Two steps forward and one step back

Arsene Wenger stands on touchline
It was Arsene Wenger’s 700th league game as Arsenal manager.
Photo: Ronnie Macdonald

The defeat against Spurs last Saturday was another from a 12.45pm kick-off. Not that that’s an excuse or an actual reason, but it is a fact that Arsenal have a poor record at this time on a Saturday.

The reasons in the past for such heavy losses away to Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have been that we have conceded early goals and hence had to chase the game. We had to ‘come out’ and take the game to the opposition. We were chasing the game.

Arsene Wenger cites the heavy margins of defeat on being the vitim of counter-attacks late in the game. However, that wasn’t the case at Tottenham. We took an early lead but were still thrashed in every way other than the scoreline. Those excuses were null and void.

We’d adopted the same kind of tactics that won us that brilliant game against Man City and the home win against Aston Villa. In those two games we showed so many signs of progression, maturity and adaptability. We had gotten back to the style of the early Wenger era; sitting deep and controlling the defense and then launching devastating counter-attacks.

We had taken two steps forward.

That wasn’t the case against Tottenham. It seems that we had lost all sense of how to attack due to our new-found obsession with defensive football. I dread to think what the possession stats were. I have refused to look at them since the game.

Admittedly, it wasn’t just the attack because we weren’t controlling in defense either. The spuds had so many shots and corners and crosses. They had far more than Man City could accumulate at the Etihad.

Rose and Walker almost had free-reign down the wings. Ozil and Welbeck were clearly not right to be wingers for that game. Although, funnily enough they were two of our better performers on the ball.

I have never been a fan of Giroud and his attitude and hold-up play were atrocious. The two central defenders of Mertesacker and Koscielny could have done better on the goals but when you’re under pressure for so long you are bound to make mistakes.

We took one step back.

What I don’t want this defeat to do is put people off this new way of playing that Wenger has adopted since the City game. It does and can work but we need to be able to keep the ball better when we get it and our conversion from defense to attack needs to be much better than it was on Saturday. The defense wasn’t at its best on Saturday and it wasn’t being relieved of any pressure either.

On the bright side, Chelsea did concede five goals there not too long ago and we did avoid that. But we should be winning games against teams like Tottenham. We really should.

I still think Arsenal will get third place with ease if they become consistent with their ability and with this new style of play. What is important, though, for the Arsenal players to remember is that you still have to attack well and defend with control. Sitting back and trying to make tackles on the edge of your box is not the way to do it. Spurs showed us that unfortunately.

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