Arsenal 7-1 Blackburn: 7 points on our return to form
On one point from four games
There had been no league wins this calendar but the problems had begun a few matches earlier with a 1-1 draw at home to lowly Wolverhampton. It set up a sequence of three matches in which the Gunners scored once and only once. Had Arsenal either have beaten Fulham or Wolves, from those winning positions, and taken a point from the other we’d be congratulating the team on coming through a hectic festive schedule with 7 points from 9. An unfortunate sending off of Johan Djourou lead to the only defeat, although Arsenal had dipped in the second half a win still looked likely. The morale: fine lines between success and failure, Arsenal were punished for a lack of goals.
Defeat at Swansea added to the woes but encouragingly goals were back on the menu, a dodgy penalty swung the game in Swansea’s favour but credit Arsenal for equalising. The visit of Manchester United saw Arsenal play well within themselves, more a case of anchors than handbrakes. But let’s credit the response, Arsenal tore into United in the second half and should have won the match. In the FA Cup it was a similar story, a painfully slow opening 45 minutes followed by heart, character and sheer responsibility to set the record straight. A burst forward by Koscielny to win a penalty emphasized the shared responsibility and will to turn the game around.
On a return to scoring form
At Bolton Arsenal deserved more, but at least they had made the openings. Walcott’s movement created a one vs one which was turned behind whilst Van Persie was denied by the woodwork on two occasions. However goals had begun to return, two at Swansea (all be in defeat) was a first for any visiting side and three against Villa within 15 minutes. The team were creating chances and now just needed a victim to put everything together in the league. Hitting Blackburn for seven was an emphatic response; every goal will go some way to heal recent wounds.
On the team’s quality and character
Having lost eight matches in the league already it would be rather simplistic to suggest the first choice players lack the quality required, I would suggest Arsenal’s problems are more to do with a lack of depth than lack of quality per see. There are just too many players in the squad the manager is unable or rather unwilling to call upon, Park being the rather obvious case in point. Every player will have peaks and troughs through a campaign; therefore if the manager’s selection is limited to 13-14 players you are asking for trouble.
I have pondered the potential scenario of our usual end of season blip, but I don’t see it coming. There’s enough character in the team which will be aided by the return of key personnel. Mikel Arteta’s recent comments on our form are evidence of a squad that is standing up and taking responsibility. Towards the end of last season the team’s collapse and lack of effort was unforgiveable, I don’t put this season in that category. A lot of players Koscielny, Van Persie, Arteta and more simply don’t deserve to be in a team that have lost eight times. I put it down to more the situation the club find have put themselves in rather than blame on the players who’ve been required to play week in week out without much option of rotation.
On Theo Walcott
Whilst Theo Walcott does need to improve in front of goal the lack of patience and frustration aimed in his direction is wholly unfair. Theo has made progress both defensively in terms of work ethic and tracking back and offensively in his movement. Another three assists today in what is an already impressive tally.
On Oxlade Chamberlain
Gervinho and Walcott bring a definite ploy this season, it’s about coverage of ground, supporting Van Persie as an extra striker and directly assisting from by-line positions. Chamberlain fits the mould in that respect and brings a direct goal threat too. With a lack of similar players there has been too much emphasis and focus on the former pair but with Chamberlain’s emergence the long term scenario looks healthy in that regard. For me Chamberlain has moved above Arshavin in the pecking order.
On the recent unrest
The position we are in is not the fault of the first choice core group but more related to the volume of change, injuries and poorly managed transfer windows. I can understand fans showing anger last season at home to Aston Villa where the team were simply not trying, but with much left to play for the same reaction is not fair on this group of player’s and nor of any help to anyone. I would just ask supporters to bear in mind the response that was achieved by the team when the fans got behind them early in the season, the same and more is highly possible.
On Sunderland next up
Sunderland’s fortunes have been turned around in emphatic style of late, if the season had started when Martin O’Neill had taken charge Sunderland would sit top of the table. An away match in the north east in the winter won’t be easy pickings but a seven goal haul has put Arsenal in prime shape.
2011-12 | Match Reports