Stone Cold Friday: Finding The Remedy
It’s the time of the week to hand over to a man of whom it has been said that half of the troubles of his life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. Here’s Darius…
I don’t know what was worse. Me staring at the bottom of my pint glass on Wednesday night with a combination of bewilderment and regrettable anguish; or Dean right next to me literally holding his head in his hands and moaning, almost in a muffled cry about his beloved Liverpool.
It was supposed to be a celebratory night in central London, two games for us that were seemingly straight forward. What – with Ipswich’s dalliance at the gutter side of the Championship and King Kenny’s return to his throne at the Cop – the night was nothing near straight forward.
“These punks are going to do a Route 1 on you guys”, Dean observed with some amusement as the game wore on.
My arrogant rose-tinted response was that he should be more concerned with Charlie Adam and their leaky defence since most teams had no option but to go route 1 on us. But there-in was the lesson that we don’t seem to want to learn. If they want it more than we do, they’ll eventually get it.
It’s really not about the fact that we have a chance to redeem ourselves on the 26th. It’s the level of complacency, especially after the experience Leeds unleashed on us that is baffling.
And before anyone starts to question which side of the bread I’m buttering; let’s get it out of the way. I’m a fully paid, card carrying member of the ‘Lifetime Arsenal Supporters Guild’ with an absolute, unequivocal and almost anal support and belief in this team. The last two games have left me scratching my head somewhat, Though Dean reminds me to stop bitching and try support Liverpool instead. And he’s right; we really haven’t experienced anguish in recent times.
What is crystal clear is that our system of play does not work if even one single player doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, especially when we don’t have the ball. We live dangerously when playing with a high line and letting the opposition have enough time to launch a territorial ball into our box.
It should never be a surprise that lower league opposition will want to raise their game against us. We’re a bench mark that many players aspire to and it’s a world cup final for them to play Arsenal and beating us puts their name out there.
At this stage of the league cup, it is almost criminal to approach the game the way we did. If it was an off-day, the return leg at the Emirates better be one of those nights folks get to remember as a mind-blowing success at the Emirates. The reason is simple; 2 games and 2 wins guarantees a monumental shot in the arm for the psyche and confidence of this team.
Not getting over this hurdle when we’re the overwhelming favourites will actually do more harm than not, and that’s why it’s important for those C-words to be addressed. Build the consistency and cut out the complacency.
It’s time for the team to show some humility and give each team we face the respect they deserve. We have to earn the right to play our football, the way we did with Chelsea and Man City at home, and the way we did with Birmingham at ST. Andrews.
Although it’s a compliment of sorts, teams we face know the cost of giving us time on the ball and letting us play Wengerball. They have seen the way we can grind down a team that comes out all guns blazing only to run out of steam in the latter part of the game – giving us massive advantage with our stamina and fitness.
Our game is like watching a master juggler perform his art with the best jiggery pokery in the land. It’s skilful, breath-taking and mesmerizing; but if one pin is out of place, it can take hard work to recover the rhythm.
Teams know that we can lose possession and that we’re playing a high line and route 1 is their way out. Our system of play is anchored firmly on what we do during that transition when we lose the ball.
The plan is that if we lose the ball, the first line of defence are our forward players who will either force mistakes that we can pounce on – ala Theo on Maluda for the 3rd goal against Chelsea; or buy enough time for our defence to get back into shape.
Our defensive unit is a critical part of building our attacking moves, and they are dependent on our attacking players to be the first line of defence. If this works as it did at Birmingham, or against Chelsea and Man City, it is a work of art. The critical thing is that if any of the players is not consistent and if there’s the air of complacency that we’ve seen in the last two games, we’re going to come unstuck.
That’s why I argue that this isn’t about ability of the players because we know they can all do it. It’s not about fatigue, because dealing with route 1 can catch out the best of defences; we of all the teams, should know how other teams feel when Cesc, Nasri, Arshavin or Van Persie take out an entire defence with one sublime pass.
Upton Park tomorrow evening presents an ideal opportunity to resume normal services. It’s never an easy place to go, but the return of Nasri and Van Persie will add some needed firepower. As usual, Rob Green only seems to become world class when he’s playing Arsenal so profligacy in front of goal is not an option.
The players know they have to redeem themselves following the last two games, and let’s hope that more than anything, the performance leaves us ordering more pints as opposed to studying the craftsmanship at the bottom of the pint glass.