‘A Pinch of Salt’ is an undeniably odd title for a post on an Arsenal themed blog, but it appears that it is exactly what we, as Arsenal fans, need at the moment. With the advent of overreaction that twitter has brought into our lives, I think it key that we understand that Arsenal are not as bad as the scoreline vs Villa suggested, nor as good as the result last night vs Fenerbahce appears. I strongly believe, that we are somewhere in the middle. This hypothesis is going to be easier to prove using two bits of evidence :- 1) Anthony Taylor was rubbish 2) Fenerbahce was rubbish.
1) Anthony Taylor was rubbish
I strongly urge you all to watch this video, which systematically dismantles the terrible performance of Anthony Taylor, who has since been dropped by the FA for his shenanigans on Saturday. I think it suffices to say that if you can find over 7 minutes of footage of referee mistakes in a single match, the ref has had a real shocker. I’m not going to go into detail about his mistakes but I will highlight the major errors which substantially disadvantaged Arsenal:-
- First Penalty – Playing advantage, allowing Weimann to shoot and then miss, followed by illegally calling back play for a penalty.
- Second Penalty – Koscielny clearly got the ball, should never have been a penalty or yellow card.
- Koscielny Red – Compounding the earlier yellow that wasn’t, he was sent off for a ‘challenge’ that didn’t even touch Weimann.
- Villa’s roughhouse tactics – It was a miracle that the likes of Agbonlahor and Vlaar were allowed to remain on the field after their cynical fouls on Wilshere and Rosicky. Right after Koscielny’s red, Vlaar put in a tackle which was a stonewall second yellow. Duly ignored by the great Anthony Taylor.
No one is trying to pretend Arsenal deserved to come away with a win on saturday but it deserves mention that we were desperately unlucky to lose Gibbs to an unfortunate head injury, Ox to a 50-50 challenge and to have a clearly jetlagged SantI Cazorla playing for us. Rosicky too had a couple of wonderfully crafted chances which he should have put away. One also has to remember that the 3rd goal was only conceded towards the fag end of the game when we had thrown every single body forward in desperate attempt at an equalizer. I do concede that Arsenal were at times outworked by Villa and didn’t create that many chances to warrant a win.
2) Fenerbahce was rubbish
There’s been a lot of chest thumping from the so called AKB lot on twitter, calling out last night’s result as one that proves Wenger right and that we don’t need too many more signings. Despite obvious improvement in our performance (cough *Gibbs* cough), Arsenal were immensely helped by Fenerbahce’s spineless performance. The Turks were comfortable passing the ball around their back 5, which is no great feat, but as soon as they ventured into our half, they simply could not hold onto the ball. One of their midfield trio continually dropped back between the central defenders, supposedly in a bid to link up play. All it did though, was to rob Fenerbahce of an option in the opposition half, allowing the energetic duo of Rambo and Wilshere enough time and space to mop up any loose passes. Kuyt and Sow did little to help their team’s play, failing to link up well with their fullbacks or the isolated Webo. Fenerbahce continuously misplaced the simplest of passes, killing the mood of the crowd and putting a dampener on the bold claim of various Fenerbahce fans : #WelcomeToHell
Fenerbahce were content to sit back and allow our midfielders to bring the ball up, in stead of taking a leaf out of Villa’s book and hounding us like crazy dogs. Despite this, we struggled for creativity in the final third, Cazorla being much improved but a fair way off his penetrative best. Fenerbahce’s wayward attack is evidenced by the fact that Szczesny made only 2 saves during the entire match, taken from the excellent Arseblog’s piece ‘By the Numbers’. Despite crediting Fenerbahce for a substantial portion of the result, I would like to highlight a few positives from last night.
- Szczesny : His two saves were phenomenal. He claimed high balls well and his distribution was effective. Stories of a new keeper may have spooked him, we need him to play like this every match.
- Rambo : Great performance, if he stays fit, can make a huge impact this season.
- The midfield : I was phenomenally surprised with the tactical awareness Wilshere and Rambo showed. Not once did I see a Fenerbahce midfielder running at our defence uninhibited. A far cry from a recent piece of mine on the Wilshere – Rambo axis. Let’s hope they continue to learn quickly.
- Monreal’s return : If Gibbs gets injured, we now have a talented, experienced, Spanish international ready to step in. No more Sagna at left back.
To sum up, I think it’s evident that Arsenal’s first 11 isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be although our lack of squad depth decrees that we need at least three signings. At DM and striker, we require world class signings while I would be comfortable with a versatile defender of reasonable quality being added. The Ox is a versatile midfielder who can play across the wings and centrally too. His injury sees us lose a lot of impetus over the final third and I do hope the stories of Angel Di Maria are true. The lack of squad depth is squarely put forth by the fact that our first choice right back will be playing out of position for the 3rd successive match. The injuries to Gibbs and Koscielny were unfortunate, but having to play Sagna there shows a lack of planning. We’re nearly into Wenger’s ‘last 10 days where 75% of transfers happen’. With Champions League football nearly guaranteed, Arsene simply must deliver now.