Are we really good enough to win the Premier League, that is the question we should be asking.
High hopes were held by many after the first half a dozen games, but Chelsea’s game at home and Norwich away has brought ourselves to the point of double guessing ourselves but before we start hanging the blame on individuals we have to have a reality check.
Internationals always see to throw up complications and in our case we had 15 players involved with international call up, Norwich had just 2.
When you consider the travelling our players have to do, to different parts of the world, playing different systems and being managed by different managers, coming home and then slotting back into club team football is always going to be difficult.
Yes we expect to beat teams like Norwich whether we are home or away but Norwich were up for this match!
Before kick off they had only 3 points on the board and they must have been dreading coming up against us, a team of talented players and their record against us is not good in fact its terrible. They knew we would have majority possession and we could seriously hurt them. They would have been told to shoot on sight, raise their work rate and defend in numbers, breaking away when ever they could.
In reality they did what was expected of them and Norwich fans would have felt a big weight had been lifted off of them after Saturday and they should be proud.
What about us?
Arsene Wenger was livid after this game, after having most of the possession we fall foul to an easy goal, a flash shot from outside of the box which swerved viciously and bounced just before it reached Mannone, making it difficult to handle. All credit to Mannone, he watched the ball but in flight it turned at the last-minute and all he could do was to parry the ball out only for it to find the waiting Holt who was left unmarked to drive the ball in what looked an open goal.
Supporters can criticise Mannone for not keeping the ball in his grasp but he was not at fault for this goal. Before the shot, we had three defenders that could and should have closed the player down but we decided to go on the back foot and give him time to take his shot and that was the mistake we made.
Overall, our defending this season is far better than the last few, but we still have moments when our decision-making is wrong and this was one of those occasions.
Norwich, while under a lot of pressure, managed do something that we find increasingly difficult to do and that is break away quickly when the opportunity presents itself and they were prepared to shoot on sight and on Saturday, that came off for them.
We however, seem to be more focussed on keeping possession. We pass the ball around nicely but sadly, during one spell of twenty odd passes, fifteen of them went backwards or sideways. We have taken the surprise out of our game. Teams look like they are defending in numbers against us but that is only because we give them time to regroup and get back and defend. We seem to lack the belief that we can attack at pace and make that final shot count .
We are beginning to look like a team that is frightened to go forward, as soon as we gain possession we look backwards or sideways to pass the ball and for every forward pass, there are many more which go sideways or backwards and that is our undoing. Players like Gervinho, who plays at times like the ball is stuck to his foot, will undoubtedly keep the ball until he is surrounded by defenders. Then he passes backwards and by doing so, he slows our attack again. He is in all fairness a gifted player but he holds the ball too long but he needs to start releasing the ball a lot earlier..
Many a time from an advance position on the edge of the oppositions box we pass all the way back to our goalkeeper that is a no no. This should never be the case from that position but we seem frightened to take the shot when it presents itself so we opt for another pass.
Breakaway chances are exactly that, breakaway fast forward passes with forwards busting a gut to get in the box, strikers who are racing to score and catching the opposing side out. We find it very hard to make 3 passes forward and our players have some how become accustomed to looking backwards instead of forwards and until this trend stops we will struggle to score goals.
Giroud is our centre forward his confidence is at an all time low he looks lost in front of goal, so much that he never seems to be up front when he’s needed. He drops back, and at times when we are attacking we have no centre forward, in fact we seldom have a forward in the box because we pass the ball backwards instead of being direct.
We are still having trouble defending corners and dead ball kicks as we adopt zonal marking instead of man to man marking. For those who are not sure what zonal marking is, it’s when you spread your defenders out and give them zones to defend which should in theory cover all bases, but when opposing players rush forward we do not defend well. This way of defending has to change, zonal marking is fine for forwards coming back to help out but for seasoned defenders we have to go back to player to player marking .
Watch defending in any other team and you will see defenders grappling with attackers arms around them not even watching the ball coming in from a corner, they watch only the player they are marking and the aim is to make sure that that player does not get the ball.
Do you like me wonder why we never seem to get many penalty decisions compared to other teams?
When you look to see how many men we have in the opposing box it becomes clear that we do not get in the positions to compete for ball in the danger area and if you’re not there you can’t complain.
Giroud and Podolski are not small players they are rugged men that can mix it with the best but can we cross balls into the box and give them the chance to compete for headers on corners, no.
Vermaelen and Mertesacker will come up but can we get a cross into the danger areas, no.
We are missing out on good opportunities to score and until Wenger changes things, we will continue to do so.
I personally see a problem with our goalkeeping situation, although the keepers when fit try their best, we remain very weak in this area. Regardless of who we field in goal, they need protecting, our defence needs to be more solid, our forwards need to start defending from the front, our midfield needs to be stronger and more disciplined too and of course our defence needs to be sharper and start closing down players a lot quicker.
Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff have got some work to do to get us back into the Premier League race, we are 10 points adrift of the leaders and if we continue in this vein, that gap will get bigger and bigger. We have the players and we have the talent but we need change in the system as this one we have is just not working.
Arsene it’s up to you and your merry men to sort this out.
You don’t have long either, otherwise this current system will get out of hand.
Written by Steve Palmer.