By Walter Broeckx
As I wasn’t at home for the match and had other obligations right after the match I couldn’t get to write this earlier.
And when I came on to the site I had to get rid of the usual rubbish posted by people who had been waiting for a few weeks to spend their usual hate against Wenger. So that took again a bit of my time away. So some 12 hours after the match I thought it would be too late to write a match report as I usually do. So I will take another approach to this match and to answer the moaners who of course had a great night and enjoyed it very much.
In a way the title of this article is hypothetical because it can’t happen. You cannot have both captains go up to the referee and ask him to stop the match and consider it finished. Or both managers going to the 4th official and tell him that he can inform the ref that they both consider the match to be played. But just for the sake of it try to imagine that scenario.
How would Arsenal have reacted? They would have said: fine we don’t risk any injuries from this point and we have another match to play in the weekend.
How would Anderlecht have reacted? They probably would have said: oh yes before we concede another goal and get beaten completely. As that was what they feared before the match and was about to happen.
I think the chance that this would have been the reaction just after Oxlade-Chamberlain scored our third goal is rather big.
And maybe we should ask this question also to ourselves. Lets be honest. Who ran to the bookmaker after Oxlade-Chamberlain put the third past Proto to put some money on a draw as a final result? Anyone? No of course. Nobody did. Because Anderlecht looked completely beaten at that moment in time.
Now you can say you knew we would bottle it but unless you can show me he bookmakers bill with the hour you put your money on a draw, I don’t believe you. Talking with hindsight is easy.
I think everyone considered the match as played at that moment in time. So what happened then?
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I think first of all even before the offside goal Anderlecht scored we had the fact that Arteta got injured. I know he is not the beast defensive midfielder some dream about. But what he is, is more important. He is the brain in the team. He will keep the ball moving. Slow things down when needed, speed things up when it is required. After the Ox scored our third goal we had to bring on Flamini. Now bringing on Flamini itself was not that bad but the fact that it was in the place of Arteta was bad.
Because in the two matches we played them together we have seen that with those two on the field we are very capable of keeping the shop shut up. The two seem to work together very well lately. But with one just replacing the other I think that the other midfielders just considered that they had no more defensive duties to fulfil.
When Arteta is on the field he will always try to pass the ball on the floor. And suddenly we completely forgot this basic rule. We just kicked it away without looking. And by doing this we brought pressure upon ourselves.
It was as if half of the team was already on the train to Swansea with their heads. Trying to avoid contact. Staying out of challenges they went in before. They stopped closing down the Anderlecht players and suddenly the latter found themselves in space to play in. And if you give them space they can be dangerous as we have seen.
Of course the first all important goal for Anderlecht shouldn’t have been given. It was a rather easy decision to make for the assistant but he failed to do so. And this shows how each decision even in a match that seems to be decided you have to be sure the right decision is made. I think that maybe even the assistant lost his concentration for a moment. You feel as a referee or assistant when the match “is played” and that could have caused to him missing the offside from the Anderlecht player.
I’m also rather sure that if the offside call would have been made we would have comfortably won the match. We could have conceded a goal at some point, maybe the penalty goal. For the record: I have no real complaints about the penalty as Monreal had his arms around the shoulders of Mitrovic when he tried to make a run and that is a foul.
That offside goal gave Anderlecht a lift and certainly the penalty was a stupid foul to make but that is our own mistake.
But the main reason we didn’t win is that after scoring the third goal and losing Arteta we lost a bit of leadership in the middle of the field. And got complacent. And paid for it.
Our players were mostly just watching Anderlecht moving the ball in that last half hour. Thinking: oh, let them have the ball and fool around with it a bit. If one player thinks like that it isn’t a big deal. But if half of the team is doing that, then you are asking for trouble. We didn’t close them down to stop their crosses. We dropped two points because we thought the match had stopped after 60 minutes.
The main lesson we learned today is that you take the lead with 11 players. And then you have to defend with 11 players. And not just expose the defenders and let them do their thing on their own. Instead of creeping back ourselves we should have kept the ball moving at high speed and move it forward. Now we just played the ball between our defenders and not one of our midfielders or attackers made himself available for the pass so the defenders had to kick it forward and the ball came back and we didn’t stop them from coming to our goal like we should have done.
Let’s hope this is a kick on the but for our players. Maybe they thought that keeping a clean sheet comes from itself. It is all about hard work from all the players on the field. From the strikers to the defenders. We did this for 60 minutes but that isn’t enough. It should be done for 90 minutes.
A final note for those who want to comment. No need to spout abuse. No need to abuse players or manager. And if you want to abuse the AKB and tell them to f*ck off I can only give you the advice to do the latter yourself.