Arsenal 1 Wigan 2
The doom-mongers are out in force today after one of our worst defensive performances of the season. I’m trying to resist the urge to join them.
Let’s start with some not-so negatives.
1. Credit must go to Wigan who played out of the skin. They handled going unexpectedly two goals up far better than we handled going two goals down and deserved the three points.
2. Having to overcome that deficit tempers how critical you can be of the Arsenal attack. We have memorably come back after being two goals down before this season but it isn’t going to happen every time so even though our attacking was pretty unimaginative, especially in the second half, it doesn’t mean we’ll never score a goal again.
3. Wenger has thankfully said exactly what I’d hope he’d say after the match. It looks like he’s had a bit of a whinge about the time-wasting but otherwise has laid the blame squarely at the ‘not acceptable’ defending. So at least he’s admitting the faults and not burying his head in the sand.
And now to the out-right negatives…
1. We’ve been here before. Memories of Fulham earlier this season came flooding back during the second half with the lack of impetus and invention up front. It’s clear as day that things aren’t working but there’s no willingness or ability to change things tactically
2. Outplayed by Wigan! First Swansea deservedly beat us playing ‘the beautiful game’ and now Wigan have done the same thing. At least Swansea were at the heady heights of mid-table at the time, Wigan are scrapping for their lives. These aren’t Sam Allardyce-inspired anti-football hoofers, we’re getting beaten at our own game.
3. Still no real defensive cohesion. For years we’ve not gelled as a team and we rarely show the kind of stability you need to succeed. Even last week at 2-0 at Wolves, I wouldn’t have staked anything valuable on us keeping a clean sheet. As it turned out we did, but we’ve got to be more resilient over a long period – without losing the attack edge and become draw merchants.
So all-in-all, last night’s defeat doesn’t mean our mini-revival has necessarily come to an end and it doesn’t necessarily mean dreams of third or fourth will be dashed.
But it also proves there are plenty of weaknesses in the team and any hopes of mounting a title challenge with a couple of signings in the summer deserve a hefty dose of scepticism until they are put right.
Individual absences are not the issue as far as I’m concerned. Koscielny’s suspension should not have led to the woeful defending last night, just like full back injuries should not have caused so many problems at the turn of the year. Those inherent flaws need to be addressed on the training ground with a coach willing to drill a system into the player’s brains.