The substitute saves the day…
For the second time in their two opening Premier League matches of the season, Arsenal fought back and avoided defeat. Both games saw late Aaron Ramsey goals but that’s where the similarities end. We did not win on Saturday but it felt like a victory because we came away from Goodison Park with a point despite a shambolic display. We deserved three points against Palace purely because of the enormous possession stats in our favour. However, we were truly awful for 80 minutes against Everton so the fact we fought back for a draw bodes well for the future.
A criticism of Arsenal in recent years has been that we crumble too easily and don’t have the ability to salvage points even when we’re playing badly. The horrendous mauling’s at Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton last season proved that. Just like our previous trip to Goodison Park in April, we were 2-0 down but this time around, we did not collapse and slip to a 3-0 (or even worse) defeat. I think that shows a real improvement. People are claiming that the late goals are pure luck but when Manchester United used to do it, it was hailed as showing their mental strength and a true sign of potential Champions.
I feared the worst the longer the second half went on and we remained 2-0 down. With 10 minutes left, I was confident that our first loss of the season was on the cards and I had accepted that fate. It was annoying but not the end of the world, as we were only two games into the season. Even when Ramsey slid in to make it 2-1, I thought it was too late for a comeback. I definitely gave up hope when our star man Ramsey produced a wayward cross heading for the corner flag (if he couldn’t do it, no one could or so I thought). I looked on in sheer disbelief as Monreal delivered a perfect ball to Giroud who beat Distin and headed in the equaliser.
We had a chance to win it straight from kick off but I was content with a point and a late win would have definitely been daylight robbery. I would have taken 2-2 before the match, as Goodison Park is a tricky away day and Everton are a very good team. The game did show me two things but a lot of Arsenal fans won’t agree with what I have to say. I really don’t believe we need a top bracket striker because the goals will come eventually, whether that is from midfield or current strikers. I’d much rather we spent our money on a top CDM rather than a striker. It’s no good having Cavani if we have a soft middle opposing teams can easily break down.
Anyway, the transfer window closes on Monday so we’ll see what happens. Arsene Wenger is difficult to read so I’m not going to predict what he does. There is the more important task of Champions League qualification tonight, which might influence who we buy.
By Glen Shorey
Rambo saves the day…
I really did think Arsenal had dropped two points on Saturday and could only obtain a 1-1 draw against manager-less Crystal Palace. That wouldn’t have been the worst result ever (I give you exhibit A: Manchester United) as it was only the opening day of the season but everyone associated with the club was desperate for a positive start so that the team could mount a serious title challenge this year. So when the cult hero that is Aaron Ramsey scored the winner injury time, the roof came off with a mixture of pure ecstasy and sheer relief being felt by every supporter.]
The way we won was very scary and not good for my heart at all but I actually came away from the Emirates Stadium feeling that it was the best possible result. Apologies for the horrible football cliché but a win is a win and getting three points on the table was most important. Leaving it so late has hopefully scared the team and made them realise that they must play better in order to win more silverware. You cannot be lethargic and push aside teams; a certain level of effort is required. Also, I really do think that the media would have still picked holes in our performance even if we had coasted to an emphatic 5-0 victory.
Not only did the narrow score-line send a clear message to the players, it surely gave Arsène Wenger some food for thought about areas to improve. We’re approaching the end of the transfer window and rumours are still rife with talk of a new striker, holding midfielder & a defender. I’m confident we’ll only sign a Thomas Vermaelen replacement although I think a midfield enforcer is the missing ingredient. However I trust the boss and if he believes Jack Wilshere/ Mikel Arteta can play that role well, we don’t need a defensive midfielder. He was proved right with Aaron Ramsey so believe him this time.
In my opinion though, the main issue is not personnel and can be put right in training. The Crystal Palace goal on Saturday was a direct header from a corner. It could be argued that we missed the commanding presence of Per Mertesacker but I believe we fail to defend set pieces well with or without the German. The area that needs a looking at is zonal marking and it’s nothing new but a part of our game that needs work. Suring up at the back and cutting out sloppy goals is far more important than buying a striker. Our squad is great, we have enough goals in our team but the real problem last season was conceding.
By Glen Shorey
More silverware to come please…
As you can imagine, I am still buzzing from the 3-0 demolition of Manchester City on Sunday. I accept that the Community Shield is not a prestigious piece of silverware like the Premier League or FA Cup but it’s still a trophy and a nice one to kick off the season with. Like Arsène Wenger said after the game, “people remind you that you lost a trophy when you lose it and when you win it, it’s only a Community Shield”. Once again, the man has hit the nail on the head. Everyone associated with Manchester City is saying that the match was merely the final preparation before the new season yet if Arsenal had lost, it would have shown our squad is no where near good enough and the FA Cup was a fluke.
Another excuse was that Manchester City didn’t have many first team players available but that is a load of rubbish when you assess the players that Arsenal were missing. The media spoke about how they lacked players such as Zabaleta, Kompany and Aguero but completely overlooked the Gunners’ absentees including Mertesacker, Walcott and our record signing Mesut Özil. The fact that we played the whole of the second half with two fullbacks at centre half and still kept a clean sheet is pretty impressive. City had two central defenders who have both played first team football before (Nastasic and Boyata) but both were torn apart by Sanchez and co.
So we were both not at our full strength yet the comfortable score line suggests that Arsenal have superior squad depth and Arsene Wenger is the better manager. The problem is normally injuries and time will tell whether the issues arise again this season but I am confident that the cover is there this year. This was highlighted on Sunday. No Mertesacker but Chambers slotted in well and looked comfortable. Last year, it was evident that we lacked pace when Walcott wasn’t in the team but now we have Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Campbell who can come in. Even up front, we seem to suddenly have a load of choices because most of our squad can seemingly play in a variety of positions.
I’d also like to point out the tactical naivety of Manuel Pellegrini on Sunday. He played a 4-4-2 and saw his midfield overrun by five, sometimes seven if you count Gibbs and Debuchy, players. If Wenger had done that, he would have been lambasted as a fool but the Chilean got away with it as it was only a ‘friendly’. Anyway, our acquisitions over the summer that have made the squad very strong plus the genius Frenchman in charge means I am (for the first time in ages) optimistic that we can mount a serious title challenge.
Bring on Saturday but knowing my lack, Crystal Palace will burst our little bubble.
By Glen Shorey
Congrats to Arsenal… I mean Germany for winning the World Cup.
The summer is usually long and boring as I desperately wait for the season to begin again in August. Even when a major tournament such as the Euros or World Cup is on and is supposed to fill that void, I still miss the thrill of club football. However, this year hasn’t been that bad. For a start, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was very exciting (up until the Quarter Finals) and highly watchable as a lot of stars rose to prominence. It was also great to see Arsenal win the historic trophy for the second time, following France’s victory back in 1998
Another reason this summer has been so enjoyable is that Arsenal have been very busy in the transfer market and this time, Arsène Wenger has not left all of his shopping until last minute. Ivan Gazidis claimed a huge war chest was available to spend and the boss said he was going to be active in the window after the World Cup but they had both said that before so I wasn’t holding my breath. Both kept to their promise and on July 10th (a few days before Germany’s triumph in Rio de Janeiro in actual fact), Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez was signed from Barcelona in a deal reported to be worth £35 Million. I’m still pinching myself as I write this sentence.
This big name was soon followed up by David Ospina (Goalkeeper), Mathieu Debuchy and Callum Chambers (Defenders), bringing our spending total to an estimated £66 Million. Incredible to think that a club who doesn’t normally spend has seemingly broke open the piggy bank. As a fan, it makes me confident that the board are desperate to build on that FA Cup success and have finally realised Wenger needs financial support to build a title challenging squad. Even more exciting is the fact that Arsène has hinted more signings before the end of the month with names such as Khedira, Carvalho and even Hummels being floated around.
Personally, I feel getting a strong defensive midfielder has been crucial for a few years now so I’d take Carvalho if given the choice. Also, one more back-up CB is crucial what with Vermaelen’s imminent departure. I’m quite happy for Wenger to sign someone out of the blue like he did with Chambers a few weeks. An expensive international defender is not required for the role so we don’t need to go big. If we can secure two more signings to make us more solid at the back, we definitely will be a force to be reckoned with and everyone (including Mourinho) should be running scared.
With the season starting at the weekend (the Premier League doesn’t start until the 16th), I was hoping to get some new writers on ATeamEffort. So, if you or anyone you know loves football and wants a platform to air their views, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve also set up a league over on http://fantasy.premierleague.com/my-leagues/118004/join/?autojoin-code=457246-118004. The code to join is 457246-118004
Hope to hear from you all soon!
By Glen Shorey