A duller shade of medioc(h)re
And just when we thought we were on a roll, things turn a duller shade of mediochre once more. We’ve had a good run as 2012 came to a close, winning four Premier League games in a row; it seemed as though we had put some of the stagnation and boredom of earlier games behind us. This burst of fine form has been quelled somewhat now, like a fire running out of available oxygen as its flames recede farther back into the wood stove’s depths. First Southampton held us to a draw on New Year’s Day, and just this Sunday past Swansea kept us from springing through Round 3 of FA Cup action with a 2-2 draw.
Anyone who saw the game will know how poorly our first half was. Arsenal showed signs of having rested a little too well over the last week and got off to a slow and sluggish start. A concern that has crept to the fore of my mind is the quality of passing achieved by these players: Arsenal’s bread and butter is holding possession for long periods and dictating the pace and direction of play, something we seem to be doing less and less of when the team isn’t at its very best. Short passes, especially ones where there should be no risk of turn over, have become a problem for a number of players and I don’t want to single out one individual in particular, since it’s becoming a problem across the board. It’s hard to maintain a possession style attacking game when establishing your hold and confidence on the ball seems to be a problem. We don’t really have a player like Cesc anymore who can pass to anyone from any position, making our build up play somewhat repetitive and, what’s worrisome, predictable. Lately when I watch Arsenal play out from the back, I can call a number of passes ahead going from the second to final third, and if I can do it, imagine how seasoned league opponents will fair.
We’ve also been suffering from the poor form of a number of first team players, who still start because they are the best option Wenger can currently choose. Sagna, a wonderful playerm whom I feel loves this club and plays his heart out for it, has been woeful in his last couple of outings. He seems shaken or uncertain when in possession and has proved somewhat weaker on the right than we need at this stage in the season. I believe he means well, but things just aren’t coming off for him in defense at the moment as he continues to recover from a broken leg; that said, I’d still take him in the starting XI, especially in league play. Arteta, while he still has moments of brilliance, has been inconsistent in his abilities as well. He has given up easy passes rather more than one would like to see (he’s been lauded as one of our top passers), and doesn’t seem to try anything particularly creative, something we know he’s well capable of, though this may be a factor of his role as DM. Ramsey, while still one of my favourite Arsenal players, has been played all over the park this season: on the right wing, in midfield, and most recently on the left. Should we not have our best players in each position playing in those positions? Ramsey manages some fine plays from time to time, but we need experienced wingers to get the job done properly.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom on the weekend: we did manage to score a couple of goals, this time both coming from the left courtesy of Podolski and Gibbs. I’ve said it a number of times on twitter, that we play better as a team when both of these footballers are on the pitch together. The German and the Englishman seem to have come to an understanding in their play and always get the best out of each other. Wilshere is still working his way back to his form from a couple season ago, but it has been promising to see him gain his confidence and drive back once more.
As always, there is the next game, in this case Manchester City on Sunday in league action. The coming weeks are going to be much harder than those in the very recent past and we can only hope the team has the mental and physical fortitude to come through it.