Sunday, 14 September 2014

Six thoughts on Arsenal 2 Man City 2

Arsenal 2 Man City 2

This was good fun
Social media has seen a great democratisation of football analysis, with every man and his dog able to have a view on things, but it’s also led to a 24/7 discussion of all things Arsenal, leading to people taking football far too seriously.

I’ve never held any truck with the ‘philosophy’ Jose Mourinho espouses of win at all costs. I think football should be enjoyable, and I don’t derive enjoyment solely from winning at all costs. Football should be fun and if you don’t enjoy it, you’re doing it wrong.

So sure, were there tactical tweaks which might have made Arsenal’s life easier? Yep, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a highly enjoyable way to spend a Saturday lunchtime.

And to a large extent, that’s because this was the most entertaining display I’ve seen from Arsenal in a long time. Scintillatingly quick transitions from defence to attack allowed Ozil, Sanchez et al to really stretch the City defence. Arsenal’s reputation as entertainers (built in the era where Cesc Fabregas was the fulcrum of the side) stemmed from brilliant possession football in the opposition half and shooting from good positions.

This was different, but arguably more entertaining, with the ball zipping from one end to the other in just a few seconds. And at the heart of all that was Mesut Ozil. No doubt he will face criticism once again – a quick skim of my Twitter feed (and I like to think I largely follow sensible people) indicated that’s the case. But I don’t really see why; the difference between him and Fabregas is that he makes the ball move so much quicker, only ever taking one or two touches. A style based on quick transitions simply can’t contain Fabregas, and on the basis of yesterday’s performance, my hopes for the season are much higher. This was not just an entertaining performance – it was also a very, very good performance.

The curious case of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil
Attacking players like Sanchez and Ozil are ultimately judged on goals and assists – but it’s only really fair to judge them over the course of the whole season. Some woeful decision-making from Alexis was one of the main reasons Arsenal trailed at half-time. Conversely, Ozil makes the right decision almost every time he gets the ball. But because he hasn’t really supplied any goals and assists so far this season – whereas Alexis already has three goals, the narrative is one of Ozil underperforming. I’m sure by the end of the season that wrong will have been righted. For the record, I thought Ozil was very good yesterday.

The Aaron Ramsey paradox
Ramsey has been miles worse than he was last season. I never expected him to score 30 goals this season, but his defensive work is lacking and he is taking up some bizarre positions. And yet because he is plausibly the fittest player in the team, you can’t really take him off after 70 minutes if he’s having a bad game, because it’s so likely that his stamina will tell towards the end of games. His goals against Palace and Everton are testament to that.

To lose the first half was a travesty
Ignore the bollocks about it being “so very Arsenal”. That’s only if you discount the last three years where Arsenal have rarely dominated big games even for ten minutes, let alone 35-40 minutes. It’s a completely different team from the one which used to get hit on the counter-attack, and the first City goal stemmed from a sensationally good piece of play from Jesus Navas.

But to dominate territory to such a great extent – presumably this was the last big game start ever for Frank Lampard – and to go in 1-0 down was incredibly harsh on Arsenal. Danny Welbeck must take some blame – sure he’s only had two training sessions but you don’t need team practice to finish the chance he had. Just imagine the reaction of Gervinho had missed it.

Mark Clattenburg was atrocious
And I don’t say that as a partisan point – I thought there was quite possibly a foul in the build-up to the first Arsenal goal. But its pretty galling to read criticism of Arsenal’s “lack of steel” when every time Arsenal players committed a slightly bad foul they picked up a yellow card. James Milner’s foul on Mathieu Debuchy in the City left-back position just before half-time should be shown at conferences as the dictionary definition of a yellow card foul. Clattenburg’s decision? Just a free kick. Rotational fouling is something that happens and I can deal with. But Milner committed three yellow card offences and emerged from the game without a caution to his name. Farcical.

Arsenal’s Carling Cup line-up will be very interesting
Presumably with yesterday’s injury to Debuchy, the team against Southampton will be a mix of a comically inexperienced defence and then a very experienced midfield and attack, with Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski desperately in need of game time. And the way Wojciech Szczesny’s been playing, it will be a good opportunity for David Ospina to show what he can do.

Keep the faith.