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Post Match Review

Bridge Over Troubled Waters?

Well, if we could only play Reading and Tottenham every week we’d be top of the table and have a killer goal differential. As it is, it’s a win and much needed one.

Well, if we could only play Reading and Tottenham every week we’d be top of the table and have a killer goal differential. As it is, it’s a win and much needed one.

However, it does beg the question – what the hell happened a week ago and has been happening over the last few weeks? Surely, Reading are a better team than Bradford? Maybe, not on the evidence of it. But there was more urgency and commitment in this match then there had been even against West Brom nearly two weeks ago.

It leaves me with a lingering feeling of a team that has not been playing to its potential and on some occasions (admitted by the players themselves) taking an opponent too lightly. More than anything else these two items seem to be the one current theme you can identify that create self-inflicted problems for Arsenal.

When Arsenal started this season, even with the loss of Van Persie things seemed to portend for an upward trajectory of this club capped off by a match Arsenal should’ve clearly walked away feeling confident at the Etihad (Vincent Kompany gave the Gunners lofty praise saying they were the best team his side had played against) Then came the match against Chelsea and sporadic matches filled with fits and stutters. Losses.  Draws. Accusations. Disgruntled fans. Lost players.  It all added up to a run of games that put Arsenal on their worst footing since before Wenger arrived at the club.

Lucky for Arsenal that the league in general is poor. That Arsenal are only 3 points out of 3rd and 9 out of 2nd after having gone through such a sustained run of poor form, says loads about the quality of this league. That Arsenal still have the 3rd least conceded goals in the leagues and are still one of the best road teams also speaks lots about how poor the league is overall.

I’m not going to get carried away with the win. It was just that a single win. We need more. We need a sustained run of “professional” performances to get us through the holiday fixture and carry us over to the downward slope of the season.

And it didn’t hurt that Reading were so obliging to Arsenal. The combination of Podolski and Gibbs where the catalyst by which every goal scored by Arsenal occurred through. Reading were simply outclassed on that side.

Santi Cazorla, got the honor of being the first Spaniard in the Premier League to score a hat-trick and record an assist in one game. But it was in the end too easy for him. Not, that we should complain.  He had time and space behind the Reading midfield and with the Reading back line stretched out covering the fullbacks there was enough room to maneuver and easily score his goals. His 3 goals now make him the team’s leading scorer and will hopefully do for him what I hope the win does for the whole team – build some confidence.

With confidence comes the ability to play to your level. Sports is as mental as it is physical and skill. Clearly Arsenal haven’t been anywhere near their potential. They boast one of the best Spanish midfielders who aren’t at Barcelona or Madrid. Their young English talent is widely considered some of the best in the league – Wilshere arguably the best. And the other players who support them – with a few exceptions – are good enough to be doing more than they have. And it has shown. Yes, there are other issues and we have discussed some of them ad nauseum.  But in terms of the on the pitch product, Arsenal’s players have not been performing at the level you’d expect them to – especially given such a bright start to the season.

Additionally, it was nice to see that Arsenal from the get go were the better of the team. They did not approach this match with the drooped heads, slumped shoulders, and “going through the motions” approach so often seen when you underestimate the opponent.

No, there was a constant an attack that threatened a lesser opponent at every occasion. Arsenal had the desire and they played like it. It would be wrong to not notice the 2 goals scored from Reading which were the result of some the lackadasical approach Arsenal had been showing. Poor passing. Individual defensive mistakes. They were all a part of a few moments where Arsenal clearly took their focus off of putting an opponent to the sword. Sure being up 4-0 will do that. But as I’ve argued this league has clearly shown that even the lesser opponents will try and have a go.  Good to see though there was a reponse and Arsenal stiffened up and ended it off of a Walcott goal.

About Theo.

So Theo got his wish. He played in the central role. He was occupying that false 9 role that Gervinho had been taking every now and then.  What I noticed from the upfront three of Walcott, Podolski , and Oxlade-Chamberlain was how quick it was.  The speed of the three created opportunities and space that haven’t been there for Arsenal in the last few games. It worked so well I definitely bears repeating against Wigan.

Now, I got worried about Theo when after the first half had ended he only had 15 touches. At the half it placed him last on the team sheet in that category even behind Szczesny. But as a central forward he will have to go long moments not being on the ball.  And in reality it is as much about what he does with the ball as he does without it.

Gifted with speed Theo used it to affect. He was vibrant and moved off the ball to effectively create space and give him more opportunities.  It was nice to see and hopefully the contract silliness will get worked out and Theo will wind up occupying this role and developing more.

So where does this leave us?

Well, as I’ve said its one game. The questions that were being asked should still be asked. Maybe they will be sufficiently quieted if we can enjoy a prolonged run of winning. But they shouldn’t stop being asked – you know the one’s I speak of.

Also, even if Arsenal go on an extended run – it can’t mitigate the fact that our depth is lacking. If we improve the club can’t say we’re fine with our players because in quite a few cases we aren’t.

In the end where we are depends on your perspective. Was it one win and doesn’t mean anything, and we’ll be back here again shortly –aka Much Ado About Nothing. Or was it the end to the tumult or A Bridge Over Troubled Waters. The choice is yours.

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