Thoughts on the Disappointing Draw against Aston Villa
At Arsenal, like every other football club, the fans play many vital roles for the team they support all season long. For starters, they pay handsome fees to watch their team and they also buy a boatload of merchandise, showing off their colors for the world to see.
Unless you’re living in a faraway cave with no access to internet, colored TV and civilization, you should know that Arsenal fans are hugely divided into two factions.
On one corner, we have the AKBs (Arsene Knows Best) who feel that Arsenal will head into oblivion without Wenger, and all he does is right in their sight. On the other corner, we have the AMGs / WOBs (Arsene Must Go / Wenger Out Brigade) that are tired of their stubborn manager, his huge ego, undying faith with youth, inability to keep his top players and his blinded principles that have ultimately led to the club’s current barren spell without silverware.
Don’t get it twisted, these AMGs love their club with all their hearts but they’re just frustrated with their manager, and I can bet that they hand a hand in those “You don’t know what you’re doing” chants at Villa Park, after seeing their manager replace Olivier Giroud with Francis Coquelin.
The manager has defended his decision to make that substitution and he has stated that Jack Wilshere picked up a minor ankle injury, so he had to rest the Englishman, thereby handing a starting berth to Aaron Ramsey. Wenger has been in this business long enough to know how to run his team but the way the fans get on his case in the wake of any disappointing result is somewhat disturbing.
These are the same fans that chastised Wenger for buying a relatively-unearthed 18-year-old winger from Southampton for a whooping £12m, but they barraged the manager with insults when he withdrew this same youngster for Andrey Arshavin in January 2012.
With Wilshere suffering a long term injury last season, Ramsey was handed a chance to stake a claim for a first-team berth but his inconsistent performances paved the way for a resurgent Tomas Rosicky in the tail end of the campaign and I’d believed that the imminent return of Jack Wilshere would stir Ramsey to up his game.
There are two sides to Ramsey’s performance on Saturday.
Some say that he was Arsenal’s most productive player as fatigue took its toll on the Spanish duo of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, which meant that Ramsey’s energy and verve complimented for the losses in his midfield partners. Others say that Ramsey was shite yet again, as he continued to miss chance after chance without really stamping his authority on the game.
However, it was pretty shocking to see how toothless Arsenal was against a team that shipped in five goals in the Etihad Stadium. Aston Villa’s goalie, Brad Guzan, wasn’t really disturbed in the first half and the best chance arrived when Giroud waltzed to the left before drilling in a cross for Koscielny. Those sort of balls are bread and butter for players like Giroud, Walcott and Podolski but it was a classic case of a wrong player in the right place and that chance went begging.
The goalless stalemate in Midlands has ensured that Arsenal is still languishing in sixth place, 10 points behind the table toppers, Manchester United. I can remember vividly when I asked a Manchester United fan why his team’s home kit looks like a table cloth. He replied, stating that its because they are meant to be on top of the table.
Looking at the current league standings, the Red Devils are on top of the table but Andre Santos had other plans for the jersey he retrieved from van Persie,
With Arsenal further behind the leading pack, anything less than a victory against Everton on Merseyside will be regarded as a major disappointment. However, Everton are in good form this season and are currently in fifth place.
Wenger had stated that his team had a chance to win the game but as always, they lacked sharpness in the final third. This sentiment has also been shared by Kieran Gibbs, as he believed that the team lacked conviction. Just like the games against Manchester United and Norwich, it has been painful seeing Arsenal struggle in the attacking department, despite having so many talented attacking-minded players in the team.
Robin van Persie’s rightful replacement, Olivier Giroud, hasn’t set the Emirates ablaze with the kind of form that won him the Ligue 1 Golden Boot last season, but he’s slowly finding his feet in North London. In my honest opinion he has done really well, as he has started adding the goals to the equation. Against Aston Villa, Giroud linked up play brilliantly with his teammates and almost created an assist for Laurent Koscielny, had he worn his shooting boots.
Lukas Podolski is another player that has been immense for the Gunners this season and his work ethic has been brilliant thus far. However, Podolski tends to become a peripheral figure as some games progress before that moment of inevitability where his number pops up in the fourth official’s board. Podolski didn’t really come into the fray at Villa Park and his replacement, Gervinho, was an aberration.
With Theo Walcott facing another spell in the sidelines, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed another chance to strut his stuff and it’s fair to say that he did okay by his standards. At the tender age of 19, he has still learning his trade but he has to be commended for his hard work and level-headedness so far.
My major concern will be in Arsenal’s midfield. Despite having a large haul of the club’s best technicians in this department, the lack of depth in this area of the pitch is pretty alarming bearing in mind that the club is supposed to have a considerable chunk of playing personnel in this area of the pitch.
The unnecessary sale of Alex Song has forced Mikel Arteta to shun his attacking duties to play as a primary holding midfielder and he has excelled admirably in this role. However, it has become glaring that Wenger clearly lacks faith in Arteta’s deputies for the holding midfield role, as Emmanuel Frimpong has been shipped on loan while Francis Coquelin remains on the fringes.
Age and fatigue are slowly taking their tolls on Arteta’s performances but Coquelin hasn’t really done enough to prove that he’s ready to make that step up. Or maybe there’s something that Wenger is seeing sitting on a chair which we the fans can’t see climbing a tall tree.
The box-to-box role was manned by Wilshere in the 2010/11 campaign but Song’s presence as the midfield enforcer allowed Arteta to make that role his last season. With Arteta replacing Song in the holding role, Abou Diaby was giving a new lease of life playing in that role but as usual, the lanky Frenchman is back on the treatment table, his home away from home.
Ramsey keeps coming up with hot and cold performances and Wilshere is slowly integrating himself into the team, following a long-term lay off. Wilshere has recently stated that he’s getting used to the way Arsenal play and he’ll be back to his best by Christmas.
The disappointing 0 – 0 draw against Aston Villa hasn’t brought an end to the world as we know it, but all attention must be drawn into getting maximum points at Goodison Park on Wednesday night. Carl Jenkinson is confident that his team will win against Everton while Wojciech Szczesny has labelled the game as a six-pointer.
Getting a positive result against Everton will give the Gunners that right momentum to head into this weekend’s home tie against Swansea.
I really hope that the Gunners will have their shooting boots in Merseyside because the last time I checked, games are won by goals.
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