Leicester 0-0 Arsenal
There was some good and bad to chew on in that performance, an entertaining but low-quality trip to the champions. But it’s not about the points at this stage, more about the performance.
Was there a measurable improvement on that front from last weekend? Well, we didn’t collapse. That’s a bonus. In fact, I thought we defended pretty well, with Holding and the immense Koscielny marshalling the back line very well, ably assisted by a bank of defensive midfielders and by Cech. In tough games, we now have three defensive midfielders to choose from to shore up the rear, and that can only bode well. Xhaka was tough, diligent, neat and tidy, and I really do like the cut of his jib. We need that kind of player.
We were a bit lucky too, with Coquelin about as disciplined as wasp who’d just had a parking ticket, and a late penalty shout that was about as contentious as night following day. Yes, referees are human, but we’d have laminated the hell out of some A4s if that had happened against us.
Further up the pitch: not so very good. I thought it was a bitty performance and without Ozil there was a severe lack of creativity. The Ox started brightly but faded, and while Theo worked hard, had a few shots and put in some muscular recovery tackles, it was a difficult afternoon and he had the kind of invisible touch that takes control and slowly tears you apart.
So too Alexis. His passing was off so often that I wonder if he’s even properly fit. Alexis is many things, but he’s no striker, not on this showing.
So perhaps it was no surprise that we struggled for momentum and for cohesion up front, and that didn’t really improve when Giroud came on as it was pretty late in the day.
The catalyst for our best period was Ozil – devilish little wizard – and how nice it was to see him back. But in the end, we cannot complain too much with the result.
It’s a draw that teaches us nothing we didn’t already know, except perhaps that Wenger has unearthed a good prospect in Holding. I did like Wenger’s tetchy but very apt post-match comment:
“Nobody is speaking about the performance of Rob Holding today. You should be happy; he is English, he is 20 years old, but I’m sorry he didn’t cost £55m, so it cannot be good.”
Proof that for all the maddening things he does and says, he can still throw some pearls out there.
Sadly, he’s up against it pretty much permanently at the moment. There’s disquiet in the stands with chants, banners have started already, and as I mentioned yesterday it’s very difficult to turn this level of feeling round now for him, which is why I feel this season is it for him. The desire for change is embedded and hard to shift, but I’ll tell you what could buy him some leeway…
With rumours about Mustafi persisting, there’s clearly the desire to bolster the squad there. But with desire you need action. Most pressing for me is a striker (if I had to choose), because we looked threadbare up there yesterday. It really is now or never on that front.
Get those two positions sorted and we have a much more complete squad. But getting nobody in is not an option. Not for the squad, not for Wenger and not for the fans.