You know what’s odd about these spectacular collapses of ours? They just don’t surprise me anymore, I’m not even remotely shocked by it and worse still I don’t think the team are.
We have various areas of the field that are way below the standard expected and until these issues are resolved and we actually learn to defend, it’s not going to get any better. Our defence, which has its injuries to contend with, is abysmal. The midfields ability to defend is pretty non-existent. A few people on Twitter have pointed towards Mikel Arteta’s exit as a semi-turning point and they certainly have a case.
Personally, I’m not an Arteta DM fan, I think he suffocates our attacks with his pedestrian passing style but maybe on the flip side, he allows the defence a breather and time to regroup. We were certainly worse off as a result, yes, worse off because Mikel Arteta left the field. That’s where we are at people.
Now I am a big believer that “things are never as bad as they appear” but this is yet another timely reminder that we are well short of the standard expected at our club. The money argument isn’t as applicable nowadays as it once was, especially considering the big money arrivals of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Yet here we are fast approaching another transfer window and wondering if we’ll get the players needed to help us reach the next level.
I have little (no) faith that we’ll get who we need and once again all fingers point to Arsene Wenger. He’s racking up a catalogue of horror shows and he seems somewhat powerless to stop the inevitable from happening. When I think of capitulation I’m thinking 4-4 v Spurs, 4-4 v Newcastle and 3-3 Anderlecht. There are many heavy defeats but these three draws have probably scared the side more in recent years. You can see it in their faces, the alarm bells start ringing and worst of all most of the team haven’t played in all of these games, yet they are still affected. That’s why Arsene should be questioned but he won’t as was confirmed in the latest AGM.
Personally, I’m sick of reliving the same season with the same flaws. Yes, we won the FA Cup, which was a great achievement but we should look to build upon this and correct our wrongs, something Chelsea managed to do fantastically well. Make us stronger and let’s see us compete. That’s all I want. Yet again we will finish 2nd in the Champions League group stage and this isn’t a recent trend. We harp on about the bad luck of the knockout draw but how about winning a group? The last time we did, we ended up drawing Milan, who we made look like the sides of yesteryear from Sacchi and Capello, in truth they were just poor and this was reflected in the return leg. Wouldn’t it be nice to take the initiative though? We settle for second best and it just doesn’t cut it anymore.
That brings me to our transfer inactivity and a player that I mentioned towards the end of my blog last week. Everyone acknowledges we are short in defence and at defensive midfield. The only issue for me is that there is a slight oversight in one particular position. A lot of people cry “we need cover at centre half”. Actually that’s not essentially true. What we need is a first choice centre half to play alongside Laurent Koscielny.
Per Mertesacker is our back up centre half – he needs replacing. He’s a massive weak link in our side and his presence means we go into games against Sunderland and Burnley with two holding midfielders. Yes, they may well be there to cover for our marauding full backs but you also know it’s because we can’t get exposed at the back. The pace of Koscielny isn’t there to save the day and since his injury we’ve adopted this new tactic. Some have said it’s to assist Sanchez but for me it’s there to plug the gaps in our leaky back line. Looking back at those three draws and you’ll fine weak centre backs through each performance Spurs – Mikael Silvestre. Newcastle – Sebastien Squillaci, Anderlecht – Mertesacker. I’m not hanging Nacho Monreal out to dry, he is a stop gap that is being asked to perform week in, week out. It’s just not good enough. Per’s attempt to stop the third goal was pitiful. Don’t get me wrong there were others at fault. Lukas Podolski shouldn’t have allowed them to cross the ball without any pressure and Wojciech Szczesny’s positioning was somewhat out as well but Mertesacker couldn’t read the danger or react to it in sufficient time and it’s that element that leaves us vulnerable.
Shouldn’t Koscielny be able to concentrate on his own role but instead he always has to keep an eye out for his mate. Maybe that mentality is a reason behind why he can be so rash at times. This is Champions League/Premier League standard here, not Sunday league. Koscielny deserves to play alongside a quality centre half but with Mertesacker signing a new deal back in May, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing an upgrade in that position any time soon. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Mertesacker is on about 80k per week. Let that sink in for a moment. We’re getting absolutely fleeced. We need continuous upgrades all over the pitch but we seemed to be content with stability. Mertesacker is often targeted, as teams inevitably like to isolate him but he does have a great knack of being able to be positionally sound. However, since Kos has been out goals against Hull and Anderlecht have seen him comfortably beaten, in positions he should be dominating. Last night (according to stats zone) Mertesacker was involved in less aerial duals than Alexis Sanchez, Anderlecht put in their share of crosses too. Seems a bit odd that one.
The most disappointing part of Mertesacker’s game is his lack of leadership. All well and good being the big bad fine collector or grabbing Ozil after the final whistle at Etihad but we need leadership of the pitch. Last night he vanished. This is a player will a billion international caps, a player that acknowledged he deserved to be benched in the world cup, he’s not stupid, so why did the team split into a bunch of individuals towards the end of the game? This wasn’t a mad five minutes after all, it was slow painful death It all seems very avoidable but we just seem to accept the fate assigned to us and wait for the inevitable killer blow. We just can’t afford passengers anymore, it’s just been the case for too long now. If we only needed to use Mertesacker 15 times a season we’d have a very accomplished centre half but for now he’s partnered by a left back, it’s absolutely laughable.
The fact is these issues aren’t going away and they’re here to stay. For those overjoyed at Wenger staying we’ll have another two years of this. It’ll be interesting to see who is dropped on Sunday, oh wait, we don’t hold anyone accountable, best give the lads another chance.
My best advice would be to not let our capitulations ruin your day or week. Enjoy each and every high that this side brings you because you never know what type of surprise is around the corner. You cannot trust them and the sooner you adapt to that, the less stressful it becomes. The team won’t draw form this experience but you can.
I’m a 30 something year old Gateshead lad but thankfully my Dad is a cockney and he put me on the right path in life, taking me to my first Highbury game at the tender age of six.
Despite my obvious geographical disadvantage I am a season ticket holder and I attend quite a few away days as well.
I like to express my opinion which resulted in me starting a blog. I’m delighted to be part of the WTTGT team and you can read ’The Michael Jeffares Column’ every Friday without fail.