‘Frustrating’ is a mild way to describe yesterday’s game. We travelled to Norwich City on the back of a series of strong performances in October and early November, fully expecting to win the game against our much smaller opponents. Instead, the game was a flashback to the Arsenal from previous seasons, who all too often lack the direction and cutting edge required to penetrate a defensive setup. Apart from Ozil’s early burst, there were very few positive things to take away from the game, and the injuries were a fitting culmination to what has been a horrendous week for the Gunners.
We were far from being title contenders yesterday; in fact, at times it looked like Norwich were going to take away all three points from the game. Our efforts were definitely not helped by an atrocious performance from the referee, who chose to ignore blatant fouls on Sanchez, and instead presented one of the strangest cards for diving that I have ever seen. But ultimately, the fault lies squarely with us and us alone for not preparing properly.
‘Alexis gets fatigued if I rest him’ were the words the manager spoke after the last game. Well, Mr. Wenger, looks like he gets injured if you don’t rest him. If it was not bad enough that we lost Coquelin, we now have to deal with the absence of Alexis as well, a player who has played almost every single game since his transfer move last season. Needless to say, the Chilean was a major part of our attacking prowess, and without him and Walcott up front, our attack becomes much more sluggish and one dimensional. The only thing we can do is pray that Sanchez pulls of a miraculous recovery, but given our usual luck with injuries it seems unlikely.
We also lost Koscielny early in the game, who has been our most consistent centre back this season, and Cazorla finished the game clearly showing signs of an injury. If we lose those too for the long term as well, then it is time to end our hopes for this season. Wenger’s fabled team depth is an illusion, and the lack of quality replacements is showing more and more as the season progresses. January offers little respite, since good players are unlikely to be sold in the middle of the season. In his hunt for ‘top quality’, Wenger might not have a full first XI fit to play soon.
Either way, what’s done is done, and any major changes will have to wait until the summer to be made. Until then, we the fans just have to keep praying that the injury count stays at a somewhat reasonable number.
Here are our player ratings for the Norwich game:
Petr Cech – 7.0
Could do nothing for the first goal, but made a couple of vital saves later on to keep us in the game.
Hector Bellerin – 6.0
Had a good defensive performance, but struggled going forward; and his decision making was flawed on a few occasions when he got into dangerous positions.
Laurent Koscielny – N/A
Went off early in the game.
Per Mertesacker – 6.0
An average game from the German centre back, who needs to really start imposing himself more on the game.
Gabriel Paulista – 5.5
His poor positioning allowed Grabban to get away and net the Norwich equaliser.
Nacho Monreal – 6.0
Solid defensively, but contributed nothing going forward. The poor performances of Monreal and Bellerin today really revealed how much we rely on them.
Mathieu Flamini – 6.0
Average performance from the Frenchman. He still moves out of position too frequently to be a proper DM, and the absence of Coquelin is telling.
Santi Cazorla – 7.0
Had a rather good game, but took a heavy knock to the knee and declined in influence thereafter.
Mesut Ozil – 8.0
Ozil is the saviour of Arsenal at the moment, but even he cannot win us games single handedly. The German made some slick moves and tried to convert the possession into chances, but the rest of the team were not quite there yesterday.
Alexis Sanchez – 7.5
Was his usual typical self, and looked dangerous in the first half. The injury to his hamstring was utterly, utterly predictable by everyone except the manager apparently. His loss is devastating.
Joel Campbell – 5.5
Came on for Sanchez, but was nowhere near as effective. He tries hard, but the amount of actual benefit he provides is negligible.
Aaron Ramsey – 6.0
Seemed to be a bit off the pace and failed to impose himself onto the game. Maybe it’s the effects of the injury, but either way Ramsey was nowhere near his best.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5
Came on as a substitute and had a large impact. The pace and width he offered were sorely needed and he created a couple of decent chances late on.
Olivier Giroud – 6.0
The Frenchman was a frustrated man all night, and it is really starting to affect his play. Giroud lacks composure for matches like these, and once he started getting frustrated by the lack of service early on, his influence on the game was negligible. He created no space, hardly moved, and missed a few potential chances as well when service improved.