By Walter Broeckx
Apart from the fact that ref Anthony Taylor was having his usual anti-Arsenal bias performance and that played a big part in the final outcome of this game we can also look at other things where it went wrong.
After scoring early we looked very much in control in the opening stages. Villa could hardly threaten at all. But what I have seen before happened then again. The combination Ramsey – Wilshere – Rosicky is not the right one for the moment.
At first they were very good at keeping an eye on each other and one of them always kept back when the others went forward. But the longer the game went on, the more I noticed that at times they all were up front and leaving the back getting more vulnerable.
At first with no real problems as the back four was doing a good job. But the gap was opening up and Aston Villa (one of the teams by the way that has won the most points at our ground since we moved to the Emirates…) was exploiting that gap to get their first penalty.
I have said time and time again that the most important player for Arsenal is Arteta. From the first moment he became an Arsenal player he was the one that had the biggest impact on the results. In his first season when he played we won around 60% of the games and when he didn’t play we lost more than we won. Also last season he was the result-changing person for Arsenal. Without Arteta we lose our cohesion too easy. Not having him gives me a bad feeling before a game.
Now you could say: “Wenger should have bought someone.” But to replace a player like Arteta who is the most underrated player we have in the last 3 years is not that easily done. And when he is fit he will play and so the one we would buy to “replace” him would be sitting on the bench for most of the time. Please suggest any world class player ready to come to us to sit on the bench for most of the time. Not too many candidates to do this I think. And the Gustavo saga has shown us that some players would rather go to lower placed teams just to be sure that they will be certain of having a starting place.
The next reason for our downfall against Villa was Gibbs. Or better said his injury. Forcing us to bring on Jenkinson and moving Sagna to left back. This completely destroyed the stability in the team and was also stopping us from going forward the way we want to do. I think Sagna did rather well at left back but the fact that you have a right footed player out there on the left flank is always a handicap. The overlapping runs from Gibbs were sorely missed.
And on the right hand side Jenkinson isn’t as good going forward as Sagna so by losing Gibbs we lost both our left and right extra flank attackers. Now again you could say: Wenger should have bought someone to cover as he knew Monreal was also out injured.
But this argument of buying another player whenever a player is injured can’t work forever. And let us not forget that Monreal will be back in full training in a short time. That means that by the end of the month we will have both of them back. Sorry but bringing in a player for such a short time is not that easy. Who wants to come to become 3rd choice? Or should we go out and buy more “dead wood” as some like to call it?
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We have two excellent left backs in our team. One is injured from playing for his country. Oh nice. And the other got a head injury yesterday. Apart from that Gibbs looked very fit. And I think that if they cover the cut he has he should be able to play next Wednesday. Maybe looking a bit silly with some kind of medical material around his head but players can play with such an injury when the wound has been stitched. But it cost us in this game.
And don’t bring up that Gibbs has an injury past. Yes but a lot of those injuries are from bad contacts. Like his broken foot in a CL game a few seasons back. And yesterday getting a cut like that is bad luck. Shit happens.
I think not having Arteta (and losing the balance in midfield) and then losing Gibbs (and not having Monreal for the moment) was what cost us the game. And some wrong referee decisions on top of that.
Yes the squad was already thin and this was already mentioned by Wenger before the game. After this kick fest from Aston Villa we lost even more players. Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be the biggest victim with a possible knee injury. Ramsey was kicked on several occasions without the ref doing anything about it and he also suffered an ankle injury but we don’t know the severity yet.
I think all the other players also got their part of the knocks (Rosicky was also named) and we will be looking at a bad situation before the CL qualifier. And even if we bring in new players at high speed we will only be able to register one for the CL qualifier from this week (and I think for the return game will be the same).
So the most important job is now in the hands of the medical people. How many players can they rebuild. And then we also have to look at the midfield stability.
We have to make sure that whoever plays in midfield that there is one player who takes up the Arteta role and sits back for the whole 90 minutes. Because running forward as we did at times against Villa is not the way we should have done it. Balance is the key word. Both in the middle of the field looking at it from defence to attack but also from left to right.
Arteta will not be back but I sure hope Gibbs can play to bring back one part of the balance in the team.
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