Apologies for the lateness of post again today. You may lay the blame at the door of my future wife this time. Truthfully, I’m glad of the extra time to write today’s entry. There’s a bewildering ocean of opinion out there and without a little time to think for yourself it would be easy to sink to the bottom.
Losing at Stoke is bad enough. Accusations of “roughing us up” and howls of derision aimed toward the dubious penalty award might be justified in some respects, but the bottom line is Arsenal didn’t play well, didn’t create chances and, on the whole, looked lethargic and disinterested. As much as I can understand the need to find an explanation that enables the blame to be put elsewhere, it is absolutely wrong. We can hold responsible no one other than the players that took to the field.
Writing posts like this one, I’m immediately hit with the reminder I’m not a professional football manager. I wasn’t even that good at Championship Manager during it’s peak of popularity – I used to get annoyed with my players too quickly and sell, only keeping a few out of some bizarre and unexplained loyalty I felt towards them.
I want to discuss the tactics deployed during the Stoke game, yet can’t shake that voice in the back of my head that’s saying, “James, are you sure you know what you’re talking about?”
From the self-confessed managerially inept perspective of yours truly, I though the team wasn’t set up correctly. Podolski wandered in from the left all too frequently and we lacked on either flank as an outlet. We had Ozil, Rosicky and Cazorla, 3 gifted ‘playmakers’ with nothing to aim their passes at. For all his histrionics and posturing up front, Giroud did not have one of his better days. Incidentally, why does someone as tall and strong as Olivier allow himself to be bullied out of the game?
Only when Oxlade-Chamberlian came onto the pitch did we look threatening. His pace and drive created good situations and the only real chance of the game for Arsenal, a chance fluffed by Yaya Sanogo. As that shot soared over the bar and his teammates slumped to their knees, I felt sorry for Yaya. Yes – he should hit the target, unquestionably, but this is a kid of 20 years with 2 starts under his belt. It does make you ponder why he was our option from the bench when chasing a game.
Losing at the Britannia Stadium makes a title challenge tough. Chelsea are 4 points ahead, Liverpool have momentum on their side and Manchester City have games in hand. An argument can be made for nothing being over until it is a mathematical certainty, but at this stage, honesty says it may be beyond us now. That isn’t to be defeatist and write Arsenal off because of a setback. Not at all. The realist in me sees the upcoming fixtures and knows it will be a big ask to retain the top spot.
We hang by a worn thread in the Champions League, but the FA Cup remains a very good possibility. Victory against Everton on Saturday puts us in the semi-finals and at that stage anything can happen. What’s important now is that we regroup, put another setback to the back of our minds and focus. The summer would be an ideal time to take stock and pull the knives out, if you see fit, but until then there is a lot to play for.
That’s all for today, folks. The comments await your thoughts below. There’s a lot to talk about; the penalty, the performance, the future, the players on show. Send a few of your opinions my way.
Tomorrow I shall return with more. Until then, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.