I find myself reminded, and not fondly, of the Chelsea game at the start of the season. Then, as today, Mertesacker was dropped in favour of Koscielny, seemingly on the basis that the latter offers more mobility against nippy strikers. The difference this time was that Koscielny only had time to make one major rick – a ludicrously obvious foul which, rightly for me, saw him concede a penalty.
At the time I was surprised the red card followed, but didn’t have much complaint either. It’s down to whether it was a clear goal-scoring chance or not, and although I thought the chance looked ‘a bit dangerous’ rather than ‘absolutely gilt-edged’, it was a borderline call I can accept.
For those who like to keep track of upsetting stats – and who doesn’t, right? – that was Kos’s third red card and fourth penalty conceded since coming to England. He’s also netted three OGs, including one in that Chelsea match. (Thanks to Opta’s Orbinho for the numbers.)
Aside: Does anyone ever create YouTube reels designed to make a player look as bad as possible, in the same way they do them to make average ones look great. Rather than brutal Euro trance, the music could be super mournful – People Ain’t No Good by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, maybe. Anyway, Koscielny’s compilation would be comedy gold.
And by ‘comedy gold’ I mean ‘heartbreak porn’.
I described him as an error machine on Twitter earlier, and though that’s perhaps harsh, he does seem incredibly prone to costly mistakes. Yes, he’s had great games and been rightly praised for those, but there’s still something about him - I don’t know if it’s recklessness, or simply the braindeadedness that has blighted our defenders for years now – which instantly reminds you that he’s still the guy who played a large part in ballsing up the Carling Cup final. Yes. I went there.
If it seems like I’m expending too many words blaming him, that’s largely because after the sending off I don’t think anyone held out much hope of keeping the current champions out, or doing a huge amount of damage at the other end, what with Walcott up against Kompany and back to looking as much like a central striker as he does a pegasus.
A quick word on the Kompany sending off. Without the benefit of a replay – and you’re high if you think I’m watching any of that game again – I didn’t think it was one. If anything my initial worry was Wilshere might get a second yellow. Still, boo hoo, eh? Given the arbitrariness with which that officious little arsewipe Dean was awarding fouls and dispensing bookings, it’s no surprise he got a biggie wrong.
As for the quick free quick which led to the first goal, again my complaints are limited. Sans replay, I can’t recall what he’d played the supposed advantage for – but having called play back, our defence had to get organised quicker, rather than just grizzling. That’s very much the braindeadedness alluded to earlier. Where City are all niggling taps and going to ground easily, we’re all rugby tackles and goofy expressions when something goes wrong. The way the players just stood around looking at each other like depressed penguins after (ugh) Milner scored did little to warm my spirits.
If you want to shout a C-word at Mike Dean, as many in the North Bank did, it ought to be consistency. What’s infuriating with those quick free kicks is how often players beg to take them fast, but get waved snootily away. It seems weird to have a rule the implementation of which is quite so subjective. What’s the criteria for allowing one? In any case, we were punished, as we tend to be.
Another piece of symmetry with the Chelsea game was that Abou Diaby started. He lasted a lot longer today, and largely looked a bit rusty, which is only to be expected. When he limped off against Chelsea we were told he’d be out for three weeks. That was on September 30th. Now we learn the man he was covering for today, Mikel Arteta, is also set to be out for the three weeks with a calf strain. His family request no flowers.
Surely nobody, least of all Arsene, can be surprised. Arteta’s injury hasn’t so much been in the post as hand-delivered on a gold leaf lettered save the date card. We seemingly went into the season expecting a 30-year old with a history of knee knack to play 90 minutes in just about every game across four competitions. That’s not a gamble, because a gamble would imply the possibility of several different outcomes.
And so here we are, staring down the barrel of this year’s ‘death run’ of fixtures, and the choices at defensive midfield are a patched-up Diaby (who by his own admission isn’t a defensive midfielder at all), and young Coquelin, who I get a lot of people like but for me has done nothing to convince that he’s any sort of serious solution. Meanwhile, the market remains open, and you may like to note that friend of the blog Yann M’Vila is currently in London inking terms with Twitchy’s temporary paymasters.
Now, regular readers, or those of you who like to get the full Mouse experience on Twitter, will know that I gently advocated Yann’s signing and may therefore be expecting a decent-sized rant. No dice, chums. I’ve long since made my peace with the idea, however beyond my comprehension it might be, that Arsene is now no longer interested in a player which the Guardian claimed he bid £22m for in 2011, but is now moving to QPR for around £8m.
£22m! Arsenal! Megalolz!
Anyway. Since then the player’s form has dipped badly and he’s nuked his international career with a night out on the pops in Paris. So no, I’m not going to shit the bed about not signing him. The point was never that we needed him, and him only. The point was *always* that we needed someone in the middle who could pass, tackle, and be positionally aware. We still do need someone who can either cover for Arteta when he’s tired/injured/suspended, or play alongside him in the tough games. (In truth, most games are tough, currently.) That player could just as easily be Etienne Capoue. Or, if you want to dream, Marouane Fellaini.
Ask yourself should it even be a dream, with the money we’re sitting on? With Champions League football very much in the balance, and the cost of not qualifying between £35-40m, isn’t it more risky *not* to buy? Meanwhile, Arsene says this:
"We are in the market. To find players of the calibre of Arteta, available in January, I wish you good luck."
I don’t know what to add really. Again, the implication is that he didn’t expect Arteta to suffer this sort of injury at any point in the season, and therefore we now have to identify targets. To reiterate, we have needed back-up ever since selling Song. Song, who we were told, if he left would have to be replaced. But wasn’t.
And this talk of scanning the market, looking for players. It’s like they’re using those magical baubles from Lord Of The Rings, but only allowed to take the cover off once the window is actually open. It’s a bizarrely obvious misrepresentation of the way the signing process surely must work.
Don’t we have folders bulging with potential replacements for players, in case they get eaten by sea monsters or something? Also, no good players are ‘available’. You have to force their parent club to sell with a compelling financial offer. What part is confusing?
A few other things…
- I’m a bit worried about Giroud once more. He was clearly playing hurt today, but even so was well marshalled. In one sense he’s lucky – the paucity of options we have up front will see him get plenty of game time, theoretically giving him the chance to adapt. But although he seems a good guy, and is obviously hot as fuck to look at if you like that, I wonder if he really has the chops to be a 20 goals-a-season striker at Arsenal. And I’ve got the nagging sense Arsene wonders the same. Though seemingly not enough to buy Ba, who’s ‘too similar’. Hmm.
- How can a 25-man squad be 'complete' if we’ve just loaned out two players who were part of it. By definition that frees up two spaces. Yet more daft doublethink. Note: You can also restructure the 25-man squad as you see fit in January.
- Of the City centrebacks I thought Matija Nastasic really stood out. He’s absurdly composed for a 19-year old. I’ve seen several pundits claim bafflement that Lescott is being left out. There’s nothing baffling about it if this is how he normally plays. The kid looks like the real deal.
- As of course does Jack Wilshere. Kicked relentlessly and with little to work with from his teammates, he still came close to sparking a fightback in the second half. Still needs to work on his final ball and shooting, but he looks a class above anything else we’ve got. Which is really why we have to add quality to the squad, or risk letting another Cesc-sized talent labour to compensate for the flaws of those around him.
Anyway, what do I know? Let’s ask Invincible right back Lauren, instead…
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
(Credit Chris Flanagan for finding that tweet. And if it’s not the real Lauren, please don’t tell us. Neither wants to know.)
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