Arsenal match report: Too much in the ‘wanting zone’

Arsenal 1-1 Wolves

Twenty-seven attempts on goal, eleven attempts on target, thirteen corners, one goal. Frustrating, to say the least. The goals have dried up again at home (three in three league games – conceding two in the process), giving Wenger a fresh headache to mull over as we head into the New Year.

But as the stats suggest, you can’t really fault us for effort. The thing that struck me most yesterday was that, unlike the Arsenal of old, we didn’t wait until the 75th minute to crank the all-out attack handle. We were at Wolves’ throats from about the 60th minute. The lurid Hennessey happened to swat away everything we threw at him. I lost count of the amount of times I found myself with my head in my hands, practically kneeling, as another goalbound effort pinged off to safety. That’s football I suppose.

One other thing that was very noticeable was our lack of pace and width. Our game relies on our full-backs motoring forward, and pacy outlets on the wing, but didn’t have anything like that yesterday in the starting eleven. Having Vermaelen at left-back is like driving a Ferrari on a farm track. But what can you do? All four of our full-backs have long-term injuries (stress fracture, broken leg, ankle ligament damage and bizarre unhealing groin). Walcott was out ill.

Oxlade-Chamberlain could have supplied some of that but he remained glued to the bench as Arshavin and Chamakh entered fruitlessly into the fray. Neither man was able to make much of a difference, which will not surprise seasoned watchers of the spectacularly out-of-form duo. What does the Ox have to do, one wonders? Well, this one does, anyway.

As for the Wolves goal, we have ourselves to blame. A ruthless team when 1-0 up early in the game should go for the jugular, but yesterday our level seemed to drop. Complacency? Hard to say, but possibly.

Nevertheless, Walcott or no Walcott, full-backs or none, dodgy period after our goal or not, we should have won the game yesterday. It just never quite happened. Wolves were dogged.

It’s easy to suggest we have no plan B, and watching us toil on the edge of the box is pretty frustrating, but without the right balance in our team, it’s bound to have a detrimental effect. And besides, we did genuinely pepper their goal.

Nevertheless, the squad would patently benefit from a few new faces in January. Someone who can score goals when van Persie doesn’t would be a good starting point. Park’s “adaptation period” is apparently over but can we expect miracles from a player who has not been trusted to play a single minute of Premier League football in four months?

We’ve come a long way since our early-season punch-drunkenness, the spirit is good, but a new face or two would lift everyone. Can you imagine Chelsea, Liverpool or Spurs are not thinking along the same lines?

A lot of money was splurged last January – none at Arsenal. It’s not the best time to buy, but it can make a difference. Wenger tried it in 2009 when we need a spike by signing Arshavin – to initial success. I’m not saying buying new faces is the be-all and the end-all but why leave our improvement to chance?

PS – One excellent new addition to the Wenger lexicon. “We were a bit too much in the ‘wanting zone'”.

It’s the new handbrake.

Arsène says Relax: Do it

OK, at last, here we are once more. Arsenal.

I had a scratch of the old noggin and realised – to my dismay but not surprise – that today’s match is my first game since Barcelona, and my first league game since Everton on 1st February. That’s two months off league football, I’ve had: I’m almost hoping to be picked to watch the England U21s over the summer to make up.

I’m champing at the bit, and I want the team to be too.

But we need to start fast. Don’t ask me about the psychological reasons for why we do it, because I’ll look back at you blankly. I simply want us to tear out the blocks today, and put in the same yards from the start that we did in the last 20 minutes against Sunderland and West Brom. Why have we taken so long to get going in some games? It’s not relevant if we don’t do it again. I want early, heavy, sustained pressure against Blackburn and I want it to go on until things are comfortable [that’s 5-0 then – Ed]. [Stop being such a cynic Ed – Big Ed].

The fabled handbrake goes on when the team is nervous or lacking in confidence. So do these players honestly believe – beyond the usual David platitudes – that they can win the title? Then today is the day to show it. We’ve moped our rears off, metaphorically listening to Enya on loop, and it’s time it stopped. Wenger alluded to the pressure when he said: “Let’s enjoy it and go for it”.

I’m also looking for more pace, and with Walcott back we should get that. We have other fast players – Nasri for one. But without Theo Walcott, who is as fast as a butcher’s dog, we are a slower team. For my sins I happened upon the Invincibles DVD in the ‘Lull and the amount of goals we scored by thundering upfield was eye-opening. Patient build-ups work sometimes, being more direct does at other times. We need to mix it up.

I mentioned it on the ‘Cast last week, but for me the benchmark performance this season was Chelsea at home. OK, so they were in a funk but Arsenal that day were everything Arsenal should be – and more pertinently, can be. When we had the ball we went for the jugular and when we didn’t, we hunted to get the ball back. From that point on I hoped we’d cracked the formula but it never quite happened.

Another key to that game was the personnel – we had for the most part our best XI available, Szczesny aside, for that Chelsea game. Today we ought to be strenthened immeasurably with the additions of Fabregas, Walcott and Song.

As ever, the first ten minutes of the game will be interesting.

Come on you rip-roarers.