Monday, October 22, 2012

Norwich 1 Arsenal 0

At the final whistle, we, the Arsenal supporters at Las Mimosas bar, all agreed that this was the worst performance we had seen so far this season. In the post-match interview, Arsene Wenger admitted that his men were well below par.

This day's Arsenal side looked as if they had never played together. Their attack was so disjointed. Perhaps a disruption caused by the international break affected their understanding and telepathic communication? Such understanding plays a greater part in Arsenal's style of play, but other big clubs have also lost many players for international duties, yet still managed a win earlier that day. The international break cannot be an excuse, but it certainly seems to have taken the edge off the momentum Arsenal created from their committed performance against West Ham two weeks ago.

Did Arsenal players take Norwich seriously enough? They did not seem to be fully focused in this game. Also, Arsene Wenger's decision to include "80 percent match-fit" Jack Wilshere in the squad may suggest his anticipation that this game could be a walk in the park. He revealed his intention to play him if the game allowed, but it was too intense and he had no choice but abandon his plan. Obviously, he was worried about rough challenges on Jack, but what sort of game did he envisage when he decided to let Jack travel with the squad.

Our midfield, the boss and the fans alike have recently boasted as our strongest position, was non-existent this day. Cazorla, who normally pulls the strings, went missing at times, while Ramsey was ineffectual. Only Arteta found space to exploit and made more forward runs than usual, but he couldn't take full advantage of it because of his deeper role.

Particularly in the second half, there was nobody in the box apart from Giroud, who was surrounded by the yellow shirts. He had no support around him to feed the ball to, when he got the ball. Arsenal players' movement was very poor, static at times. They were only passing the ball around at the edge of the box with no purpose or urgency (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?). They did very little with their dominance in possession.

Earlier this season, we were pleased with the sight of the strong Arsenal bench, which we hardly experienced last season, but on this day the bench was reduced to the hopeful youngsters and back-ups due to injuries to regular first-teamers. We shouldn't be relying on a 19 year-old (the Ox) or even a 17 year-old (Serge Gnabry) for turning things around, no matter how talented he is.

Unfortunately, the current injury situation does not look likely to improve in the immediate future. Arsene has confirmed that there will be no players to come back from injury for the mid-week game. Chamberlain was added to the lengthy injury list after this game, although his injury is not of a long-term nature. However, as Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, and Manny Frimpong all completed 90 minutes in Monday's U-21 game against Everton, these players' return is imminent. Wilshere's performance in this game was outstanding. Those chances Wilshere created in this game would have made a difference in the Norwich game.

Following the poor performance, questions sprang up among the doubters (Yes, we have those in our club as well and they are not so called "plastic fans", but they are long-standing fans) as to the quality of the team. The current crop of players have enough quality to challenge for the title, after the signing of the three quality players this summer. We could have comfortably beaten the Norwich side who faced Livepool or Chelsea (most of us were fairly optimistic until the game started and still believed at half time that we could turn the game around just like we did against Olympiacos and West Ham). Norwich got their tactics right and tightened up their defence, but the main factor behind our defeat was the fact that we did not play to our full potential.

The weekend's results left us 9th in the table, trailing the league leader, Chelsea, by 10 points. No more slip-ups will be allowed. We need to get all three points next week from the QPR game to make up ground on our top-four finish rivals, when Chelsea face Man United.

We all know how bad results ruin our day or even a week. Fortunately, we don't have to wait too long to have the rest of our week brighten up. We think the disappointing performance was a one-off incident. Hopefully, Arsenal will prepare well and focus themselves on Wednesday's Champions League game and produce a perfect response to this disappointment.

Player ratings

Mannone: 4
The Norwich goal was largely due to his goal-keeping error. The goal dented his confidence and his performance afterwards was unconvincing.

Jenkinson: 7
Although his crossing may have been mixed, he looked the most consistent player in the team when the whole team performed poorly. Got forward and then tracked back quickly to stop the Norwich winger attacking on his side. Reliable performance. Also made a last-ditch clearance to save a further blush.

Mertesacker: 6
Couldn't get to the loose ball before Holt to prevent the Norwich goal, but we know he is not the fastest defender, don't we?

Vermaelen: 5
His slip nearly gave me a heart attack.

Santos: 5
I thought Gibbs was overrated in comparison with Jenkinson, but now I know what difference Gibbs makes. Gibbs wins the ball high on the pitch and makes a forward run straight away to the byline, swift movement allowed by his pace. His crossing sometimes leaves much to be desired, but he is a threat to the opponents' defence when he get forward. The partnership along the left-hand-side touchline between Gibbs and Podolski was behind Arsenal's success this season. On the other hand, Santos stopped getting forward well before the edge of the opponents' box. He is not a good defender, but he was good going forward last season. Maybe his pace or lack of it inhibits him from getting forward too far. Gibbs was sorely missed in this game.

Cazorla: 6
Not at his best. His corner kicks were poor in this game. In fact, we have to improve our set-piece play to take advantage of so many corners we get.

Arteta: 7
He did his job well and stung the palm of Ruddy with his low shot at the latter stages of the game. The best player in this day's lacklustre midfield.

Ramsey: 5
We all know he is not a box-to-box player, but for some reason Arsene Wenger still plays the Welshman in the position vacated following the injury to Diaby. He cannot tackle, he slows down the team's passing, and he gives away the ball cheaply. Poor performance. Having his captain's armband stripped for his country affected his confidence? Coquelin playing a holding midfielder role with Arteta in a more advanced role may be a better option until Diaby or Wilshere comes back in the team.

Gervinho: 6
Some call him Mr Inconsistency. He is inconsistent even in one game. He was once again better on the left wing, causing Norwich defence problems with his trickery, but he was his old self in this game. His final ball let him down. Should have taken a shot earlier when he received an incisive through pass from Arteta.

Podolski: 5
Struggled to assert himself in this game. Was it because he didn't get service?

Giroud: 5
Following his first League goal against West Ham and his only touch in his most recent international game, which resulted in a valuable equaliser against Spain, when he came on as a late sub, we were hoping that he has got himself into some kind of form, but it wasn't to be. He had some half chances and a couple of more clear-cut ones, which he should have buried.


Oxlade-Chamberlain: 5
Replaced Podolski in the 65th minute only to be substituted 8 minutes later by Arshavin. Suffered a knock on his hip, which rules him out for Wednesday's Champions League game.

Arshavin: 5
74th-minute substitute for injured Ox. Had a little go, but not enough to make a difference.

Gnabry: 5
We know he has impressed Arsene Wenger in the recent U-21 games and the Capital One Cup tie against Coventry, but he is not quite at the top-flight football level yet. He was found in good positions a couple of times, but he was not composed enough to capitalise on the opportunities.

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