orders and calms the players down.
All the three goals scored by Reading were aided by Arsenal. It’s to say there was no moment of brilliance which resulted in the goals. That is not to show Reading in poor light.
Reading did their job, Arsenal didn’t.
The own goal from Koscielny was the one which scared me a little. Koscielny for my money is not much far away from Vermaelen or Mertasacker. In fact he has been better than both on his day. That is what worries me, regarding him. This goal would be his 4th own goal. From a player of his ability, we would expect more. This guy had Messi in his pocket. I am sure it’s the lack of game time and erosion in confidence for whatever reason which is affecting him. For Arsenal to move ahead in cup competitions and be a strong contender in the league, Koscielny needs to sort this out. He is too good a player to be letting in own goals. I felt he would have played better if given captaincy. But again he doesn’t look like a guy who is vocal and shouts to get things in order. Koscielny grew into the game. But he was very upset with himself for the first half.
I know there were a lot of us who felt coming back from 4 goals down was close to impossible. Given the effort in the first 40 minutes, no one would be faulted too. I didn’t know for sure what would happen, but I did feel if we could score one goal before half time, the whole thing would turn on its head.
The first goal was spotted by many as the game changer. Walcott has shown in recent times how much he has improved his finishing. Wenger said the correct thing, you either have the instinct of a striker or you don’t. Walcott has it. We cannot be trying to score by walking into the goal. We need to have players spotting .One huge complaint against the team is we need to start playing to the strengths of goal scorers. Walcott was continuously making runs in between the defenders. Someone needs to start spotting the runs and Walcott will do the rest
This is where we come to our 2nd game changer. Olivier Giroud. If ever I wanted one thing at Arsenal, it was a big dominating striker. Giroud for me is no less than Drogba. He has quick feet, moves into goal scoring positions and works hard for the team. If we have lacked anything at Arsenal, it’s some sort of conversion from corners. We get on average5 corners every game. But we do very little the corners. In fact we suffer on the break. When teams get the ball out and run towards our goal. Giroud has been changing that. His header for Arsenal’s 2nd goal was truly exquisite. To bend and dig the ball out that way for a header reminds me of how Drogba used to successfully attack the ball and score. Skill and strength. Giroud has scored only a couple of times. But I don’t think anyone can disagree about the goals he can score. The goals are coming people. They are going to come much faster than they did for someone else. He is not going to take 8 years!
Giroud’s goal truly changed it. The team moved with belief. The quality improved and there was a sense of purpose in moving the ball. One of the biggest complaints I have against Wenger, is the way he has played Arshavin. After the game against Coventry, Wenger acknowledged that probably Arshavin’s best role is behind the striker. Ceteris paribus (keeping all things same – I love showing off my economics once in a while), Arshavin is probably as good as Cazorla. At least till the time Arshavin is here we could make use of him.
Probably not a game changer, but it was nice to see Chamakh have a good outing. I was shocked when he was left on the field and Gnabry subbed. But hey we don’t say Wenger knows for nothing. I never saw chamakh scoring those types of goals. I associate him more with headers and tap ins. Never knew he could L1+ kick. Fair play to him. It’s better to have him contribute something than sitting on the bench.
Of the young brigade Coquelin redeemed himself in the 2nd half. He will be putting enormous pressure on Frimpong. Eisfeld looks close to 1st team. You can see he has Rosicky like movement. I like the fact that he goes on about his job calmly. Nothing flashy. He has a knack of finding space without much effort. With Eisfeld and Coquelin retaining the ball, Arshavin looked more at ease. Gnabry is another player who has skill, but he showed against Schalke, he still has time.
The other big game changing aspect was our away support. For me their constant chanting and singing had a huge effect. I think the chants of “We want our Arsenal back” worked. Fans for away games put in a massive effort to out sing and out chant opposition fans. They deserve much more effort than what we put up in the 1st half. Wenger did well to thank most of them. His humor is back these days, said he appreciates the fans for staying with the team. But a little less appreciation for fans who left. Cheeky!
More than the game, the result was very important. There has been a goal drought for the last 3 games. We have played 3 games after the international break and scored 1 goal. It was imperative to find the rhythm .7 goals should take care of the confidence. Like many of you are saying on twitter, let’s go and win this cup. Bring on United. See you real soon!
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