A scoreless draw at the Villa. The latest in a line of disappointing results but I will defend those in the Yellow today from the charges that were quite rightly aimed at them at Norwich.
This was not a day when anybody could accuse them of not trying. This was not a failure of a collective will to win, more the latest demonstration that technically we have slipped from the levels to which supporters have become accustomed from Wenger sides.
Villa, young and enthusiastic, simply shut down our supply lines by pressing all over the pitch and denying us the time it seems we need to play at our best these days. They forced errors from a team that surrenders possession more than any Arsenal side we have seen in the last sixteen years.
It was indicative of our midfield frailty that our most noticeable performers on the day came from the other departments. Per Mertesacker stood out for me yet again, and perhaps surprisingly given the result, Olivier Giroud impressed with his appetite for work. The Frenchman was also the likeliest to create openings with his intricate flicks and one-twos around the edge of the Villa box. It was a shame that the service to him from out wide was so very poor.
For all that Villa impressed with their collective hunting of the ball, their best player too was a defender. I’ve not seen anything of the boy Lowton before today. I have made a mental note of the name. There is a danger in reading too much into one performance, but he looks destined for better things on the evidence of today.
They might have nicked the points but for a quite superb fingertip save from Wojciech Szczesny, and yet that aside we didn’t really look like surrendering a goal. At the other end our best chance fell to Laurent Koscielny, unfortunately. We also could have had a late winner when Clark superbly denied Gervinho a clear opportunity with a great block.
The substitution of Francis Coquelin for Giroud was a baffling one, and Arsene didn’t help himself when he failed to offer anything other than a prickly response when quizzed about it after the match. Were we really trying to ensure we held on to one point, rather than press for all three? I would like to think the reasoning was different, but chances are we will never know.
What Arsene did offer was the usual fatigue excuse, and the far more accurate acknowledgement that we didn’t play well, plain and simple.
“We tried. We had the right attitude but lacked a bit of fluency and accuracy in the final third. We had the opportunities to be dangerous but didn’t use them well”
I can accept we will have bad days with this squad. The only thing we display consistently is inconsistency. Hopefully there is a Cup in them yet, but the League campaign promises to be long and frustrating. Last week we took two giant steps forward, but this was clearly one small pace backwards.
So to Everton on Wednesday, which has now become a very significant fixture given the Merseysiders are a point and a place ahead of us. Hopefully those suffering from fatigue will get four good nights kip in beforehand and come out with a degree of inventiveness that was entirely lacking today.
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