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Let’s swallow the bitter pill

By Walter Broeckx

Any defeat hurts. Some defeats hurt more.  Sometimes life sucks and so does football. All that seem to go wrong for the moment goes wrong for Arsenal.

I haven’t had the stomach to review the game and I am happy that one of the other ref reviewers is doing the game. But on the other hand it really is sometimes very enlightening to see a game again as it brings and shows you some things that went unnoticed the first time. As then you are looking full of tension and passion. But when you know the score you can focus more on other things. So I might be wrong but I had the impression we didn’t play badly. Always hard to say after a defeat but still we didn’t got played of the park as was predicted by some pundits…and by some fans.

I think we were in control most of the time with Tottenham mostly relying on swift counters and a lucky break. Most of our passing was good but I do remember a few times that some of our easy passing was not up to the usual standard. This could be down to the defensive work of Tottenham or maybe the fact that some players were not really 100% in the game.

My impression was that Arteta was trying to help Cocquelin more and didn’t go forward as much as in other games. This could have been down to an instruction from the manager in order to help Cocquelin and to make sure he wouldn’t be flooded by the Spurs players. And with the likes of Modric and Van Der Vaart this is always a possibility for a player and certainly a young player. But I think that Cocquelin did a good job most of the time. I think he looks ready to play his part. All though I still think that Song is the better option in defensive midfield. But of course one has to start somewhere with your career and even though White Hart Lane is not the best places to come to, he showed that he will not be over run that easily.

I have seen Cocquelin play this summer for the France U21 team at the world cup and he really looked not impressive at all in those games. But I have heard that the manager of the France team had almost forbidden him to go forward. So he just sat there in front of the back 4. But in the games I have seen him play for Arsenal he really looks a complete player to me.

But with Arteta hanging a bit deeper Ramsey didn’t get the support he needed at times. Which resulted in losing a few balls. I did see a few misunderstandings between our midfielders and against a team with fast forwards and a fast winger like Tottenham this is asking for troubles.  So our keeping of the ball by our midfielders was not as good as I have seen them this season. Let alone the seasons before.

The men who went missing was our forward players. I don’t know how fit Theo and Gervinho were to be honest. Maybe they were fit but I really doubt they were match fit. They didn’t have much of an impact in the game. And the old devil called missed chances came back to haunt us. We had a few scoring chances in both halves but we didn’t make the most of it. Not that Friedel had to make many great saves. No, we just shot wide or over…but didn’t managed to hit the target enough.

Certainly the miss by Gervinho when still 0-0 was a downer. He knew that he had to shoot it to the near post as Friedel was going the other way and there was no coming back from the keeper. And then he shot wide of the goal. That really should have been the 0-1 to Arsenal. A bad miss. And a costly miss as we found out later.

I’m not going to get in the path of the ref reviewers that much but a turning point did involve the ref. The whole goal and aftermath of the goal was a version of missed chances by the ref to do what he is paid for. Another good example on the fact that we really do need something like video refs to help sort things out.

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I think the first 20 minutes of the second half we really should have won the game. We were all over Tottenham in the second half and they could hardly get a counter going. Okay they did on a seldom occasion but we really pressed them with their back against the wall. Our equaliser was fully deserved on the balance of play. We tried to score another goal but it just didn’t work out.

And then you felt that each mistake could be costly. Sagna breaking his leg outside the field was not very helpful. Jenkinson had to come in a rush and this is not really a good thing to have. If you can prepare yourself well you enter the field in a completely different shape. Jenkinson struggled against Bale but I have seen many big international defenders struggling with Bale.

And unfortunately it was Arsenal that made a mistake. I’m not going to say much about Szczesny in this because I felt it coming from the moment Tottenham got a throw in and we just went asleep. That really was the worst moment of the game for Arsenal. Nobody picking up that run was amazing. I hope some words are said about that moment on the training ground. That is the mistake that cost us. The suddenly swerving and  dipping shot made our keeper not look great but the Tottenham attack shouldn’t have gone that far in the first place.

I wonder if we would have seen Park make his PL debut if Sagna would not have broken his leg in the last quarter?  But now this was impossible and we lost an attacking option with Sagna getting injured. I would have gambled and taken Coquelin off and throw in the extra striker. But now Arshavin came in and he didn’t get really in the game.

3 points lost. 3 points that hurt a bit more than the average points lost. And by the way the game was played we shouldn’t have lost those points. The one-armed Dutchman, the blind(ed) cat, the lucky swerving ball and the fact that we didn’t take our chances cost us 3 points.

Oh well, let’s swallow the bitter pill and hope for no more injuries in the next 14 days. I think we can do without them for the rest of the season.


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26 comments to Let’s swallow the bitter pill

  • Goonercanuck

    Finally a balanced assessment of the match (and not the typical we played absolutely horribly). We certainly weren’t at our best, but the 2-1 result was a bit harsh on us, but as you say a bitter pill that we’ll just have to swallow. I think the most worrisome result is Sagna’s injury. He has easily been one of our most consistent performers–so much so that most people take it for granted. Even more than losing Wilshire and Vermaelen, I think this one will hurt us–we really don’t have any decent cover for that position. Young Jenkinson just isn’t up to the task (as the ManU match made painfully obvious). Whatever happens, we as supporters just need to hunker down and get behind the lads, whoever is put on the field.

  • oz gooner

    Many good and valid points, however you failed to mention some of the woeful and wasted passes quite often when we weren’t under that much pressure. Ramsay was the most guilty party but by no means alone, and yes we were all over Spurs in the second half but Friedel had an armchair ride so what does that tell us. We can find periods in every game we’ve played this season when we were dominant yet look at our position.As long as we keep making excuses and thinking we are better than our opposition we will make no progress

  • nicky

    In the cold light of day, I have to admit to NOT being unduly upset over the result.
    In short, Spurs were at home, the ref made some grievous errors and the winning goal was a freak shot from nowhere.
    Agreed we lost 3 points but do not despair. We will play worse later in the season and win.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    A good assessment Walter and as to the ¨handball¨ by VdV, it was very difficult for either the linesman(on the opposite side of the byline or the referee, looking at the player’s back to be able to see what happened clearly. t took me 3 tries of a closeup video replay to see him controlling the ball with his bicep so imagine how hard it was for the officials. You are absolutely right about video replays as that would have shown the handball quite clearly.
    Spuds were NOT better than us and the win was up for grabs right to the final whistle.

  • nicky

    Agreed DM. I hope that one day there will be a cast-iron means introduced to ensure total fairness in football decisions.
    After all, no-one 60 years ago would have envisaged the technical aids now being employed in pro cricket.
    Opponents might argue that the use of such weaponry as video replays will destroy the fluidity of the game. That may be so, but anything is better than the present situation when mistakes by officials have such an effect on the success or failure of Clubs.

  • RedGooner

    To be honest I was happy enough with the result of the match.
    I was concerned going into the game that we could be beaten 4-0 with all the injuries to our defence.
    Im not sure to be honest but I think the team is playing above itself when you take into account the summer we had the injuries no time to gel etc.
    I dont expect anything this season so if we do well in any of the particular cups or come with a late run in the league to finish 4th which maybe dreaming I would be thrilled.

    I do expect one thing from Arsenal though as an organistaion this year and that is when it comes to next summer they have a plan that they have learned something from last summer and that if we loose more players they know in advance what they will do.

    Hopefuly it wont come to that but next summer might determine where we are for the five following seasons at the very least.

  • Olukoya Oluseun

    I swear this is the only arsenal blog one should read in trying times like this. Nice job Walters,keep it up.

  • Mandy dodd

    An astute analysis of the game we all saw as opposed to the self flagellating nervous wreck bedwetting hatred amongst some arsenal supporters out there. I have never seen so much of our support bigging up an average spurs team, at full strength who only beat out injury hit team due to a ref error and some very silly errors by our players. Arsenal fans, when it comes to the current spuds, take the words of chuck d and don’t believe they hype. I am far from sure we will end up in the top four this year, there is major rebuilding to be done but if we fail, our place will not be taken by this spurs team.
    As for our performance, the switching off is a worry, apparently pat rice really laid into them after the game, leading to aaa / media suggestions in some quarters that wenger has lost the dressing room. If true, well done pat.
    This will be a long hard season, we may end up losing some of out better players but if rebuilding is needed, maybe frustrating but we have the right man. As he notes, with the euro crisis, could be some top players available at value soon, and wages may end up dropping as well. Keown on talk shite said there was a lot of work with mainly young players going on behind the scenes. If true, they will now have experience to help out, the next installment of wenger ball is coming soon.

  • marcus

    It was a horribly obvious handball I thought..

    unfortunately though refs seem to demure these days from tough calls….

    but as Walter will explain….the goal should have been ruled out and VDV sent off….

    imagine that…

    Well, barring the economic crash that the financiers dream of…I can’t see much changing in the EPL….

    I can’t see Arsene lasting long either. Shame really, because with proper refereeing Arsenal would be about 6 in the league…and maybe have a lot less cards and injuries.

    but anyhow who cares?

    The players are paid too much to revolt, the managers likewise, the referees are paid too little to do a proper job, and the FA are somewhat risible…I noticed Rodwell got his card rescinded…um….

    strange that…

    anyhow….who cares?

  • tg

    I was in the block 38 Sunday, saw VDV control the ball with his upper arm from where I was standing! The goal should not have stood etc etc etc. Doesn’t make our showing in the last 20 easier to bear though

  • Mandy dodd

    Tg, I think the players were exhausted in the last twenty. We are used to hitting teams hard at the end of the game, Not sure the newer players have yet developed the fitness levels to do that. Theo, and germ did not look fully fit, Rambo tried but again, not sure he has peaked in overall fitness, playing as much as he is asked to, and that would not be surprising. Just hope we do not over play him as we did with jack.
    Let’s face it, things are just not going for this team at the moment, and I am sure that must play on players minds. Heads dropped when bac departed.

  • 037

    I hope Coquelin is put in the right back position for the next game.
    At this point in time, he seems to have more composure and intelligence about the game than Jenkinson. There was a huge aura of nervousness once Jenks took the RB position. The entire positioning of the back 4 seemed to deconstruct every time Bale got the ball.

    Coquelin in RB, Song in CB, and Frimpong in DM would be excellent!

    We just need the midfield (esp. Ramsey, Arteta, Walcott, and Gerv) to start clicking with their passes.

  • shakabulagooner

    I was afraid to watch the game because, going by the previews I read, I expected that we would be blown away. Yet, we stayed with the game until the Sagna injury blow.
    No credit will go to Arsenal for playing with a team that is clearly a few notches down due to the horrible start of season.
    No credit will go to Arsenal despite the injuries to key players.
    No credit will go to Arsenal, still trying to make its mid-field to work seamlessly. Yet, some credit is due in the areas.
    Tottenham believes that the power equation is tilting in their favor but I believe before the season is out and in the coming seasons it will be clear that that belief is premature.
    I agree though, we eat the humble pie this time and move on.

  • Hademe P

    I have rewatched the game thrice and from critical analysis,Spur were a bit lucky as they were not realy better than arsenal.I wonder what happened to Ateter but your opinion of his falling back to support young Coquelin makes sense.The bitter pill to swallow is the injury to Bacary,i found it most disturbingbrcause he is one of our reliable defenders and as well consistent.There is no cover in that position as Jek is too young and weak for such pressure.Thatboils down to questioning the rational behind seliing Eboue wihout proper replacement.International break is here and i pray that R V P will not come back as usual with an injury otherwise it will be a disaster.

  • tg

    Hi Mandy, heads did drop as the Jenks fear spread. Nothing against him, but so unlucky to have to come on for Sagna. He isn’t ready for us yet, and the bottom line is that I do think it borders on negligent that he is our specialist cover for the right back position.

  • T2T

    Player by player, Arsenal have a good starting XI and first team squad. There is, IMO, no point discussing that. Last year, when neither Cesc nor Nasri played, we still played good football and won.

    In the game against Spurs, some played really well, some played ok and some were found wanting;
    Really well: Szczesny, Song, Coquelin
    OK: Sagna/Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta,
    Under par: Walcott, Gervinho, van Persie
    “Unacceptable”: Ramsey

    Ramsey was the biggest disappoint for me. He misplaced almost every single pass, made the wrong runs off the ball and made it difficult for the other players.
    Coquelin was the biggest positive from the game, an excellent performance.

    Where do we go on from here?
    1. Well, IF you are a true Arsenal SUPPORTER, you SUPPORT the team even when facing difficulties.
    2. IF Arsenal decides reinforcements are needed in January, get the deals done early – yes even pay over the odds.
    3. Look at how to defend as a team. I truly believe that our defensive players are very good. Sagna is the best RB in EPL and voted in on the EPL team of the year last season, Vermaelen was on the EPL team in his only season (09-10), Mertesacker is a CB for Germany, one of the best national teams in the world, both Gibbs and Santos are full internationals for their respective nations – not on par with e.g. A Cole, but still very good left backs. Koscielny has twice in his Arsenal career been called up for France. As DM, Song is, again IMO, the best DM in EPL and provides very good cover. Based on this, it´s not the fault of the defensive players we concede many of the goals but how the team defends.
    4. AW is the manager of a decade. He is by all accounts a very good manager. When DD left, was too much put on his shoulders regarding transfers? The supporting structures in the club may need to be revisited.
    5. Arsenal have many injuries.
    – is the way we train the reason;
    – is it the selection criteria when “shopping” players;
    – is it because we usually keep the ball and thereby are the subjects of more tackles;
    – is it because the pundits and opposing managers keep telling other teams to “get in their faces” or similar encouragements;
    – is the medical staff to blame?
    Looking at it from the outside, it looks like we have more than our fair share. The above-mentioned issues needs to be evaluated. It is unsustainable that we have almost an entire team out.
    6. Our wage structure needs to be reviewed. Arsenal is, in the EPL, a big club. We have among the highest match day revenues. There is no reason why we shouldn´t be able to compete favourably for highly paid players with clubs such as Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, Newcastle and maybe to a lesser degree ManU.

  • dy

    certainly the strong attacking play of Arsenal is no long there, hence we see game after game our defence is under pressure when the ball is lost. The mid field of Arteta, Ramsey and Song ins’t ideal. Its the style of play by Ramsey and Arteta, always dragging the ball around sideway which slows down everything going forward. Everybody would agree at the beginning of this season that once Fabregas is gone, the team would take time to rebuild. But to rebuild, we definitely need someone else to marshall the midfield. Arsenal has lots of deputies but no genuine commander. I sincerely wish Arsene and the owners could see the real problem and rectify it by January. Wilshere is promising but not the answer yet.

  • Mandy dodd

    T2t yes we should be able to keep with most except the petro dollar brigade, utd who have a 100m turnover advantage on us and Liverpool whose money has come from god knows where. But from recent quotes, seems to me at least wenger and I suppose his and the clubs advisers see something coming on the worldwide financial front. If there is a storm coming that will lower wages and transfer fees in some cases, maybe with waiting , but just speculation I know.
    Alex Flynn, wengers friend , neighbour and co author with kevin whitcher on a recent well thought of book on the club has recently said this year will be barren compared with recent seasons but wenger will build again and challenge from next year. Mr Flynn knows his stuff with all things arsenal.if he is correct, the aaa will be up in arms, but what’s another year in the history of a great football club?
    We may not know at the moment but football will most likely change significantly in the near future. Some of wengers decisions frustrate me and baffle me at times but in the past he has proven a visionary, I do not doubt he still is

  • Mandy dodd

    Correction, make that Alex fynn

  • bob

    You’ve put it so concisely:
    video refs, video refs, video refs, video refs…………………..

  • bob

    Mandy Dodd,
    Now that we know you’ll quote the great chuck d, I’d like to sample from the ‘he got game’ album (title song) and call the AAA and most football jornos on the beat-arsenal beat: “spirit snipers.” Lots of great stuff by chuck to savor.

  • Mandy dodd

    Bob , mr d is an inspiration, fight the powers that be!

  • Desert Gooner

    To corroborate WB’s article. This one just added to the ‘to hell with the world’ sentiment I’m going throught. Geniet as they say in Dutch:

  • I’m still trying to get my head around how our defence is supposed to operate. Practically every time our forwards get ‘stuck in’ and do their job defensively, they create a goal scoring opportunity. Conversely every time they stand off and expect our midfield/defence to mop up, our attacks break down.
    So the question has to be, why?
    If you see highlights of Sacchi’s Milan, you’ll see that often goals are created almost immediately after the ball is lost when an attack breaks down, due to the relentless pressure on the opponents defence. Guardiola sets his team up to do the same thing, defenders are there to mop up long balls, the actual task of winning the ball back is done by Pedro, Messi and Villa. Because the ball is recovered in the final third in both examples the opponents are facing the wrong way and have to turn and chase without enough space to make the difference between running and dribbling pace count.
    Wenger isn’t stupid, he knows these offensive/defensive tactics work, when we use them we frequently score, we don’t use them for ninety minutes though.

  • Dark Prince

    To be honest, this was expected. What happens is that we lose our best players bcoz we are solving the squad issues…and these best players kno it wont change and we’ll not be able to move forward. And they leave… It will also happen with Robin, Jack, Walcott, Vermaelen, Szczesny etc….

  • wilshere

    This team needs to find a balance and the earlier they do this the better for us. Ramsey failed in all ramification.