Date:Saturday August 23 2014
23rd August 2014 5:30 pm
I guess using Alexis up front was something we needed to try out given Girouds recent form. Giving Ox a chance out on the right seemed a positive attempt to make us a little more direct too. Playing Mertesacker in the less familiar role on the left side of centre defense was a decision that made itself unless we were to test Chambers further by moving him from the right side that he at least had some familiarity with having played there since the start of the season. Leaving Cazorla on the bench to accommodate Ozil seemed straightforward enough and Flamini was the obvious option to replace Arteta. What we were left with though were wholesale changes, whether by design or obligation, that taking a look at the team sheet prior to kick off didn't give the most comfortable feeling against a team that had been very strong at home last season and had turned us over quite comprehensively a few months earlier.
Everton, who haven't won a major trophy for 19 years, at Goodison looked a sterner test than Crystal Palace, who haven't won a major trophy ever, at the Emirates but unfamiliar team or not set up as we were to play on the break, we started brightly enough getting the ball forward quickly. But too many players seemed to want to play in the same areas with Ox particularly coming inside too far and too often off his flank. We seemed to deprive ourselves of space attempting to form triangles that were too narrow and too intricate. Once we'd gone behind and Everton were even more at ease sitting back and playing us on the break the counter attacking strategy became redundant.
The goal came against the run of play but was a classic example of uncertainty as to who should be doing what and where. Ozil has rightly been criticised for not tracking the full back though as much, maybe more responsibility falls onto young Chambers for playing everyone onside. At the same time Wilshere and Flamini should be asked what they were doing posing like statues with their hands behind their backs while offering Barry all the time, space and distance he needed to put a ball into the box. Ramsey making a late attempt to close him down seemed just a token gesture. Barry was probably trying to pick out Lukaku but as it sailed over Lukaku's head Colman met it perfectly.
Thereafter it was a question of whether we would be able to fashion a goal without conceding on the break. We couldn't. With everyone upfield and only Flamini and Debuchy in a position to offer any cover while Chambers, who still has a bit to learn, had gone missing Mertesacker was probably ill advised to try to win the ball deep in the opposition half even if he was fouled. For those who feel Ozil doesn't put in a full shift take a look at the only player busting a gut to get back and try to offer some cover. Naismith's goal may have been offside but even so it seemed punishment for some naive play.
Unable to play on the counter ourselves Wenger was forced to make the change and use Giroud in place of Alexis up front in order to have someone to hold up play and bring others into the game. Unfortunately Ox, Ramsey and Wilshere were all having poor games though, as was pointed out to me during the game, even though Ramsey is playing poorly he still has a habit of producing an assist or a goal while Jack particularly produces very little. Cazorla possesses the technique and ability on the ball and with the ball that enabled him to create as many chances in the limited time he had as Wilshere, Ramsey and Ox combined managed throughout the match. It was the introduction of Cazorla combined with Giroud rediscovering his touch and strength that ultimately earned what had seemed an unlikely point at half time.
Cazorla's ability to take and play the ball on either side created enough space to fire a ball across the penalty area to the far post for the industrious Ramsey to knock into the net. That willingness to put in the effort, to fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, is what presently distances Ramsey from some others when they're struggling to contribute. He doesn't hide when things aren't going his way which somehow increases the chances that at some point they will. It was a poor over hit ball from Ramsey that Monreal retrieved and then fired in a cross that disturbed Giroud's elaborate quiff as he headed home decisively.
So we gained one point this season where we failed to gather any last. An improvement then but at the moment without the fluency of performance that might encourage the belief that we can achieve more than we have in recent years. There's time for us to find that and indeed there were passages of fluent play in this game but we first need to find some stability in defence and midfield. That might take a few weeks yet but the players are there. We just have to decide who they are.
In the meantime we have to find a combination to beat Besiktas, who haven't won a major trophy for 3 years, before our next PL outing against Leicester City, who haven't won a major trophy in 14 years - if the League Cup is a major trophy.
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Date:Saturday August 23 2014
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