So, seems I missed an Arsenal game that was played this morning, which confuses me because I watched Arsenal draw against Besiktas in the first leg of our Champions League qualifier, based on the vitriol I’m seeing online though I’m pretty sure we played another game and lost. In that game I’m pretty certain that Olivier Giroud drowned a family of kittens, Santi Cazorla swapped shirts with Robin Van Persie and Mikel Arteta publicly professed his undying love for Justin Bieber before kickoff.
Clearly I’m just kidding because the reaction we’ve seen online, and in particular towards the above mentioned players, has been more extreme than what would have occurred had they done any of the things I listed above, you’d think we hadn’t gotten a decent result in the first leg of our Champions League qualifier!
Yes, the game this morning was extremely dull and the squad looks like they currently lack a little bit sharpness but is anyone really surprised? We’re about 5 days into the season, during a World Cup year nonetheless, I think to expect the side to be running anywhere near 100% at this stage is more than a tad unrealistic.
If you’d have offered a draw to me before the game, I’d have taken it. Don’t be fooled by the stature of Besiktas or the level of the league that they play in, travelling to Turkey and playing in what can only be described as an atrocious pitch and in front of the vibrant and hostile crowd is not easy at all (not to mention the standard of refereeing during the game, which was absolutely horrendous), anyone who expected us to simply swipe Besiktas aside in this leg was always going to be in for a nasty surprise. By coming away from this game with a 0-0 stalemate we’ve effectively turned this into a one-off head to head contest at our home ground, a contest which we should win. Whilst we were below our best and looking underdone we still controlled large patches of the game and I am fairly confident that we should be able to handle Besiktas at the Emirates next week.
Looking at individual performances, it was clear that Olivier Giroud didn’t have the best night out at the office. He looked a bit sluggish (still seems to a bit off 100% fitness wise) and his movement wasn’t amazing, but he also suffered from a lack of service for most of the 90 minutes. Giroud lead the line admirably for most of last season until the injuries to a few of our key players and a lack of rotation lead to him wearing down as the season went on, when he has an off day though he automatically becomes public enemy number 1 for those who take part in the knee-jerk abuse of our own players. Sure, a pretty poor game from him, but some of the grief being directed his way online is mystifying.
The same can be said of the abuse being directed towards Mikel Arteta who I thought had a fairly decent game. Arteta seems to have become everyone’s favourite whipping boy over the last 9 months or so. Regardless of what sort of performance he turns in he is consistently abused and any positive contributions to the team glossed over so as to not undermine the agenda of the abusing party. I made my points on our defensive midfielder position on an earlier Podcast this season (Episode 37 – The Great DM Debate & GDU Competition) and without going into too much more detail here, I made it known that I would indeed like to see a new defensive midfielder brought into the club this window, I also noted though that Arteta is still a good player and a very capable contributor in this team. It is fair to critique a player when he has a down performance but Arteta seems to have strips torn off him regardless of how he plays.
Santi Cazorla also found himself in the crosshairs today after a pretty poor performance, that’s all it is for me though, a poor performance. We’re all more than aware of the qualities Santi possesses and whilst he was far from his glittering best today he still has a major role to play in this team. He put in many a meaningful performance last season whilst playing on the flanks but when he puts in a subpar game, like this morning, any short term memory some hold in regards to this apparently disappears and his replaced with him being seen as the Denilson of wide players.
Basically, the reaction we saw this morning from many in the online Arsenal community was one of the most extreme I’ve experienced in recent memory, and not because we were thumped by Liverpool or Chelsea again, no, we had a 0-0 draw away to Besiktas. Disappointment in individual performances is understandable, and no-one is stating that criticism of our playing group is out of bounds but a little bit of logic needs to be used here. Drawing lines through players because of a few sub-par performances early in the season (regardless of how diabolical those performances are) is extremely melodramatic and, let’s be honest, terribly tedious to read when it appears in bulk on ones timeline/news feed.
I didn’t see many other sides put in serious top notch performances in the EPL this weekend, Chelsea conceded early, Man City looked quite underdone against Newcastle, Liverpool struggled a bit more than they would liked, especially since they’ve spent all summer raiding the team they played, and United lost to Swansea! We’re far from the only side that seems to be a few gears below our best, but it’s still early and we still have a few top players to come back as well.
For now, I’ll take the 3 points in the EPL and the scoreless draw at Besiktas.
Until next time,