So it has been 2 sleeps since the defeat which pretty much knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League at the Round of 16 stage for the 6th season in a row (although I do not understand Man U, Liverpool & Spurs fans mocking us for this).
A disappointing, frustrating result, but also one of predictability. This is not going to be a match report as by now you would have read umpteen of them. Nor an in depth analysis of where things went wrong. As an in depth analysis is not needed, as it was fairly obvious where things went wrong.
And it is the same issues as previous years.
Mistakes in defence. A strong central midfielder. A striker who can finish.
I am not going down the delusional route that 3 additional players in the starting 11 would have helped us beat Barcelona – only one of our starting XI would get in their side (Petr Cech). But the defeat once more exposed our inadequacies that we have known about for years.
Per Mertersacker was involved in errors for both goals. His lunge for the first, his poor pass for the second.
Now I love Per. You do not win 100 caps for Germany by being a poor player. He is a terrific defender, one of the best in the world in one on one situations, and is a leader. I am not also of the belief that his lack of pace is an issue.
The only time pace is important as a defender is playing FIFA. Tony Adams was not quick, Vidic was not, John Terry was not. What is important is the system you play.
If you decide to include a defender who lacks pace, you need to defend deep. Arsenal did that in the 90s. Chelsea did it in the 00s. Defend deep and hit opponents on the break.
The problem with that is sitting deep leads you to playing counter attacking football. And the way Arsenal play is not to counter attack, but to dominate play. This then involves lots of possession a high press, and a higher line. Something that than exposes Mertesacker’s lack of pace. It then becomes too easy for sides to spring us on the counter attack, like Southampton did, springing Shane Long and Saido Maine on the break.
Arsenal / Arsene need to realise that Mertesacker does not suit the way we play.
Of course, it is easier said than done to replace him. Is Gabriel the answer? Who knows? Some will say John Stones. But he is overrated and Everton’s recent run of good form has been since he got injured. And Manchester City have recently spent over £100m trying to find a partner for Vincent Kompany.
What Arsenal need at the back is what every side needs. A centre back that can dominate physically, but is quick, and can lead. These do not exactly grow on trees. We basically need Sol Campbell.
Even if we can not get the perfect specimen, there is certainly someone out there who is an improvement on Mertesacker. Someone who will leave us less exposed at the back. There will be someone out there available who is better.
A centre back must be on Arsenal’s summer shopping list.
Moving into midfield, whilst Francis Coquelin has been a revelation, the lack of serious back up once more proved our undoing.
I know we bought Mohammad Elneny in January, and he is cup tied, but is he really going to be the solution?
From what I have seen of him, he is like Mikel Arteta / Michael Carrick type player. An efficient mover of the ball who will dominate when we have possession. When the team are playing well.
The problem is so often over the years, we have struggled when we do not have someone who can dominate a game when we are not playing well. When we are not in charge of the game.
As a friend of mine says “I want someone big and someone black”.
And he is right to an extent. We need someone who can physically take charge of a game. A Vieira. A Diaby (when fit. LOL). Someone who can cover ground. Who last night could have bullied the Barcelona midfield.
It is not a new requirement. We have needed someone for nearly a decade. Coquelin, whilst brilliant defensively, is not the beast we need.
A beast of a central midfielder must be on Arsenal’s summer shopping list.
And then we move forward again. to the forward line.
Olivier Giroud is the best plan B in the Premier League. A destructive force in the area at times. But he is not a top draw striker. He is not even the level below.
In games such as last night, when we get one chance, you need to know your striker is going to take his one chance. In Giroud, you are never confident that he will take it.
We have been after a striker for years. Ever since Robin van Persie left. We got Danny Welbeck in, but he is clearly not the answer either.
A lot of people point to the fact that we made the Champions League Final with a weak back line and an average centre midfield. We did, and they are correct, but what we also had was Thierry Henry up top. Someone who could score from his only chance.
Remember Real Madrid away. Henry had one chance, scored one goal. Giroud would not have taken that chance. He can not run away from people, which restricts Arsenal playing on the break.
It is actually ironic, we have a striker who can play counter attacking football, a defender who can’t defend a high press.
It leaves us in a quandary. Defend deep and we can not break. Press high and we get broken on. Either way, there are better strikers than Olivier Giroud, no matter how you wish to justify it.
A top draw striker must be on Arsenal’s summer shopping list.
The issue here is this is not a ground breaking blog. We have needed these 3 positions filled for 3 years. And have not filled them.
We might win the league this year. But we still need to improve. And if we do not win the league, it will be as a direct result of not having these 3 extra players.
The fact that last season all we bought was a goal keeper still gets on my tits.
Arsene, you have a shopping list. 3 players is all we need. Go get them.