The past week or so has really been a rollercoaster of emotions for Arsenal fans. It began with the North London Derby, which was immensely frustrating as we dominated proceedings but only managed a draw against an inferior Tottenham team. I remained positive because we played well and on any other day, probably would have taken all three points. My blind (some might call it) optimism was proved right on the Wednesday night when we tore Galatasaray to shreds. That jubilation did not last long as we fell to an inevitable 2-0 loss away at Chelsea.
Derby days against our nearest and dearest from White Hart Lane always fill me with dread because, eventhough Arsenal have always had an impressive record against Spurs during my lifetime, form always goes out the window and you never know what will happen. However, this year felt different. I was extremely confident after the Aston Villa demolition and an XI with Ryan Mason in it does not scare me one bit. I came away from the Emirates feeling confused though. Our performance was decent (69% possession and 16 shots compared to Tottenham’s six) but ultimately we had difficulties finishing off those chances.
As I said, I still remained upbeat what with us still being unbeaten in the Premier League and after the debacle that was Dortmund away I was desperate to start the Champions League properly. I wanted the Arsenal team to send out a clear message to the rest of Europe that they were completely serious about the competition and Gameweek One was a mere hiccup. Danny Welbeck and co certainly proved they have got what it takes to challenge at the top table. While Galatasaray are not the greatest opposition, the 4-1 win showed that we can be an imperious force when we put our minds to it.
Just like after the pleasing result up at Villa Park, we couldn’t follow up a great win with another. Chelsea away is easily the most difficult league game this season but for some reason, I thought we could get something out of the game. I was disappointed we lost obviously but it was a tight game and our display on Sunday was definitely an improvement on the last few years. We could have easily left Stamford Bridge with at least a draw and were not bullied/dominated (as has been the case in previous encounters) so I was satisfied with most of the performance apart from our final product.
Don’t get me wrong; the Galatasaray match was not perfect. For one, it’s no exaggeration to say we should’ve entered double figures (again illustrating our main problem is that we’re not clinical enough as a team) and although Welbeck took his hat trick well, other players need to step up on the finishing front. Secondly, Wojciech Szczesny gave away a penalty and got sent so that’s just another irritating ban for the next game. To be fair to the Polish international, he had no real choice as the attacker was about to score and it was bad news either way. He was simply trying to protect the clean sheet.
Anyway, the reason why we’re so inconsistent is clear to me at the moment. I completely respect Arsene Wenger and would never call for his head (I wear ‘In Arsene We Trust’/’Pro Wenger’ t shirts because I’m fed up of the vile abuse he gets) but that doesn’t mean I cannot criticise him. The issue I have is that we keep changing our system. As usual, injuries are a massive problem so it has been impossible to name the same line-up but that doesn’t mean we can’t play two wingers every match.
It’s no coincidence that our midweek triumph saw Sanchez AND Oxlade-Chamberlain start whereas only one of them started in each of the other two games where we failed to win. Trying to fit in more than two attacking midfielders (i.e. Cazorla, Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere) limits us width wise and makes us predictable. That’s why we didn’t get Fabregas. He’s another central playmaker Wenger would have to shoe horn in so I understand why we rebuffed him. I feel any future success will come about if we play two wingers, with Walcott replacing the Ox when he’s back up to full speed.
By Glen Shorey