Well that was a little dull wasn’t it? They say the sign of Champions are a team who wins when playing poorly. Well last night Arsenal played poorly and got a scrappy 1-nil win. Sadly we have not had enough battling performances like last nights this season. It was just our 3rd 1-0 win. And that is one major reason we are not Champions. We have not won enough when playing poorly.
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the team was announced. 4 changes from the weekends victory against Manchester City at Wembley. But each change was fairly logical.
Out went Rob Holding, in came Kieran Gibbs. We played 120 minutes on Sunday. Holding is a young man. It is only natural that he was taken out of the team. The only interesting point was that it was Gibbs who came in, with Monreal moving to left back, rather than Per Mertesacker. It raises more questions as to why we gave Mertesacker a 1 year contract a month or so ago.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced with Hector Bellerin. Again, not a surprise as reports were the Ox was suffering a bit of muscle fatigue from the weekend. With his poor injury record, he is a player that needs to be looked after.
Moving up the pitch, Francis Coquelin replaced Aaron Ramsey. A bit of a surprise, but again, Ramsey is coming back from injury and has a poor injury record. We would only be moaning if he played again and got injured.
The last change was Olivier Giroud of Theo Walcott. Clearly a tactical ploy as we looked to use pace up top to attempt to exploit Leicester City’s slow defenders. It also allowed our defenders to sit deeper covering the pace of Jamie Vardy.
During the game, Arsene Wenger switched from 3421 to 433. Cue the criticism on Twitter that he had only played the new system for “two and a half games”. This is where I come out and defend Wenger and then get labelled a flip flop by people who are so eaten up by an agenda that they can not admit when a tactical change works.
For years we moaned Wenger would not change things. From game to game and within games, the tactics were the same. Against Leicester, we changed things up tactically during the game and won. Credit where credit was due, it was the right decision and anyone who says otherwise would have whinged, bitched and moaned had we not changed anything and drew 0-0.
When Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey came in, it looked like we were reverting back to 433. “We no have 4 at the back rather than 3 whilst trying to win a game at home” people moaned. This showed their lack of tactical awareness and probably how thick they are.
By taking off Gibbs for Welbeck saw Monreal move to left back. But it did not mean we played with a flat back 4. Monreal and Bellerin still got forward and were still operating like wing backs in the previous system. So what we had done was not change from a back 3 to a back 4, but a back 3 to a back 2. Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel sat back, Monreal and Bellerin bombed forward.
The fact that the goal came from a shot from Nacho Monreal, freed from his defensive duties to get forward, with Olivier Giroud making a nuisance in the box to force the own goal from Robert Huth, highlights how the tactical change worked.
The game finished a little bit unsavoury with Alexis Sanchez having the ball launched into his face by Christian Fuchs, before Sanchez went down like he had been shot. Let’s take the incident in order.
Sanchez did nothing wrong. Let’s look at FIFA regulations.
Sanchez was within 2 metres of the throw. The ref correctly warned him, but what happened next shows the ref did not understand the rules himself. Firstly, the ref should have stopped the player, booked Sanchez, then restarted play with a throw-in to Leicester. I have no idea why he gave a free kick?
Secondly, you can throw the ball directly at an opponent, as lot as it is not ‘careless nor a reckless manner nor using excessive force’. Fuchs did use excessive force. It was violent conduct. Fuchs should have seen red for his actions, but as Sanchez was within 2 metres, play should have restarted with a throw-in to Leicester.
It is the giving of a free kick that baffles me.
Sanchez was within 2 metres, so play should have restarted with a Leicester throw-in. Also when Sanchez ‘dived’ the ball was already out of play. The ball was dead. You can not give a free kick (or penalty) if the ball is dead. Think of how often players get booked (or had a word with by the ref) for pulling before a corner is taken. They do not give a penalty or a free kick as the ball is not in play. The fact is the referee messed up. He should not have given a free kick to Leicester.
Sanchez should have been booked for remaining within 2 metres of the touchline after being warned. Fuch’s should have been sent off for throwing the ball at Alexis Sanchez using excessive force, and play should have restarted with a throw in to Leicester.
1-0 to the Arsenal keeps our top 4 hopes alive. On to that lot away.