Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Mediocre Arsenal get a mediocre result. Match report.

Wenger got the team wrong last night. But first, it's important to recognise a couple of things.

Firstly, a draw away in Europe is never a bad result. We had six points on the board, now we have seven. So despite Alkmaar's last minute equaliser we're sure to go through. Which is more than can be said for Liverpool.

And secondly, that whilst you obviously don't pick and choose which matches you're not going to win, if you could choose one, this is pretty high up the list. The group stage of the Champions League has a major problem in that as long you win your first two matches, it is almost inevitable you will go through. So a draw away to Alkmaar is infinitely preferable to a draw away to West Ham on Sunday.

Because of this, I think Wenger got the team wrong. RVP, despite not playing for Holland last Wednesday has played a lot of matches this season; this was the perfect game to rest him. He's got a new baby, a couple of days off to spend with it would probably have improved his temperament. Perhaps more pertinently, RVP often gets wound up by the Dutch - he made one bad tackle last night which got me particularly worried. In short, picking RVP seemed unnecessary.

There are others. By the end of the season Cesc will have played a huge number of games. Why not play Ramsey instead?

If Ramsey, Vela, Merida and Gibbs had started, you would think there would have been a greater hunger in the Arsenal team last night; more of a drive to win. (I thought it best to avoid the phrase 'will to win' as then I get accused of filling the blog with clich├ęs)

And that was the problem with Arsenal last night. They weren't stunningly poor. In fact I thought Arshavin and Song, in particular, were rather good. But there was a general lack of interest.

That presented itself in the sloppiness with which possession was lost, and, to a certain extent, with the goal Alkmaar scored. Partly it can be attributed to switching off at the very end. But it was a soft, soft goal. Alkmaar were given a free kick because Arshavin strayed offside, a stupid thing to do. But there was a lack of defensive organisation when it was pretty obvious they would pump a long ball upfield.

All in all, a point which feels like a loss in that we should have won, but if it makes us buck up our ideas, it should be okay. It is worth remembering that matchdays 3 and 4 in the Champions League often throw up odd results. In 2008 we drew 0-0 with Fenerbache. In 2007, it was the same scoreline against Slavia Prague. In '06, we lost to CSKA Moscow. Indeed, the results of Barcelona and Liverpool last night is testament to this.

Keep the faith,

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