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