Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reading 1-2 Arsenal (aet): World class makes the difference

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

I didn't mind the rotation...
I don't see the virtue in having the likes of Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck and the lot if they aren't going to get a chance to play at least once every three or four games. I get that all of the players who were rotated in did not play well at all (except perhaps Theo), but I more than understand the logic of giving them game time against Reading. If Danny Welbeck doesn't play well against a Championship side, that's his prerogative, unless there was something hugely amiss in the tactical setup.

Personally, however, I would have given the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Danny Welbeck (or maybe even Szczesny) a game against Burnley, rather than Reading. In hindsight, it doesn't take a genius to note that yesterday had higher stakes than last week.

Arsene Wenger teams don't thrive under pressure...
Accept it, it's fact. It's not even a particularly monumental one. Parts of yesterday were frustrating and worrying, yes, but they weren't nerve-racking because I was subconsciously aware that Arsenal make a hash out of big occasions. Knowing that Wenger is probably here to stay for two years, it's best if we buckle up and set expectations as per. 

I still don't understand playing Ramsey on the right...
I'd love some clarification for this. All throughout the game Ramsey was drifting way too centrally, crowding the box and not providing an outlet on the right. You can't blame him, it's not in his DNA, so to say.

The result was that we had an in-form player slowly sapped out of confidence, looking bewildered at times. The Ramsey of last year would have taken the two chances he had with a shrug. This one didn't - and the reason why is apparent. Confidence.

Wojciech Szczesny is a confidence player too...
It's funny, I thought Szczesny would wipe his game up when he was given the chance to prove his worth. Now, he didn't have an entirely terrible Southampton-esque game at all, but was still worrying.

Szczesny, to me, seems to have lost his mojo. He's no longer seems like the likeable cheeky prat with the Bendtner levels of ego to shield his self-doubt. True, Reading's equalizer was more down to Gibbs' incompetence than the Polish goalkeeper's, but that doesn't entirely absolve him of blame. He didn't show enough urgency to prevent the ball going over the line, and parried a simple shot all over the place previously.

Ospina thoroughly merits his place above Szczesny, but I wonder if this signals the end of Szczesny at Arsenal. I would hope not, for he's been an Arsenal through-and-through, but if his attitude continues till the end of the season, he may force the manager's hand.

Sanchez wasn't playing well but he made the difference...
...and that's what matters. Alexis sprayed his passes all over the place, buffered in front of goal too often and gave the ball away, yet he popped up when it was necessary - to put away two Ozil passes, even though he had a bit of luck with the second one. In a way, he was the perfect symbolism of how Arsenal played yesterday. 

Mesut Ozil carried the team...
Although I don't think I've said it too many times, I am guilty of having the opinion of Ozil being a fair-weathered footballer. To me, he always felt like the player who would put the icing on many cakes and only work his magic when the conditions suited him. In addition, I didn't think him to be a player having the bottle to carry Arsenal from a hidey hole.

Yesterday was different. Arsenal were sluggish and way too cautious, but Mesut was the only one willing to pull the strings. A person looking at the glass half-empty would say "Well it's only Reading", but be mindful that this was the FA Cup semi finals as well. Ozil didn't slouch under the occasion, especially when his teammates seemed to. It's a vast improvement on last season.

Would it be too much to consider him as Arsenal's second best player of the season?

Theo Walcott was livelier...
I know that Walcott has his limitations and is a bit one-dimensional, but we still need him. I for one don't believe we're elite enough to consider him surplus to requirements. Sure, he may find himself to be below the pecking order when a more dynamic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shows his face, but until then Wenger should be giving him way more game time, especially when Ramsey on the right doesn't seem to be working out.

I'm not saying that Walcott should be the first on the team sheet or that he's the best forward we have, but I honestly think he's better than Danny Welbeck. If you gave me a choice between a forward who doesn't score goals but is more "involved" and a forward who actually scores goals, I'd gladly pick the latter. I was among the hordes who foolishly joined the Welbeck bandwagon, but I still have the sense to see that the £16m we shelled isn't looking too pretty.

I hope we get Liverpool...
I know they'll be way more difficult to get past than Aston Villa, but I believe they have the tendency to crumble in big games like we do. Besides, I badly want Arsenal to be the reason Gerrard does not get a proper farewell.

Gerrard lost my respect when he called Arsenal a lesser club and blocked the Suarez move. I know he's been a largely classy player and an iconic Premier League figure of a club I happen to like, but I still feel he should get his comeuppance. He's been largely juvenile for a long time now, and I would relish us to have a crack at setting him straight.

If you excuse me, I think I need a psychologist now.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]