Whenever we lose a game it's easy to be hypertherical with team selection purely based on the result. For me, when Wenger announced his line up at City, which included Monreal, I thought it was a logical and correct decision - we lost 6-3. Yesterday, there were many things wrong. There was no pace and there was the lack of a physical presence. Wenger has also long been a fan on Podolski taking a seat on the bench. Then yesterday he gets included at one of the toughest away gigs in the league. I don't get the logic. Ox has been superb of late and he's really utilised his pace to devastating effect and most importantly he's scored a few goals as well. It was notable that it was his run and cross that led to Sanogo missing his guilt edged chance late on.
The key contribution to the game. Here are the laws as laid down by FIFA.
Involves a deliberate act - FIFA says.
It was a very harsh call, one I would be baying the ref to give for us. Somewhat bizarrely though it didn't surprise me in the slightest. It sort of summed up our performance. You can make your own interpretation.
I'm not sure when this happened but I'm becoming a bit fed up with our lack of purpose and intent when we attack. If Giroud plays, it's all about surrounding him with players and playing neet little flicks. Hardly ideal for the wind tunnel that is The Brittania but then we didn't even achieve that aim yesterday. The aspect of attack that annoys me is the left to right build up. It is a display of patience but we have so little movement that a team has safety in numbers, it's not tiring for the defence nor does it create any space. So inevitably we go from controlling the ball to chucking in a percentage ball ie a cross. Why? Doesn't that defeat the object of keeping the ball? Whipping in a ball towards one player up against two isn't going result in a favourable situation for us. I've said it before, we have too many players willing to create and not make the penetrating runs required to open the lock.
This was our strong hold earlier in the season and now it appears to be our achilles heal. They don't dictate the game, rather it passes them by. Each midfielder has their own attributes to assist our team:
Arteta - possession
Flamini - determination
Ramsey - all rounder
Chamberlain - pace
Rosicky - tempo
Cazorla - goals and assists
Özil - vision
Wilshere - ???
I'm not sure what Jack is best at. He doesn't score enough, nor does he create. He prefers to run down a blind alley and lose possession I know that. He loves lying on the deck and giving the impression he is seriously injured. Maybe I'd label him tenacious but he hasn't made this position his own and Ramsey will kick him into touch when he returns.
Yesterday the team played like the world was against them. We took the role Stoke fans love. We expected decisions from the ref and stopped on far too many occasions. The tone was set early on when Arteta was pushed off the ball and the ref played on. There were some questionable 'challenges' yesterday but we let Stoke smell blood, something you can never do. Their side feeds off it, as do their fans. It's worth noting that we've only ever won their once on that infamous late afternoon kick off. If you were cynical you would say it was based on us playing ten men but the truth is we matched their attitude and determination that day, even after falling behind early. Once you've matched a sides battling qualities, then your football takes over. Our football never got going yesterday and that's reflected in our lack of chances and shots on goal. Very frustrating given what's on the line here.
I'm not sure what version we're onto with this but it appear we are going to have to re-live our yearly implosion. The title for me is gone for now. We need snookers and it's only the beginning of March. Now I know you may be screaming at your screen saying we can win all of our upcoming league games but history tells us that we are going to drop points. I don't believe for one second that this side can take 12/12 or even 9/12 against Sp*rs, Chelsea, City & Everton. I'd say 5/12 would be more realistic and that means our title challenge is officially over. Let the race for 4th commence. I watched Dennis Bergkamp's legends programme on iTunes recently and he said something that struck a cord. He stated in his early years that the team knew they weren't good enough to compete for the title with a Manchester United but that was something Wenger changed and got the team believing. I don't think this side believes it's good enough, it always feel a couple of players short of what's required but that discussion is for another day I suppose.
Wenger himself said yesterday that the loss was "a big worry". He knows the damage that was created yesterday. We need to play ourselves back into contention and we also need sides to play themselves out of contention as well. There are too many sides in and around us that will succumb to the amount of teams competing for the title. What I think people mean is we have to win all of our upcoming games and navigate our difficult schedule but at present we are 4 points off Chelsea, which will be 7 points by this time next week.
The title race was nice whilst it lasted, I knew it would fade away at some point but I had hoped we might have been able to squeeze it out for a few more games. This is where draws away to Southampton and at home to United come home to roost. The next few weeks may not be pretty but I for one hope Wenger plays his strongest side next Saturday because if he doesn't and we go out, the knives will be out once again.