An explosive Chilean red

Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal

It’s been three weeks since I asked the question ‘Which Arsenal will we see on Sunday?’ before the Chelsea game, a blog title that can be recycled prior to every match at the moment. That’s efficient writing, right there.

It’s a pertinent point of course, because we’re in one of those runs of form where it’s not easy to pinpoint what isn’t working. I’d wager Wenger’s not clear either, because there are multiple factors at play here. We have bursts of inventive play that set the pulse racing (City, second half, that brief Villa assault, Galatasaray), but long swathes of laboured football where ball retention, pace and lock-picking passes go out the window. We’re switching off at the back too much, but ludicrous injuries (and a lack of back-ups) have had a big effect there. Look at how we’ve lined up in defence during the nine league games, and you can see part of the problem.

Sz Deb Kos Chamb Gibbs
Sz Deb Per Chamb Mon
Sz Deb Per Kos Mon
Sz Deb Per Kos Mon
Sz Chamb Per Kos Gibbs
Sz Chamb Per Kos Gibbs
Sz Chamb Per Kos Gibbs
Sz Bellerin Per Mon Gibbs
Sz Chamb Per Mon Gibbs

We’ve had the same back five only three times, and six different combinations in total. We don’t know how we’ll line up from game to game, and yesterday Gibbs conked out (a hip problem says Wenger, and we all know the hips don’t lie). Fingers crossed it’s not a bad one because he’s been excellent this season.

Defence aside, we have a better squad than last year, but too many of its constituent parts have failed to hit the high notes of last year. We’re not bad – one league defeat would back that up – but we’re not good either, as five draws from nine suggests.

Confidence has a big effect on this Arsenal team, as it does with most, and we’re lacking it, and with it some cohesion. Sometimes you just need to knuckle down and wade through stodgy form, so yesterday’s win at Sunderland, while it won’t win many aesthetic prizes and owed a lot to two moments of defensive calamity, ought to be a massive tonic.

What’s patently clear is how much Alexis brings to this team. His workrate (and that of Welbeck, who’s a similarly selfless, tireless player), his versatility and his eye for goal have held us together at times. If you want a role model for the other players when the mojo is little-bit lacking, he’s your man. Where would we be without him? He and Welbeck have scored the bulk of our goals, and for all the brow-furrowing about what’s not quite right, those two summer signings have been superb for us.

Alexis has been our player of the season, so I’m just off out to buy a lucky rabbit’s foot. If there’s one player we can’t afford to keel over, it’s him.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. PDDD

    ‘Defence aside, we have a better squad than last year’
    Or to put it another way, we don’t have a better squad than last year !

  2. East Lower

    Well – if they were all bloody fit we’d be fine. Debuchy and Koscielny are broken and Per’s struggling to come down off his World Cup winning cloud. Gibbs… bit broken. It’s ludicrous.

    Now, if we had another centre-half we’d be less threadbare. That is the infuriating thing as we all know.

    I do genuinely think, in terms of squad, we’re much improved on last season. In terms of team – it’s not happening yet.

  3. PDDD

    But it’s not bad luck, let’s be clear. Going into the season with two centre-halves : one rushed back from World Cup winning cloud as you say & one who the manager (& everyone else) knew was ‘breaking’ (if not already broken) was criminal. And only going to end one way…..add that to the shocking lack of quality in defensive midfield & this is another season written off before we started.
    As for Alexis….it carries on like this, would you stay beyond one season if you were him?i I certainly wouldn’t.

  4. East Lower

    It’s not 100% bad luck, of course. We are two players short. It’s so clear and has been all along and yet nothing was done. So yes, it was bafflingly bad management. But – there is also an element of bad luck, at least defensively. Few teams would not struggle with 4 of their first choice back 5 either out or out of form.

    Defensive midfield – no excuses. You’re right there.

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