How do you judge a team that played for a full 89 minutes with 10 man? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Koscielny’s sending off at the 9th minute mark was obviously a turning point in the match but it would be foolish to forget the more pertinent things that one can read from this team in this forgettable game.
The 9th Minute Red
It was legally a red card. Kosc made the same old mistake he did against Chelsea in our first defeat of the season. He tracked the player and not the ball. He got his arms around Torres in that game and the much maligned Spanish striker had a free header. The same happened today, this time the player was brought down and it was a clear penalty and a red.
Before you pull up statistics on how we often fare poorly in refereeing decisions under Mike Dean, the person to blame here is Kosc.
No one likes having a red card dished out against their own team but let’s be clear here. Before you pull up statistics on how we often fare poorly in refereeing decisions under Mike Dean, the person to blame here is Kosc. It was a repeated mistake and he cost the team. Adebayor had the guts to go public after the game and apologise to Tottenham fans for destroying their match when he was sent off midway through the first half. Let’s see if Kosc has the same guts and responsibility to admit his mistake and take full responsibility for it. This is also why I will always pick Per over Kosc. Per may not be the best CB around but he has composure and he thinks before committing. Kosc and TV5 dashes around like headless chickens at times.
Response? What Response?
WS1 saved Dzeko’s penalty. As much as the red was harsh given the 9th minute, we were given reprieve as Dzeko’s penalty was palmed to the post and then back into WS1’s grateful arms. But we didn’t rally around the fortune of a saved penalty. We decided to either vent our anger at the ref or bow our heads into our sunk shoulders. This was a clear indicator that the team lacked the never say die and keep focused mentality that winning teams have. We simply had nothing.
This was a clear indicator that the team lacked the never say die and keep focused mentality that winning teams have.
Our captain was a shame. Instead of urging his team to stick together and fight, he never uttered a word to those who were discouraged. Instead he took every opportunity to yell at the referee. To say he was very close to a second yellow is an understatement. Also, what kind of example is he showing to the younger players? Wilshere tore down the same path, screaming at the referee. Is this how you resolve issues? Maybe it is true that most footballers have only great feet and not much of a brain.
When we beat Tottenham 5-2 after they went a man down, many Arsenal fans chimed that Tottenham had a full set of defenders and midfielders still on. So did we. But what did we do? Commit silly errors. A mixture of half giving up and lack of cohesion and coordination saw Milner fire a great shot from the right and Dzeko toe poking an easy finish after WS1 spilled a fierce cross that was redirected by Silva.
At 0-0 and one man down, we had the chance to consolidate and hold on. Reorganize and gather our resources. We didn’t. There were no instructions to compact the defence to weather the storm. It was obvious that City will press hard with a man advantage. How do you deal with that? Stay tight between defence and midfield and use Theo for what he is great – playing off the last defender and beating him with speed on the counter. Did we do that? No.
Shockingly, we decided to press 10 against 11. That was the original game plan which is why Kosc got selected ahead of Per but was there no indication from Wenger to switch tactics when an event as large as a red card and a saved penalty occurred? I don’t know. Either there were instructions and the players didn’t respond or AW was sulking like the rest of the team. Only suckers sulk.
For some reason, City decided to play it safe at 2-0 and not press us for more. We had chances to put in one and even drawing level. Giroud missed a free header and Theo’s shot was destined for the net before Lescott made a goal line clearance. It was an indication that this City team was still playing with some kind of fear. I don’t know why Mancini treats us with such great respect in the past few games and also when we are down to 10.
As much as the team deserved to be slaughtered in the first half for an inept and mentally weak performance, they did respond in some manner in the second half. There is some credit to be taken for a fighting display in the second half but the game had already been decided by a horrendous first half – most of which were our doing.
He had a poor performance overall. Kompany’s straight red for bundling Theo over was at most a yellow. But Dean, possibly feeling the heat for his very harsh treatment of the Gunners in the 9th minute decided to ‘even out things a bit’. I’ve seen referees do that quite a bit and its terrible. It makes poor decisions even poorer. Dean had a game to forget and both sets of fans will hold him responsible for this controversial match.
Arteta didn’t play for reasons possibly due to injury. This was waiting to happen and we have no cover for him. Diaby was selected ahead of Le Coq and Ramsey to replace him. A half fit Diaby that had only played 60 minutes of reserve football after being 3 months out. What does that tell you about our depth? It’s as paper thin as our mental resilience. Thankfully, Diaby looked to have survived his 60 minute performance in which he did fine but not great.
We ran our hearts out today and ended up with nothing. Worse still, we have Swansea mid week and Chelsea away next Sunday. This is a bad time to have injuries, a bad time to play 89 minutes with 10 man and a bad time to not reinforce the squad.
After the days of PV4 and Petit, we have clearly forgotten what made us a winning team. Physical power, grit and mental strength all rolled into a central midfield package.
I’m not a believer that buying a striker will lift us. It won’t. That new striker is going to take time to bed in. A powerful box to box midfielder will strengthen us but we don’t seem to be interested in that. After the days of PV4 and Petit, we have clearly forgotten what made us a winning team. Physical power, grit and mental strength all rolled into a central midfield package.
Even if we get a solid central midfielder and a striker, a big question must still be asked about the team’s mentality and its ability to weather difficult situations like today’s. Because like it or not, we fell on our faces and decided to bury our heads deeper into the mud when we had a chance to change the situation.
January is a very tough month and at the moment we need all the help we can get whether be it the transfer window or finding some leadership on and off the pitch.