Good morning to anyone with the stomach to be reading blogs today.
That was a deflating game and result on every level. No one, player or coach came out of that well, with the exception of the much maligned Shkodran Mustafi. Ironic eh? That’s not to say all the players were bad, some were ok without being good, but some were well below what we expect of them. The fact that the team and players did not play well, opens the door for hindsight experts to be critical of Arteta’s team selection, However, when I saw the team I thought that it was the strongest line up he could have put out and I was happy that he was fielding a team to make sure we progressed in what was a massively important competition for the club.
We started off slow, I suspect looking to control the ball and dominate possession in an attempt play a low risk game. Clearly that was not the result. The play was ponderous and risk averse, in short, boring, right up until the moment that they scored. They scored from a corner that was defended so badly, it beggars belief. After that we picked up the pace and dominated play. That’s not to say we played well, just a bit quicker.
Pepe, who has been in and out of the team under Arteta has shown some improvement in recent weeks, but last night he had a shocker. His decision making was as bad as I’ve seen it, he dawdled on the ball, often receiving it and just stopping still, giving the opposition an eternity to get into position and also crowd him out. I lost count of the number of times Ozil overlapped him and got into good space in their left-back position, just for Pepe to ignore the easy pass to him, dally on the ball or set off on a dribble into traffic. He has the quickest feet and the slowest brain, He dazzles with some dribbles, but the end result is so poor he may as well dribble down the tunnel with the ball. He is clearly very skilled on the ball, but I fear no amount of coaching will quicken his brain waves. Ozil himself was ineffective. I wondered why he spent so much time deep and wide on the right, rather in the central 10 position, I suspect it was so he could make the fore mentioned runs, but whatever it was, it didn’t work.
In the fullback positions while Saka had his moments, Hector did not, it was telling that he was the first to be hooked. It seems to me that Mikel is from the Arsene school of substitutions, in that he likes the players that start to make the adjustments required, rather than him tinker, of course the hindsight experts are given a open goal if this doesn’t work, and last night it didn’t work at all.
The end of the game literally couldn’t have been worse. Aubameyang had produced a late moment of magic that should have seen us progress but a series of calamities saw us find a way to shoot our collective feet off. A reluctance to clear the ball, culminated in Leno gifting a corner in the 120th minute, a corner we conceded from , with Luiz appearing to just leave the ball . What a F. up. Then, to top it all, in the 2 minutes of added time, Aubameyang missed the sitter of all sitters.
It was a night to forget, all the recent positive vibes were drained away, and we are left , once again, in an emotional slump. Any European football next year looks a long shot, let alone Champions League. Arteta has a big job to lift these players over the coming weeks. We can help by putting this setback behind us as quickly as possible. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow it we must.