By Walter Broeckx
After a painful defeat it is always difficult to keep perspective. Yes it was a bad result. We could point at some decisions from the ref not going our way that cost us. But I will leave the ref out of this. So no need to comment on that.
What I find strange for the moment is that we seem to have turned in to a Jekyll and Hide team. And the problem is that we never know which team will be out on the field. As we played against two teams with somehow similar styles in consecutive matches the difference became very obvious.
The match before we played against West Ham. Their tactic for the moment is to throw the ball up high in the air and hoof it in the direction of Carroll. In that match I was really impressed by the way that both Gabriel and Mustafi was dealing with Carroll in the air. Each time the ball was hoofed in his direction one of them was up with him in the air and competing for the ball.
And it worked brilliantly against Carroll. He could do nothing all evening and in the second half he was taken off the field as it was clear to Bilic that our defenders were too much for him.
So with now playing Crystal Palace I was expecting the same. They just hoof it up to Benteke and hope he can produce something. So it was obvious that the tactic we should have used against Benteke was the same as we did against Carroll.
But for some reason we didn’t. Okay Benteke is a bit quicker than Carroll and can be more effective in shielding the ball but that isn’t an excuse to just don’t attack him when the ball is hoofed in his direction. I know that Benteke was using his body and was allowed to use his body (also in illegal ways at times) but why wasn’t Mustafi and Gabriel battling with him in the air is unknown for me.
Mustafi and Gabriel have shown that they can deal with such big centre forward if they really get stuck and make him uncomfortable but this time it was Benteke who just won the balls and both of them just stood by and even gave him space to bring his teammates in play.
I have said it a few times in the last weeks and certainly now Koscielny is injured that I want Wenger to put Per Mertesacker on the field again. Per has played a few times against Benteke and with his body and know how he seems for me the perfect player to play against Benteke. To be honest I really don’t know why Wenger doesn’t use him anymore. He is fit for some 2-3 months now but we never see him entering the field. If he wasn’t match fit then he shouldn’t be on the bench but he is on the bench, but is never used. It’s a mystery to me. But then again what do I know…
But this lack of aggressively defending seemed to filter through to the whole team. If the ball was stuck in a duel between two players it was the Palace player that won the duel most of the time. They battled harder for the ball than we did it seemed.
Our attacking line was almost invisible for most of the match. I think that Welbeck hasn’t played a good match since he returned and is lacking something still. He looks slow in his thinking and he looks to struggle for confidence. Getting match fit is about playing matches but for weeks now he has been a very invisible man in most of the matches he played.
As was Walcott. Theo can score a goal from time to time but when it comes to battling he will never be the first of the class. And as long as he scores in a match he makes up for that but when he doesn’t score he becomes another invisible player.
If 2 of your 3 strikers are almost invisible in a match it gets very difficult for the midfielders to get things going. Alexis tried more and battled a bit more but he was completely isolated and his dribbling was ineffective for most of the time. Mind you he was the only attacker that was dangerous.
All that was good in our match against West Ham was forgotten as soon as Crystal Palace scored their first goal. Our passing was too slow. Maybe because we tried to play the ball over the ground and it sure looked to be a slow pitch. That is no problem a team that plays more in the air faces.
From being Dr. Jekyll last week, this week we turned up in the ugly Hyde character.
And to make the comparison complete I have to take a look at the long run of this season. I remember a time when we played better away from home than we played in the Emirates. For a while we were the best away team in the league. And now I think we are one of the worst away teams in the last months. Again from being good we have turned in to ugly.
Yes in that period when we won match after match away from home Santi was a key factor and since his absence we have lost a lot of what he can bring to a team. I know he is a somewhat unique player but that should be no excuse for the rest of the team to hide themselves in a match.
But players hiding is something that happens when teams are low on confidence. And we seem to be low on that front for the moment. If I would know how to turn that around I would probably be the Arsenal manager. But I don’t know, so I am not.
All I know is that I will support our players once again come next Monday and hope they can have a better performance. Time for everyone to look in the mirror and look at themselves and ask themselves if they have done everything they could in this match.
Oh and finally bring in the video ref, don’t you think Mr. Oliver?