Today I feel a strong urge to just copy and paste chunks of text from my United review. Insipid performance? Check. Unbalanced midfield? Check. One shot on target? Check. Giroud on the scoresheet? Check.
I don’t see in what way our performance vs PSG was any better than our performance vs United. In fact, I feel like it was a step backwards, as in “when I reached the bottom, someone knocked from underneath”. Don’t let this get to Stephen King. At least against Man Utd we scored from open play. Yesterday we needed a pen and an own goal. Fabulous.
Let’s try and restore some order to the chaos.
The midfield didn’t work. Again
When I was contemplating what Arsene might do with the centre of midfield prior to the game, I never thought he’d go for a Coquelin – Ramsey pivot. If it clearly didn’t work last season, why would it work now?
The answer is simple: it didn’t. That’s not to say Coquelin or Ramsey were atrocious individually, no. Both were good, we got what was written on the packaging with both, but that was exactly the problem: the pair didn’t actually work as a pair.
Wenger’s ongoing reluctance to start Xhaka is baffling. Cazorla is injured, Wilshere is not here, yet Arsene rather plays Ramsey or Elneny than Xhaka. Why did he spend 35 mil on a player if he doesn’t play him?
After the game one of my mates on Twitter said: Wenger doesn’t know his best midfield combination. I agree. It doesn’t look like he does. Brilliant piece of work. We are at the end of November, over 3 months into a new season, and our manager can’t figure out the best midfield duo.
But our attack never got going either
None of Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis or Giroud had a good game. Giroud may be vindicated to an extent, as he put away the penalty calmly and we all know he relies on service to be dangerous. There was none, so can’t really blame him for not pulling a rabbit out of his arse.
I will never understand how we fail to properly play to Giroud’s strengths despite the fact it’s the Frenchman’s 5th season with us. We never seem to put enough crosses and/or cutbacks. Ollie is a brilliant header of the ball, he’s good at one-touch near-post finishes, but yesterday our wide players once again failed to produce enough of these. Jenko tried, but his crossing was horrendous. Alexis and Iwobi were more interested in drifting inside than staying wide and putting it in the mixer.
The subs were left late again
When we went in front God knows how, I thought this was the moment to kick-start the game. To sub on Walcott and Ox, and Xhaka, and to score a third and finish PSG off. I was wrong.
Xhaka, our first sub, came on 12 minutes from time and, while I obviously can’t guarantee we would have avoided the equaliser, the simple fact Iwobi wouldn’t have been on the pitch had Xhaka came on earlier, something which might have prevented him tapping the ball into his own net, remains. Why Arsene decided to let PSG take the corner without making a sub prior to that is beyond me.
Anyhow, 12 minutes from time. It took 78 minutes of exceptionally dire football to realize something has to give. But it was late. We were punished, and rightly so. Had PSG been a bit better (or Cavani less wasteful), we would have lost yesterday.
There’s no justifying the performance
I’ll list a number of things Arsenal fans said after the game:
1.But we haven’t lost
And? The fate of the first place is not in our hands anymore. The fact we haven’t lost doesn’t make the 90+ minutes of football enjoyable either. Just like it didn’t on Saturday.
- Our unbeaten run is on
Three dire draws on the trot, 4 in the last 5 overall. No desire, urgency, or rhythm to our play. Our unbeaten run is starting to resemble that of Spurs in the league. What it doesn’t resemble is the mark of the champions.
- We have qualified, you should be grateful
We have qualified 3 weeks ago, and I was happy then. But I’m not intending to feel “grateful” for qualifying from a group with Basel and Ludogorets. Had we not qualified, you would all be screaming blue murder, and rightly so.
- City didn’t mind getting an ugly draw and finishing second
Firstly, I don’t care one bit about Manchester City. Secondly, City are in a group with Barcelona, while Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic are a definite upgrade on Basel and Ludogorets. Thirdly, they were playing Borussia AWAY. I didn’t mind an away draw vs PSG either. And still you are wrong if you think City are happy with finishing second. No, they are not. They would have preferred to finish top given the choice.
- Real don’t mind finishing second
And you know why? Because they can’t get Barcelona, Atletico or Borussia in the last 16. We can. Real can still get PSG or Juventus, but that’s hardly Barca and Atleti. While finishing first can mean Arsenal, Bayern or City. Not pretty. So don’t compare us with Real. Real, unlike us, won the Champions League last season, and I imagine even their fans aren’t as fussed about winning it this season.
- There are some tough draws either way
Are people saying that imply they don’t care about finishing second? Then I kindly refer you to my previous point. We run the risk of getting a really strong Spanish team in the last 16.
Are people saying that imply they don’t care about us playing like a steaming pile of poo? “We’ll get a tough team anyway, why bother playing well, winning games and finishing top”. Well, stick it up your hoop. I care about my team playing like cow dung. And having watched Barca dismantle us last season, I’m not keen on seeing it again.
The last word
This game was far from enjoyable or satisfying. I wouldn’t mind drawing or even losing to a strong PSG team if we play well. We didn’t play well, we haven’t for some time, and that pisses me off much more that the draw itself, or even a very likely scenario of finishing second.
This year we had a good chance to finally top the group. We weren’t handed Barca or Bayern, or Real, though knowing our luck we could very well have had. We got PSG. A strong team by all means, but not as strong as last year. Had we bothered turning up and putting them under the kosh yesterday, the final game against Basel would now be a mere formality.
We didn’t bother. We haven’t played well. We probably got more than we deserved. And now we have to play a full-strength side vs Basel and hope Ludogorets will somehow rob PSG at Parc De Princes. Not playing a full-strength side will be admitting defeat and fans will be furious. Playing a full-strength side still doesn’t guarantee anything.
That’s a bed we made for ourselves, and now we have to lie in it. We had a chance to finish the job yesterday. We blew it. Only ourselves to blame.
Gosh, I’ll sign off here. Take care. Back for the weekend game.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.