By Omar Khan, @omardelkhan7
What do I say that hasn’t already been said?
This won’t exactly be a rant, and it may not be a structured piece, but it’ll be just some thoughts on the West Ham game.
I recently wrote that Wenger may want to consider his management style if the same mistakes rear their ugly head again this season. Funnily enough, what we saw at the Emirates on the weekend were, in my opinion, not exactly the same mistakes but that feeling of ‘this goal could easily have been avoided if…’ popped up again!
What frustrated me more, though, was our lackluster effort going forward. Giroud’s inclusion in the line-up resulted in West Ham defending a few yards higher than they may have if Walcott had been up front.
We were just unable to exploit that.
The frustration with our attack compounded once the first goal went in because the Hammers could drop deeper and defend in numbers.
Our inability to break a team down wasn’t new to us. Even when Walcott and Alexis came on, it wasn’t surprising that we just could not find the answer – that penalty box would get crowded as it could get and finding a space between bodies for your shot to go through simply would not be that easy.
My frustration was more directed at moments in the match. Sometimes moments are also an indication of the why things just did or did not work out in a game.
I’ve witnessed arguments since yesterday on whether Ramsey played on the right or in center. I thought he played in the center with Cazorla on the left. However, such is our midfield, interchange of positions is constant; numerous times Ozil popped up on the left and so did Ox a few times!
Either way, West Ham was able to pressure our central players; whoever it may be at the time, several times in the match by outnumbering one player. Someone tweeted that Arteta would have been better suited to this game and that made sense because West Ham did not exactly dominate possession.
When a team is going to sit back, not necessarily park the bus to be fair to them, you need to be better with your possession. Coquelin found himself having to do what Arteta does as a ball player and there were moments which showed that he isn’t quite there yet. Yes, the Frenchman hit a couple of good diagonals, he mishit a couple too; but I’m talking about the short passes for the pass and move.
Coquelin is relatively static when it comes to this – I don’t mean he needs to forage forward. There was this one moment on the left hand side of the half-circle, Coq was in our half and made a straight-line pass to Ramsey who was in the opposing half. Aaron received on the half-turn, two players came to close him down and he turned his back on them – facing our goal – and looked to pass it back. He couldn’t. A third player stood between Aaron and Coquelin, facing Aaron. All the Frenchman had to do was move 5 yards to his right to create the angle and space for Aaron to pass it back to him. He just stood there.
Our possession just kept on breaking down; that can be attributed to Santi not playing in the middle as he really does know how to pull the strings from the center of the park and takes a burden off Le Coq, it can be attributed to playing Le Coq instead of Arteta, it can be attributed to Aaron Ramsey being more of a player that plays off others rather than a dictator of play. We can point to any of one of those reasons or all or even others.
Regardless, our possession game going forward was constantly disrupted. What didn’t help was, when we came close to their goal, some of our decisions didn’t help either.
Moments of Decision
This is always a matter of what-may-have-been. Either way, three moments going forward, I felt, were reflective of a recurring theme:
- Ramsey Opts to Shoot – we all saw it, Debuchy wide open on the right with plenty of green to run into and perhaps hit a telling cross for someone to tuck in. Instead, Ramsey decided to take a long distance shot. This hasn’t been the first time Ramsey’s taken a long distance shot, he does it every now and then and I’ve never understood why. Has he ever scored a long-distance goal while the ball has been grounded? Never mind scoring, he rarely gets them on target!
- No One in the Box – Giroud, our central striker, drifts out wide, busts his gut to get to the byline and puts it into the area; Ozil was the only option and he decided to stay around the edge of the area. That’s the way we play. No one seems to ever want to make runs into the box. I never understood why. You see your teammate get to the byline to put in a cross, why would you not make a run towards the 6-yard box? I can hazard a guess as to why you wouldn’t make that run but considering you’re a goal down, or were we two down at the time?
- On a Plate for Giroud – the Ox picked Ollie out just inside the area and the Frenchman, for once, had time and space to take a good shot. Sometimes players receive a ball in a manner that makes it difficult to get it out of their feet immediately but this wasn’t quite the case here. The ball was the right distance from his feet for him to set himself for a shot. He just seemed to hesitate for a second or two, enough for a defender to close him down. Giroud managed to get a shot away which would have gone wide had it not been deflected. The hesitancy, I felt, was reflective of his inconsistency. There are times when he seems ruthless and at times it seems as if trying to score a goal doesn’t come naturally to him.
All in all, it was frustrating to watch. To be fair, till that first goal went in, it did seem we may get ahead despite any clear cut chances; but that’s the way Arsenal can be at times – attack attack attack without clear cut chances before eventually one is created and put away.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was, again, great to watch. He seems to be the only one on the pitch to have done his job. I wrote before about how it’s not necessarily his fault that his assists tally isn’t high and I think some of you, after watching the West Ham game, may understand why.
Hopefully this loss is a wake-up call. I was confident on Sunday, perhaps the players were overconfident? A reality check is always a good thing. Lucky for us, Chelsea drew and United won unconvincingly.
It’s the first game of the season so there’s no need for an extreme reaction. It was certainly frustrating but we need to take this on the chin and move forward.
Omar Khan is a Staff Member/Contributor for Full90Gooner. Follow him at @omardelkhan7