A disappointing night
by Tim Charlesworth
Two days ago, I eyed a tricky looking set of upcoming features and wrote an article for Untold about it.
My article tried to focus on the really important things to look out for, other than the obvious ones of whether we scored goals, and whether the opposition did. After the match in Dinamo, I’m sure we would all welcome the chance to focus on something other than the result, so here is a review of the questions I asked, and what we have learnt so far:
Firstly, I can’t avoid observing that this tricky set of fixtures hasn’t started well, but actually, of the six, this is possibly the best one to lose (depending on how you feel about Carling v Totts).
Of the questions I asked, the most obvious one we now have answers to is the one about rotation – Wenger was prepared to gamble, and more than I expected him to. My question over whether the rotation would work, was also answered. Full marks for courage, less marks for achievement. With the benefit of hindsight, Wenger gambled too much.
I must say, I was initially pleased when I heard the line-up for the Dinamo game. I thought it was a bold gamble, and indicated Wenger’s confidence in his squad. I was expecting to see 2-3 changes tonight, but we got 6. The goalkeeper change really surprised me – are we going to see Ospina in all cups including the CL?. I expected only one change at fullback, and the use of Arteta really surprised me (in my original article, I considered this rotation unlikely)
Looking at the longer term implications of the game: I expect we will still qualify, but will probably have to play full strength teams right to the end of the group, and this will have knock on effects for domestic fixtures. We are also likely to come second in the group, although you could argue we were favourites to do that anyway. Second and third is likely to be a battle between us and Dinamo, and in the CL group stage, head to head results matter.
So Theo’s goal could be surprisingly valuable in the case that we tie with Dinamo and beat them at home (not that unlikely). If this happens, the away goal, and the reduction of the deficit to one goal could be important. We play Dinamo on matchday five, and this could also be a tactical advantage.
Unfortunately, I also have to observe that confidence will also suffer going into a big game on Saturday (Chelsea’s resounding victory may also be unhelpful in this regard).
In terms of the other ‘real questions’ identified in my original article:
Coquelin: Unfortunately reinforced how good he is, by how much we missed him. Looked good when he came on as well, and set up Walcott’s goal with a typical piece of athletic and aggressive play. Arteta’s form is a worry. Many fans have expressed doubts about Arteta as a DM backup and unfortunately those concerns looked real tonight. Let’s hope Arteta improves as the season goes on and he gets more minutes.
Walcott: could hardly have done better in terms of conversion rate (100% I think). He also constantly looked dangerous. He looks, just a little bit, more like a ‘real 9’ after this game and his impact from the bench. Showed the kind of great finish we know he is capable of.
Gabriel: Looked fantastic . Massive presence, great defending and tackling. He made one mistake at the end, but this was a calculated risk by a man chasing the game, I think. I’m really interested to see whether the BFG can get his place back (other than by rotation).
Ozil: Looked good in patches. He threatened to turn in a dominant performance at the start of second half, but then he fell short and seemed to drift out of the game a bit.
- The Ox looked poor;
- Sanchez did OK, without setting the world alight. Sanchez’s form is slightly worrying, and the ‘sophomore effect’ still seems like a possibility, but really its too early to tell. He did some good things such as the goal assist and a lovely pass to Ozil that looked onside to me.
- Giroud was obviously disappointing, and he will feel hideous, but he was harshly dealt with by the referee, and did OK whilst he was on the field.
- Bosscielny looked good, albeit not his best performance. I don’t think he really could have done anything about the second goal. That was a good leap by a player with momentum on his side.
So let’s set aside the result, on the grounds that you can’t read too much into a single result, especially when a red card is involved in an away game. Overall, the answers to the big questions were quite encouraging. Most of the answers were good. Wenger may have slightly overdone it on the rotation, but I would rather see over-rotation than under-rotation (as a gymnastics coach would say). Overall, on balance, this match actually produced evidence that we will have a good season. Chins up Gooners. Mood will soon change if we get a good result on Saturday.
- 17 September 1943: Wally Barnes joined Arsenal to play for them in the wartime league. The story is that Portsmouth’s scout in 1937 was on a cycling trip, stopped for a rest, saw a game going on in a local field and decided to have a look noticed Wally asked if he wanted to turn pro. Wally turned him down.
- 17 September 1955: Wally Barnes last appearance on anniversary of joining the club. He played 267 league games, winning both the League and the FA Cup with the club.
The Untold Books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal