Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal: Another unconvincing performance raises doubts

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Well that was dreadful. And disturbing. And, from my side, unexpected.

Let's start with the performance. I thought it was sluggish and questionable right from the start. Link-ups always seemed to break down, and when they did make the striker, Olivier made sure he put most of them to waste. He's gaining an unwanted reputation of unreliability. It came to such that our only attacking outlet was Alexis Sanchez, a man who was one of the only silver linings in a day full of black clouds.

Against Palace, Rambo's late tap-in ensured that we got away with question marks on our showing. But yesterday, when Besiktas managed to hold us at arms-length to a draw, our attacking woes were more vividly exposed. Some might argue that factors like the pitch and the country may have resulted in a poor display, and they may have a point. But hey, for a club like Arsenal that plays in the rough weathers of England and travels to the Britannia and St. James' Park twice a year, we ought to be used to it.

If Wenger's passing philosophy only works on a sunny day with perfect grass then I suggest he'd drop the whole philosophy, because the climate won't contrive to his wishes every time.

It's difficult to single out the main cause of our attacking shortcomings. Plenty have passed the buck to Olivier Giroud, and while he most definitely had one of his worst games in an Arsenal shirt, only holding him guilty is narrow and naive thinking. Look at the quality we had out there. Wilshere, Cazorla, Sanchez and Ramsey. That's flair, vision, pace and goals right there. How is the manager NOT getting the best out of these players?

Almost all of them performed badly, with Giroud the one taking the cake. And there can surely be little defence to that. Giroud was one of the worst performers on the pitch. Even his usually adept lay-offs were missing, and he always took the ball in the most unconventional of positions, and vainly tried to dribble it past (read: through) defenders.

Meanwhile, Demba Ba was delivering a much more accomplished performance at the other end, what with half-line strikes and volleys. Wenger once said that he passed up on Ba because him and Giroud were pretty much the same animal. Well, I'd rather two animals than one, then.

Also, this.

That shouldn't mean others must slip under the radar. Now, I rate Cazorla highly, but I've always said that his powers are curtailed on the left flank. He's time and time again proven to be inconsistent (if not average) when shunted out wide, and yesterday was another example of that. He had his usual accurate passing, but he was mostly anonymous, well off the pace and not providing the width that we needed.

I'm increasingly getting of the opinion that we should make Chamberlain a regular on the left, relegate Santi to Ozil's deputy and make Rosicky Walcott's alternative option.

Left flank: Chamberlain, Podolski
Right flank: Walcott, Rosicky
Attacking midfielders: Ozil, Cazorla
Strikers: Alexis, Giroud, Campbell, Sanogo

Not too shabby, eh? Just a thought.

Anyway, Ramsey. He too had a forgettable game, being rather ordinary except for providing a delicious pass to Giroud towards the end of the first half. What I found striking, though, was the general defence of the ones backing Giroud (I'm one of them, remember) being "Well, Ramsey was equally shit too, why aren't we slating him?"

Lest we forget (or choose to forget), Ramsey has been playing out of his skin for around a year. He's almost earned his one-off. Giroud, however much I may rate him, has been inconsistent and unreliable since March. This wasn't a knee-jerk reaction towards him. This was simmering for a good few months.

Towards the end of the game Arteta limped out injured. For a 32 year old footballer playing regularly in such a stamina-consuming job that he does, the repercussions could be severe. I haven't got any news of his injury status as I type this, but it goes without saying that it makes our need for a proper, reliable defensive midfielder even more. And no, not a Kim Kallstrom-esque body.

Wenger wasn't encouraging.

"Honestly, we are not close to signing anybody."

However, based on the clear evidence of yesterday, buying a defensive midfielder will not solve our problems. For all our defensive personnel crisis and cries for a DM, it is our star-studded attack that's faltering. The reasons for it could be as simple as fitness problems or as complex as fundamental flaws tactically; I won't pretend to be in the know.

However, all I know is that we need to sort out our attacking problems quickly. We have the players to do it, and based on Arsene Wenger's previous Arsenal teams, we have the manager to do it. But for some reason - reasons I haven't worked out yet - our attacking dimension of the team seems completely dysfunctional. Giroud was a part of that yesterday, but by no means was he the sole reason.

A trip to Everton beckons in the weekend. If we're not careful, the expectations surrounding the Gooner community may well take a major hit by then.

Right, that's it from me. Here's to hoping that Sanchez takes over Giroud's starting berth soon...

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]