Xhaka and Kolasinac – Good but are they good enough? Arsenal Consistently Inconsistent

In recent months, I’ve not contributed to the Gunners Town site. Work commitments and a busy social schedule have been two of the key factors in my blogging absence but the most disappointing factor, has been a lack of inspiration. I’ve never been one who writes for the sake of it and I’ll only ever put pen to paper if I consider myself capable of offering a different perspective to what’s already been said by others. Having read numerous responses to our defeat against Man United, I believe this is one of those occasions.

The reactions from our supporters after the final whistle were more varied than they usually are. Some thought we were awful, some thought our performance was great and others felt we were robbed. In reality it was none of the above. Admittedly, our start to the game was dismal and our defending, typically sloppy on all of the goals. However,
the players deserve at least some credit for not capitulating like they have done on previous occasions where we’ve suffered similar early setbacks.

We responded well and played some good football but any performance that contains such collective schoolboy defending and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal cannot be classed as a great one. Some will argue that David De Gea prevented it from being one but the majority of his saves were ones he’d be expected to make. It could also be said that it’s much easier to put a team on the back foot once you’ve given them a two goal advantage. Besides, a Jose Mourinho team generally has more tactical nous than to go completely gung-ho against perceived top class opponents.

As for us being robbed, we perhaps could have been awarded two penalties on another day but the reality is, that we can’t point the finger of blame at the referee for our defensive frailties or for our failure to be clinical in front of goal. Ultimately, if we had got it right at both ends of the pitch, those two decisions would have become irrelevant. It’s never quite as straightforward as saying we’d have got a draw had they been given either. We’ll never know for certain whether we’d had scored from them or how United would have responded, had we done so.

Should Wenger have had players fired up?

I have seen some supporters say Arsene can be absolved of all blame for our defeat due to the quality of our performance. Looking at it from another angle however, I’m not so sure. Is it not the manager’s job to ensure his team are fired up and focused from the first whistle? Mourinho’s players certainly were. It has also been a number of years since our defence has been provided with any real top class protection by our midfield. This was once again evident against United.

Granit Xhaka is not the answer and we’ve still to see the best of him on a consistent basis. Recent seasons have been littered with individual errors by our defenders and poor collective defending. If we are being brutally honest, the defensive coaching isn’t good enough or the players aren’t. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. We’ve needed a top class defensive midfielder for years and how long have some of us been saying we need another centre back or two? If Wenger isn’t responsible for these things then who is?

Good yes but good enough?

Whilst I’m a fan of Sead Kolasinac, I felt his lack of pace was exposed on Saturday and that’s perhaps something to consider when we next face an opponent with lots of pace in their side. At this juncture I’d like to state that I’m not singling Sead out for criticism, it’s simply an observation. After all, we are all aware that there are other players who are far more deserving of being singled out for criticism but I’m sure that’s been done to death by now.

Man City appear to be a level above the rest of us this season and beat us whilst still in second gear several weeks ago. However, the recent performances against Spurs and Burnley suggested that we are capable of beating the other sides around us (Spurs) and that we can be resilient at times when we play difficult away games (Burnley). We just need find some consistency because at the moment, the only consistent thing about us, is that we are inconsistent.

With the dead rubber against Bate Borisov up next, I’d like to Arsene give Matt Macey another run out but he won’t. Matt didn’t let us down against Red Star Belgrade when he was thrown in and its possibility that he may end up having a future with the club as our number one. David Ospina, on the other hand, should not…..

6 Responses to Xhaka and Kolasinac – Good but are they good enough? Arsenal Consistently Inconsistent

  1. Victor Thompson December 7, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    Hi Nick, I am going to disagree with you on a couple of points you make, not to argue but possibly to propose a thread to your article.

    I agree with your criticism of Xhaka. He made a mistake in the Utd. Match with the wayward pass to Mustafi, but although it was a contributory factor in the ensuing goal it was Mustafi`s dithering when he had ample time to dispose of the ball. He was under no pressure when he first received it. Xhaka has already cost us three goals this season by falling asleep on the ball and losing possession. He almost cost us another in the Burnley match. He does find a reasonable percentage of decisive passes, but not enough to counteract his mistakes both in the way he gets caught in possession and his constant failure of technique when he makes a tackle. I agree, that we need a top midfielder.

    In the Spurs, Burnley and Huddersfield matches I thought that Mustafii and Koscelny had finally been coached into what their joint roles were at the centre of the defence. They played with and off each other and closed the middle of the back line but in the Utd. Match they returned to playing as individuals. They were frequently miles away from each other and they advanced into Utd. Half on an ad – hoc basis. None of the above mistakes are down to coaching because the Spurs match showed that there was a plan and it worked because they played to it. The whole team did. I have been vociferous in my criticism of Wenger`s coaching which has been bad or non-existant for at least 8 years however all the indications are that he will finish his career this season. The players owe him more Tottenham performances before he goes because they showed that they can do it.

    In regard to the refereeing performance, you say that even if we had got the two penalties we did not get, we might still not have won, but the fact is that we had got back to 2-1 when the foul on Iwobi was committed. The one on Lacazette would probably have made it 3-2. You say that we should not be reliant upon referees decisions but we are entitled to see the perpetrator of a foul appropriately punished for something which was grave enough to warrant dismissal or committed within the penalty box. Those are the rules of the game. The referee is entitled to his opinion based on what he saw or thought he saw, but in both occasions there was no logical reason why he did not see the fouls. In Iwobi`s case it was because he tried his best to stay on his feet and so it was his honesty which probably caused the referee to deny the penalty. Neither Wenger or the team can be responsible for that. We were entitled to say “we were robbed”.

    I am empathetic with your remark that you have found it hard to write anything for some time and I felt that way too. What has improved my optimism is that there are signs that ( 1 ) Wenger is finally listening to critiques of his methods which still hark back to 2004 and ( 2 ) That recent additions to the back room staff appear to have been made in anticipation of his departure. Maybe that is why the players are upping their game lately. Any way, I am reasonably confident of finishing in the top with our present squad. I don`t expect that there will be much movement within the squad because a new manager will want to have his own war chest to make improvements.

  2. Nick Birch December 7, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Victor, thank you for your comments and constructive feedback. Appreciated as always.

    My comments about Xhaka relate to his entire time at club more than specifically the United game. I like him as a player but to me he’s not what I’d call a stereotypical defensive midfielder. He’s more of an Xavi Alonso deep lying playmaker and lacks athleticism. Unfortunately for him, every time he gives the ball away in our half, it usually ends up in the back of the net.

    Mustafi and Koscielny are the two players I was referring to when I said about not finding it necessary to single out players for further individual criticism.

    I thought we defended well both individually and collectively against Spurs and Burnley but there were occasions against Huddersfield where I felt that a better team would have punished us.

    It’s optimist to view a couple of good games as a sign of good coaching in my opinion. However, if you look at Leicester in their title winning campaign and at Burnley this season, there is sufficient evidence to support the theory that lesser players can be coached into solid defensive units.

    I completely disagree that we were robbed, mainly because I’m a firm believer that you can’t blame others for your own failings. Nobody will ever change my mind that it was poor defending and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal that cost us, rather than poor officiating. If you speak to non Arsenal supporters about the two penalty decisions, they will tell you that one was but the other one was debatable. Based on those I’ve discussed it with anyway.

    We are all entitled to say what we like in terms of giving an opinion but mine is that the only people who robbed us, was ourselves.

    The changes being made behind the scenes are a positive but they are only being made to ease Wenger’s departure. They should have been made several years ago because we all know what hat Arsene has been too heavily involved in all aspects. I’m not sure it’s a sign of him changing as such, more accepting that he won’t be around for ever.

    I’ll give him praise for wanting to leave the club in capable hands though…

  3. Gary G December 8, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    Good article but Victor, robbed? You must be joking, we gave away 3 cheap goals. Our fan base is embarrassing at times. Was the same after City, blaming the ref! They pissed us and it’s time Wenger lovers like Victor realise that.

  4. Nick Birch December 8, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    Thanks for the comment Gary but Victor is no Wenger lover.

  5. Victor Thompson December 8, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    Thanks for clarifying that I am no Wenger supporter. I don`t think Gary had read my comment fully or he would have gathered that from it. I am nevertheless, not immune to giving credit where it is due. In Wenger`s case it is a way of seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty in the hope that he is on a roll.

    I do recognise that your opinion on “robbed” or not is a perfectly legitimate status to take but that is what makes meaningful debate. It is also why I suggested that it might generate a thread rather than a black and white argument. A pleasure as always to debate with you.

  6. Nick Birch December 8, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Likewise Victor, always got time for anyone who can challenge someone’s opinion in a polite way mate.

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