On The Whistle response to the cup win over Hull.
Will Arsenal win three consecutive league games this season?
We haven’t managed it yet. Arsene Wenger is quick to point out that consistency will be the key to making the top four, but it’s precisely that which evades us at present.
Every time we seem to be building some momentum, that nefarious handbrake slams down to foil us once again.
Nevertheless, six points from nine is more than I expected from our festive fixture list. Watching our defending at St. Mary’s, the victory at Upton Park began to look ever more miraculous.
I still think we’ll make the top four, but I think that case more about an absence of quality elsewhere in this league than any positive attributes of our own.
Is Francis Coquelin the answer to our defensive midfield problem?
Not for me. Coquelin’s tenacious displays don’t make me think we ought to anoint him as the long-awaited “DM” — rather, they convince me of how much better we’d be with a top class player performing in that role. However, Coquelin does look as if he will give Mathieu Flamini a run for his money until a superior player arrives.
At present, Coquelin’s certainly a better option in that role than Calum Chambers. According to Squawka, Chambers didn’t make a single tackle during his return to his former club.
That stat doesn’t necessarily mean quite as much as you might imagine — interceptions are just as important, and tackles can be a desperate last resort prompted by poor positioning. However, it was clear watching the game that the Englishman is a long way from ready to play regularly in central midfield.
Is Wojciech Szczesny good enough to be our number one?
I think so. He has the talent. Is it being properly harnessed? That’s another question (but, crucially, not one in bold. Got to stick to the five. #SEO)
Look at where David de Gea was two years ago and where he is now. That’s surely down to coaching. Has Szczesny made the same strides forward? Probably not. He relies on his instincts and his preternatural self-confidence. Technically and tactically there are still flaws in his game.
The identical errors made by Almunia, Fabianski and Szczesny can’t be mere coincidence. The problem must lie on the training ground.
What’s up with Laurent Koscielny?
Although Szczesny was painted as the villain of the piece, Koscielny also endured something of a personal nightmare against Southampton. Aside from misjudging the run of Saido Mane on the opener, he also played a weak back-pass that ought to have resulted in a third for the Saints.
You know, it’s almost as if he’s being forced to play through a debilitating chronic injury. Tendinitis doesn’t just disappear. His is a condition that requires careful management. It’s been said many times, but Wenger has to buy a central defender with the ability to cover a prolonged absence for Koscielny. Relying on him is a risk we can not afford.
On the subject of the back four, much will understandably be made of how shoddy we looked with our first choice defensive unit in place. However, in their defence it was the first time those five players have played together this season. All change — even position change — can be disruptive. It will take time for that unit to click.
What sort of team will we see in the FA Cup?
Ideally, I think Arsene Wenger would like to field a rotated side after a demanding Christmas period. However, a glance at our subs bench at Southampton suggests he has very few options at his disposal. Theo Walcott should start his first game in a year, while David Ospina is guaranteed a game in goal. Other than that I expect it to be fairly similar team.
One man who may get a run-out, most likely from the bench, is Chuba Akpom. It seems clear Wenger is launching a charm offensive to convince the young striker to extend his deal beyond the summer. The development of Joel Campbell does not seem to be quite such a priority for our manager.
Here’s the video response to our 2-0 defeat at Southampton. In the video, I inexplicably claim the scoreline was 2-1. Call it wishful thinking.
Well that was fun. After being horribly ill on Boxing Day, I was well enough to attend Upton Park yesterday and had a brilliant day. It’s a proper old-fashioned ground (forgive the cliche), and if you’ve never been I urge you to try and attend in its final season next year. I’ll miss it.
My video blog reaction to the game is directly above, but the real point of this post is to nudge you in the direction of my latest SportLobster blog, which looks in closer detail at questions surrounding Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck and Chuba Akpom. If I said the same thing here, I’d simply be repeating myself.
I think I enjoyed this win more than any other this season. That’s largely because it was an enthralling game with a cracking atmosphere, but also because it feels like a significant result: I don’t mind admitting that I was absolutely convinced we’d lose. Andy Carroll is usually like kryptonite for us, but we coped surprisingly well with the aerial onslaught. The Stoke debacle has clouded what’s actually been a very decent run of results.
Southampton next. If we can come back from St. Mary’s with a point or more we’ll reflect on a very merry festive period indeed.
It feels a bit like those two 4-1 wins never happened. That’s the problem Arsene Wenger has now: patience has worn so thin that each set-back seems to eradicate any goodwill or momentum he has managed to build up.
At the core of most fans’ frustration is the fact that Arsenal conceded a late equaliser to – shock horror – a set-piece. I understand that entirely.
However, my problem with what we saw at Anfield is rather different. I’m not too fussed about the result – I can see that in isolation, a draw at Liverpool could prove to be a valuable point. My concern is the performance: Arsenal were utterly dreadful. A scoreline more akin to the 5-1 we suffered last season would have been far more appropriate than the 2-2 we somehow managed.
Despite a week of rest, Arsenal played with a baffling lack of intensity. As a fan, it’s difficult to get excited about a team who so regularly display such a complete lack of character. We’ve had difficult seasons before, but I can’t remember one that felt quite as uninspiring as this one.
Anyhow. I discuss the game in more depth in my latest SportsLobster blog. Have a read for stuff on Giroud, Mertesacker, set-pieces and more.
Once you’ve had a read of that, do listen to the latest Arsecast Extra with Arseblogger, in which we chat about the Liverpool game and the forthcoming January transfer window. This Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – turns out you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast.
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If I don’t appear here before then, Merry Christmas you lot. Really appreciate you reading.