Tuesday, 8 October 2013

WBA 1-1 Arsenal: It had to end sometime

So, we finally end our much talked about 10 straight victories and 12 away wins with a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns. It was an entertaining game, particularly in the second half, and while many Gooners were expecting Arsenal to take all 3 points at the beginning of the game, they'd gladly accept the match as 1 point gained.

While the result - coupled with the Spuds shockingly losing 0-3 at White Hart Lane - means that we maintain our lead at the top of the table, it wasn't the most efficient of Arsenal performances that I've seen, particularly after significantly raising my expectations after the Napoli domination. While many Arsenal fans would argue that West Brom were a tricky opposition who we were lucky not to lose against, I'd say that you find plenty of such teams in the Premier League, and that anything other than a win is inexcusable for a team challenging for the title.

In the first half, Arsenal were dominating possession in the first half hour but had little to show for it. West Brom were very well organized, as was seen when difference makers like Ozil and Ramsey couldn't really cause serious danger to their backline. Jack Wilshere was understandably poor in the first half, considering that he was put in a bad light about the whole smoking thing and he was being constantly played out of position. However, his constant diving and overacting to win free kicks angered me. We are Arsenal, not Manchester United, a team known for playing fair. Even though Wilshere is fouled by the opposition a lot, if he keeps going down easily and whining over every single foul, he won't be getting a free kick when he truly deserves it. That, I think, was a factor in Wilshere not winning a penalty when he was clearly fouled in the box late in the second half.

They took the lead in the 42nd minute through a Yacob header, and while it was really well worked and a goal that Arsenal couldn't possibly be barracked about, I couldn't help but notice how Carl Jenkinson couldn't head that ball away. He had a surprisingly poor game, especially when I thought that he would take this opportunity to give Sagna some competition. For his height and athleticism, he was awful in the air, which was a valid reason for us falling behind. Bacary Sagna wouldn't have bundled that, which is why I want Bac back.

They dominated the rest of the half and stayed in front come the break. And while I expected Jack to make way for Rosicky in the second half, the manager showed remarkable faith in taking of Ramsey instead of Wilshere to bring on the Czech Republican. After Anelka missed a pretty easy chance to give the Baggies a comfort zone, we equalized through Wilshere to make it 1-1 and game on. A long pass by Ozil to Giroud started the move, and after the Frenchman showed remarkable hold up play to keep the ball he finally flicked the ball to Rosicky. The little Mozart laid up the ball for Wilshere to fire a deflected volley from outside the box past Myhill into the back of the net. 

It was a good, well worked Arsenal goal with a bit of luck at the end but I'm dubious as to whether we actually deserved that. Aside from the goal and a Giroud chance which should've been taken, we didn't really create much to trouble their defence, and could've easily lost 1-0. Speaking of Giroud, it seems that fatigue is slowly catching up with him, and as hardworking he is, I think today would've been a day when a world-class striker would've made the draw into a win. 

Which is why I can never forgive Wenger for failing to bring a striker, not just in the summer transfer window, but in the winter transfer window too. In my opinion, it hasn't been Wenger who has lifted the team from the "crisis". People failed to notice that he procrastinated until the final day of the transfer window to finally bring in world-class talent, and it wasn't even in a position that we really required. I know Ozil is brilliant and can fit into any team, but surely, wasn't a striker and a center back a higher priority?

As it stands, we have only one proven striker and 3 center backs in all. We are one bad tackle away from bringing Bendtner, an Arsenal reject, into the squad, and two injuries away from shifting the positions of Sagna and Flamini to cover up a center back slot. Playing Ramsey and Rosicky on the wings might've worked against Napoli, but it didn't really click when Wilshere and Ramsey played against West Brom. Instead of changing the strategy and bringing Gnabry on as a proper winger, Arsene made a man to man substitution, bringing off a midfielder and putting on... a midfielder.

The players seem to have taken responsibility instead of the manager, especially Flamini, who has really impressed me. However, right from failing to provide proper depth to the squad to not shouting touchline commands, Wenger does not deserve the rumoured £8m a year deal until he shows ambition by buying a striker and/or a center back. Until then, mark my words, this season is destined for disaster like the 2010/11 season.

I just don't want to get my hopes up about this season, because we're actually weaker than we were in the 2010/11 season (albeit more mature) where we were so close to winning the quadruple but ended up winning zilch. We have replaced Fabregas by Ozil, Nasri by Cazorla, Vieira by Flamini (about time!) but still haven't got in an able replacement for van Persie. Plus, with the current overplaying of Ozil, Ramsey, Giroud and the two center backs, I feel that they'll be out for long term when Cazorla, Podolski and Walcott return. It would be hugely frustrating when poor man management, tactics and lack of winter purchases will be a factor in Arsenal missing out on another trophy this season.     

Anyway, I might touch on that subject a bit more during the International break, as well as put in a blog on Flamini also. For now, let's just enjoy being on top of the pile, and worry about the future later.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )