Arsene Wenger faced the media after the 2-1 defeat to United yesterday. In a game that we dominated for large periods, being two goals down when United had just one sot on target was just heart breaking and soul crushing for any viewer. Wenger must also be dreading these interviews by now, every week it is the same questions and the same answers, but little seems to be changing on the field.
First half dominance? Check. Tons of chances? Check. United defence in disarray? Check. So far so good. And then Arsenal started to unravel, which has become a depressingly familiar scenario in recent times.
Injury to key player? Check. (Wilshere goes off with a twisted ankle, for the hundredth time in his career) Utter panic and lack of coordination in defence? Check. (What Gibbs and Szczesny were up to, I’ll never know) Softest of soft goals conceded? Check. (An own goal, no less.) Desperately pouring men forward late on in the game? Check. (Angel di Maria had a whole bloody half to himself when he missed his chance, reminiscent of Torres v Barcelona; and Rooney was also given absolute acres of space when he scored) Conceding via every shot on goal by the opposition? Check. (Final tally for United was two shots on target and two goals) Hitting every single chance straight at the opposition keeper? Check. Apart from Giroud’s fine goal, there was literally nothing else to really trouble De Gea.
Wenger always acts supremely confident at press conferences, but even he must realize by now that it is a critical situation. He admitted that the team was very inefficient with their chances, and that the defence was ‘a bit naive’, but that barely scrapes the surface of the problems faced by the team. The veteran manager sadly looks like a shadow of his former self, and it is tough to see him inspiring the lads ahead of the game against Dortmund. Here is what he had to say:
It’s a game that we dominated for 80 per cent of the time and we haven’t dominated a game like that against Manchester United for a long time. At the end of the day we were not efficient enough in the final third, defensively, and we made a mistake at the back which they took advantage of. That’s the story of the game. We had plenty of chances. Their keeper is man of the match. That tells you the story of the game.
No because we played with freedom and we pressed them very high. We won balls back and we had plenty of opportunities to finish this game off. I think we made a big mistake on the first goal and when you’re 1-0 down you’re too impatient. We were not cautious enough and we gave the second goal away.
We missed a few opportunities in the second half, even in the final 20 minutes. You have to be efficient in top-level games and we were not efficient enough in our good periods, but there were a lot of positives in the game today. Even if we are very, very disappointed, we have to keep that and rectify. At the moment defensively we are a bit naive.
How you stop that [losing games despite dominating possession] is to be more efficient. That will be linked with confidence and the fact that we have to be a bit more calm and patient. At the moment we are after success and there’s a discordance with our possession, our chances we create and our result. It’s very difficult but we have to keep faith in what we do.
[For the second goal] we were not cautious enough. I don’t know why we had nobody at the back at all – you could see straight away that giving a two against one in your own half means you will be punished against these players.
Speaking regarding the injuries, the manager said that Szczesny was not too bad, which means he should probably be fit for our next game, but he said he didn’t know about Wilshere. With Wilshere’s injury record, it is too easy to fear the worst, but fingers crossed that it turns out to be a minor thing. The Englishman was probably our best player before his forced substitution, and we need him in the side on a regular basis.
Wojciech is not bad. Jack I don’t know how bad it is because he tried to stay on and couldn’t. It could be an ankle problem, I don’t know how bad it is.
All that remains now is to try to put this result behind us and focus on the upcoming games. 17 points from 12 games is our worst start 32 years, and even fourth place is looking like a distant milestone right now. We really need to start winning games and building up confidence, with the business end of the season coming up. Qualifying for the Champions League is a must, and that expectation must be fulfilled, no matter what.