Monday, 22 October 2012

An Unwarranted Arrogance

I think it's pretty safe to say that Saturday was up there with some of the worst, if indeed the worst Arsenal performance under Wenger's leadership. We lost to side that hadn't won a league game this season. A side that had conceded seventeen goals, yet they ran out deserved winners on Saturday but they played against a side with little imagination, laughable moments in the final third and most importantly a lack of shots on target.

Our arrogance on Saturday was that befitting of the invincible side but the difference being, the invincible's worked extremely hard and once they'd matched the efforts of the opposition that's when talent and skill comes into play, this side doesn't have that. We have a magical Spaniard who will do his utmost to create but if he has an off day, like on Saturday, who steps up to the plate? Imagine if Cazorla were to pick up a knock? It's say to assume we'd struggle. The preparation for games like this is key Wenger admitted pre-game that there are no easy games and yet post-Norwich he admitted that we might have underestimated the opponent. So either Arsene is just rolling out the old cliches or his side doesn't listen to him. I have a feeling it was the former but he included Wilshere on the bench despite earmarking Reading in the Capital One Cup as his return date. The truth is Wilshere wasn't brought on because the match was intense, he wasn't brought on because we weren't cruising to victory against one of the worst sides in the league. Arrogance, even over the selection of subs. There are a lot of players who were in that side on Saturday who deserve a place on the bench for a few games Mannone, Santos, Vermaelen, Ramsey, Gervinho and Giroud to name but a select few. Yet sadly, they'll probably all start against Schalke but then accountability for poor performance isn't Wenger's thing, unless it's Arshavin.

Anyway, enough of that and time to focus point in this blog, shots on goal. I believed prior to the kick off of this Premier League campaign that we would see the return of a free flowing and scoring Arsenal. However, the Premier League hasn't gone to plan and I couldn't have been further from the truth. We aren't winning games because we aren't clinical and our shots on target makes grim reading.

Team Goals Shots on Goal On Target Off Target Blocked Shot/Goal Ratio Shot/Target ratio
SAFC 0 23 3 10 10 0% 13%
SCFC 0 17 2 11 4 0% 11%
LFC 2 11 5 4 2 18% 45%
SFC 4 23 9 8 5 18% 40%
MCFC 1 11 4 5 2 9% 36%
CFC 1 17 4 10 3 5% 23%
WHUFC 3 21 7 6 8 14% 33%
NCFC 0 14 5 6 3 0% 35%
Average Per Game 1.375 17.125 4.875 7.5 4.625 8% 29.5%

We average under five shots on goal per game, that's a shot on target every eighteen minutes. Just under 30% of our attempts at goal actually hit the target and only 8% of our attempts on goal actually find the back of the net. You'd have thought we were Norwich or QPR if you forget for one second that this is about Arsenal. If you factor in our inability to keep clean sheets it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why were are well below par. We can't go into every game needing to score two goals to win every game. We won three games against Chelsea, Sp*rs, Man Utd and Man City last season. Only once did we win and keep a clean sheet and on the other two occasions we had to score five goals to the games. That is not the way top sides operate and it shows the lengths this side has to go to in order to secure three points. We opened the season at home to Sunderland and we could only muster three attempts on goal, three! We tied our season high twenty three attempts against Southampton but managed to score on four occasions and thankfully they also put through their own goal twice. Another standout stat is that we've only managed to test the opposition keeper over five times on two occasions, against Southampton and West Ham, both of whom were promoted last season. It smacks of a flat track bully attitude and even then we've have a come a cropper with that mentality on Saturday.

So we have all of these stats but what does it equate to? Well, lets have a look at our players minutes to goal ratio

Team Gervinho Podolski Walcott Cazorla Koscielny Giroud
SAFC 90 64 77 90 0 26
SCFC 72 72 18 81 0 90
LFC 0 82 0 90 1 90
SFC 75 75 15 90 0 15
MCFC 90 72 18 90 90 18
CFC 90 67 23 90 90 23
WHUFC 61 85 29 90 5 90
NCFC 90 65 0 90 0 90
Total Minutes 568 582 180 711 186 442
Minutes/Goal Ratio 189 291 90 355 186 442

If Theo is reading, he might want to take this to his contract negotiations because it makes horrible reading for the side. We've only had six scorers this season and whilst four are attackers, one is from centre midfield, when we play three and the other is a centre half who now finds himself on the bench. So let's break this down

Gervinho - Our current Premier League top scorer with three goals. This is a man opposition fans laugh at and he has played central striker on. He's scored in two games out of seven starts and he comes in as our third most efficient goal scorer.

Podolski - Lukas has an ankle knock and to be honest it's affecting his ability to contribute to the side. He's not completed a full ninety minutes in an Arsenal shirt. If he has a knock, why not take the opportunity to let him recover? Well that window of opportunity has passed as we have the likes of United and Sp*rs on the horizon, games where we need our best players on top form. I feel we don't do enough to get Podolski involved on games and he only has one goal from open play as a result.

Walcott - We he comes out of this with some praise but he's only started one game. Clearly there are things going on behind the scenes because when he has been fit there isn't anyway Chamberlain or Gervinho should start ahead of him. His finishing has also been impressive, he slotted home well against West Ham to give us the lead and he showed composure that has been lacking on occasions.

Cazorla - The magnificent Spaniard but a player who has never managed over ten league goals in a season. That said it isn't his main attribute but the trouble is those who he is supplying just aren't putting the ball in the net.

Koscielny - A centre half and one struggling to find his feet this season. He's current third in the pecking order at centre half despite the poor form of Vermaelen.

Giroud -  Then there's Olivier who has that one goal at West Ham. I like Giroud and like all players I want him to succeed but if he doesn't have the confidence to shoot then how can he ever succeed. One goal in over seven hours of play as Arsenal's centre forward simply isn't good enough. We can't afford to carry players at the moment and he is our main goal threat and he needs to turn the corner fast.

Overall, I think this smacks of a lack of quality in current squad. We know they are capable of better but yet last Saturday doesn't surprise anyone because we've seen it many times before. We have two huge games upcoming in our next four matches and this could well determine how this squad evolves because it would be nice to see it brimming with confidence but at present that seems a long way away. It's amazing how many good things can come from a shot at goal. If you don't believe me ask Grant Holt...


Friday, 5 October 2012

Mertesacker v Koscielny v Vermaelen

This has been a debate that has seen many an Arsenal fan spend a vast amount of time talking about it. The fact is we are discussing this because it is still an area of improvement for us as it has been demonstrated in our last two fixtures. It's a formula that Wenger has been unable to crack as three doesn't go into two but I've decided to focus on each player and the resulting partnership.

Per Mertesacker
Seven interceptions at City
LFC Away.
The big German had his doubters from the get-go. Fans don't like different and Mertesacker's lack of pace was always going to be his achilles heal, the trouble is that when he was signed we wanted instant results and one false step can see 30,000 snap judgements formed and make it impossible to recover as far as The Emirates faithful are concerned. The truth regarding Per is he is a brilliant centre half. He's not world class due to the aforementioned lack of pace but his reading of the game is a joy to behold. He treats every attack like a puzzle and he often comes up with the answer. He made seven interceptions away  at City in the 1-1 draw (pictured left) and sometimes I think the interception stats can be misleading, as it can come as a result of risky defending but Per does it in a controlled manner. It's been a long while since we saw a centre half read play as well as him, probably the best since Adams retired in fairness. Per also realises this shortcomings in terms of pace as he accommodates for this with his superb positional play, as illustrated away to Liverpool. He may play deeper but we have a very pacey back line that can be called upon to assist if needed. I have always rated him and felt he gets a raw deal but his absence towards the end of last season and his form at the beginning of this term cannot be ignored, players deserved to be picked on merit not reputations or armbands.

Laurent Koscielny

If I'm a big fan of Mertesackers, then I'm a huge fan of Koscielny. He was easily our best defender last season. He has everything required to compete, he is quick, his strength has improved, he's disciplined and prepared to throw this body on the line to stop shots on goal. Sadly for Koscielny, he missed the beginning of the season due to an injury but he was thrust back into the limelight away to City. He looked like he'd never been away as he slotted in without problems at all. He should have defended better after he had equalised and he was lucky that Ageuro shot wide as he should have made it 2-1. The issue for LK6 is that he has been dreadful in our last two games. For the first time against Torres he was second best and by some distance too. He got nowhere near him for the first goal on Sunday and it took a while to fathom out how he had got in such an awkward position. He then survived a risky attempt to cut out a through ball to Torres. This led to Torres going clear through on goal and thankfully we got away with a desperate penalty appeal as the Spaniard fluffed his lines. Koscielny also had a part to play in the second goal, as he was one of the players that had a chance to cut out the ball but a desperate slide saw him unable to stop a weak free kick from nestling in the net. His performance on Wednesday was better but then in truth, it couldn't get any worse. He avoided what looked like a red card for a reckless challenge in the centre circle, admittedly I've only seen that incident live, so I could be wrong. He was also caught ball watching when the Machado fired over when it was easier to score. He never sensed the danger after both Chamberlain and Coquelin had allowed Machado to stroll past them and it we should have fallen behind. He didn't cover himself in much glory with their goal either, although Jenkinson and Vermaelen had stronger cases to answer. This means he leaves himself open to a place on the bench due to Mertesacker and Vermaelen having more factors in their favour.

Thomas Vermaelen

Just not tight enough as the Greeks level.
Well, where do we start with the skipper? He started the season well, appeared disciplined in his game, as he avoided countless forays forward and then Chelsea happened. He gave away each foul that led to the goals, desperate defending that momentarly allowed us to regroup only to concede as a result of his actions. The first was a desperate and unnecessary lunge on Hazard, who hardly needs an invitation to roll around on the ground. The second was due to another ramble forward, he wasn't set correctly upon trying to recover and he ended up bundling Torres to the deck. He seems to have channelled his inner Alex Song and it affects our shape and we lack a fluency when he crosses through other players areas and it all becomes rather disjointed. I hoped the armband would have curbed his play going forward but it hasn't made a difference. He doesn't seem to realise how this costs us and it's happened time and time again. I genuinely believe as a defender he is overrated and any deficiencies that he has is masked by his goalscoring abilities. Look at Wednesday night, we are 2-1 up in a game that we played poorly in throughout and Walcott gets to the byline, fizzes in a ball and the keeper claims it well. Who was flying in behind him? Vermaelen. Why? Who knows. It wasn't a calculated risk of any kind and we should be looking to see out a game not lose our heads in a moment of madness. We can't continue with him playing this recklessly, as we've seen our usual shambolic defending rear it's ugly head after what was a promising start.

The Partnership

So who is it going to be? Well surprisingly, for now at least, I'm going with Mertesacker and Vermaelen. The latter is saved by the fact that the early season form of this duo shows it can work. It will continue to do so if Vermaelen is responsible. I'm not sure if he knows he can't attack as freely when he's back in defence with Per around but he seems less inclined to maraud forward. Per is there because he's played well, there was no reason to drop him last week and if we are basing our pairings off the opposition striker then the manager lacks belief in his players. Bizarre that in enforced circumstances Per handled Ageuro and Tevez the week before and he was even given Man of the Match. Koscielny misses out because he's been the poorest centre back so far and of the three games he's played he's had one good game but for the future I'd rather have Koscielny and Mertesacker. I've always believed it's Mertesacker + 1 and that remains but whilst Vermaelen has the armband it's hard to see Wenger losing faith in his captain.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

We'll All Follow The Arsenal...

Last season brought with it many twists and turns none more so than that dramatic comeback in the North London Derby. That day brought about a belief in the team and it was helped by a very supportive stadium, a stadium full of fans that went through a purple patch of positivity against the likes of Milan and Newcastle. It was quite clear it had an impact on the side and yet we choose to ignore the fact we could make it a hostile envioirnment for opposition sides but sadly we choose to not be a factor.

Home or Away

Crazy scenes at Anfield
Over the last few seasons our away fans have really become a force to be reckoned with and we are easily up there with the most vocal sets of supporters in the country. Then we play at The Emirates and suddenly support turns into a poisonous envoirnment in which it hinders our players belief in their own ability. Why is there a difference? Is it the price? I don't think it is, we have sold out against Norwich at the price of £50 per person. I think the truth is there shouldn't be a difference because those that don't travel away will marvel at the support our away fans bring and should be encouraged to support their side in the same fashion when they are next at home. However, this is rarely the case. The Emirates has become more of a pantomime/circus enviornment. The rumbles of discontent have been around for too long. We've booed players off and on the field, we have sung more songs about referee's than the ones we sing to encourage and inspire a side in need of support.When a player is need of a boost we compound their misery. I sit in the North Bank Lower and on Saturday some fans were that annoyed with the lack of support, they even launched into a Chelsea song to spring a reaction. They were quickly shot down but they had a point. Supporters were too busy booing John Terry & Ashley Cole than focusing on our own. Even the goal celebration was more applause than a moment of madness in the stands. Yet you look at the comparison with the scenes of an equaliser at Eastlands, it was mental yet it still meant we were level.

Our Responsibility

Whilst I know The Emirates is a friendly enviorment for all fans, it doesn't mean we can't go and help our side on their way to victory. I know exactly what sort of crowd atmosphere there will be tomorrow and it's the one that wants to be entertained and see an easy victory. A crowd that will get on the sides back if it's 0-0 and we miss a couple of chances. Do some fans realise that outside of the game itself, you have the rest of the week to dissect the performance? Also, it's worth noting that the transfer window is shut (observant I know) so why not just support those in front of us? The negativity towards some players affects our chances to win. Many have suffered and not many have recovered.


The fact is those that go away from home are prepared and ready to give everything they have in order to help their side achieve a win, sometimes they don't get the result their efforts deserve but yet they continue to give their all, you need look no further than the humiliation we suffered at Old Trafford. The away fans always make themselves heard for the right reasons and the home support tends to undo all of the good work. As a supporter who wants to be vocal I find it difficult to comprehend why their is a difference and maybe that's why I can't get my head around it but The Emirates can be an embarrassing place at times and we are there as supporters of a side that we all love and sitting there and saying nothing can be just as bad as being negative.

I'd love to know your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to leave a comment of tweet me @mj_afc