Just before kick-off over a week ago against Liverpool in the premier league Arsene said:
“I want us to control possession.”
Unfortunately for him the team was out cold before 20 minutes had been played. In fact it was not until the 65th minute before the team began to show glimpses of a team that had been in and around the top of the league for a majority of the time this season.
Oddly enough Arsenal still managed to averaged 57% possession but just like the 0-0 draw against United mid-week and the defeats to United and City where we managed a similar possession rate, the damage was already done before the first half was over.
This simple statistics shows clearly what most fans have been saying across the blogosphere over the last 6 years.
Most fans are extremely concerned whenever our team is facing any of the so called top teams in this league either in the FA cup or in the league.
Before going into this FA cup clash Wenger had said he was concerned about the lack of chances we were creating as well as the lack of goals recently.
Personally, I was a little concerned about that comment because going into the Liverpool game we had scored 16 goals in 7 games which averaged 2.3 goals per game. In my view nothing had changed other than a worrying trend that has been Wengers Achilles heel since he took over AS Monaco. The recent barren spell has just brought the issue to the most people’s attention.
Was Wenger cleverly trying to divert his clubs poor goal scoring record against the so called top teams in this league?
With us only managing 6 wins out of 17 games and drawing 7 against Liverpool since April 2008 this was a contest Wenger and his crew could not fluff their lines especially with FC Munchen on their way to London.
Anyway back to the game yesterday and Sanogo was lucky to be given his first senior start for us. I wonder if the Giroud’s off the field stories had something to do with Yaya’s inclusion or the match against Bavarians was the deciding factor.
Even though Arteta and Flamini have not had the best partnership together Wenger gave them another opportunity to forge a partnership.
Within the first 2 minutes Yaya showed he would not be bullied by either of the most tactile central defenders in the league when he won and controlled a long ball on his chest just past the half way line.
Just before that Sturridge had ghosted past Flamini, Per and Laurent and found himself at the end of a fine move between Coutinho and Joe Allen but the Liverpool striker on fine form attempted shot was blocked by Fabianski before he was sent over the goal line for a corner kick.
Joe Allen, playing in an unfamiliar advanced role, was finding lots of space in between Monreal and Flamini. In the 4th minute after a fine long diagonal pass from Gerrard he found Allen who played another 1-2 with Coutinho and found Sturridge again but to must fans relief his attempt hit the side netting for a goal kick.
The first ten minutes looked like we were going to have another long day but things quickly swung into our favour.
I have always noted that whenever we play against the better teams their defensive midfielder controls their play too easily and yesterdays was not proving any differently with Gerrard again dictating play. But whether through Arsene’s ingenuity or a stroke of luck, Arteta moved further up field after 15 minutes and with the exuberance and fearlessness of Yaya they hounded Agger and Gerrard in their own half and prevented Liverpool from playing their game thereby curbing the threat of Liverpool’s front 4.
With this subtle change we began to control the game in patches with Yaya winning a few free-kicks and corner kicks around Liverpool’s box.
With 16 minutes gone, Ozil found Yaya with a weighted cross in Liverpool’s half. Yaya again controlled the ball exquisitely on his chest and attempted a shot on goal but his attempt was blocked. With luck on our side, the ball fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain who aimed the ball low and found the back of the net.
It seemed to me that Andy Gray, who was back commentating, could not believe we had gone up one nil against the run of play.
Even with the teams’ new found belief we were still not controlling the game as comfortably as Arsenal should be doing in a game as this. Both Monreal and Flamini conceded quick yellow cards making the game remain nervy until the end of the half.
As expected Arsene did not make any changes at the start of the second half but he made another subtle tactical change which I believe led to the team scoring the second goal in the 47th minute.
From my observation, it looked like Poldolski had been moved more centrally into a traditional second striker role when we had the ball with Ozil moving onto the left flank. Without the ball Poldolski was helping to track the run of Sterling who was causing lots of problems for both Flamini and Monreal on our left hand side.
Before our second goal Fabianski, who was having his best performance in an Arsenal jersey, made another splendid save to keep the game at 1-0.
Right after that, Arteta, deep in Liverpool’s half, won the ball and fed Ozil who subsequently played a quick 1-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain and then the latter sprinted into the edge of the Liverpool penalty area and Ozil found him with an excellent weighted pass. Oxlade-Chamberlain then looked up and played the ball back into the path of Podolski who was making one of his signature runs into the penalty box and with his right foot finished like a true German international.
The subtle change Arsene had made seemed to be working but with Suarez initiating his new Kabala wrist band and going through a dry spell by his high standard, was even more determined to win a penalty for him team. In the 58th minute with Poldoski tracking back to help Monreal on the left hand side, Suarez went down with the faintess of touch from Lukas and won his team a penalty. Gerrad stepped forward and slotted in his 8th goal of the season from the spot.
Coutinho was again orchestrating Liverpool’s game from very deep but Fabianski, who in my view should have been awarded the man of the match, was very alert to prevent Liverpool from scoring again.
Santi Cazorla was brought on for Podolski after 68 minutes but unfortunately he did not look like he was going to help us increase our lead.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain and the team very lucky not to concede another penalty after a clumsy on Suarez in the penalty box, Arsene Wenger brought on Gibbs for our Englishman after 75 minutes to help the team defend the lead.
Much has been made by fans in the past few weeks about tactics but this game just showed that a coach or manager can only do as much as he can once the whistle has been blown.
In the end it is all about how much the 22 players on the pitch want to win for their shirts.
It looked like Liverpools’ bad spell of 1 win in 10 visits to the Emirates’ was not going to end at least for this season with Suarez missing 4 clear chances and not having scored a goal in 6 game.
The game ended again with us controlling majority of possession but in my view it is very worrying that we failed to create clear cut chances for Sanogo during his time on the pitch.
The positive for me the game were the performances of Yaya Sanogo and Fabianski.
But unfortunately it looks like we are going to lose a very good goal keeper in Flappianski next summer.
That is all, have a good day…..
Written by Tsgh