Two injuries, a missed penalty, an own-goal and a loss to a Tony Pulis side – definitely not a performance to remember from the Gunners after the international break. As manager Arsene Wenger stated during the post match press conference, the game was a ‘perfect nightmare’; but one that very easily should have been avoided by us. In fact, the hopelessness that I felt after watching the game was less due to the performance and more due to the several errors in the preceding months that led up to this.
First off, we NEED to buy reinforcements in January. No club that wants to challenge for the title should be forced to play a defender in attack and expect to win. Gibbs was not the biggest mistake in the lineup though – that distinction falls squarely on the shoulders of captain Mikel Arteta. Even if we ignore the horrendous own-goal, the Spaniard really struggled to make any sort of positive impact on the pitch and it was kind of a relief when he was forced off due to injury.
No offence to Arteta; he was a great player in his time. But that time has passed, and when the best backup we have for Francis Coquelin is a player who cannot keep up with the pace of the game, then we are in deep trouble. Even Flamini would have done a better job in Coq’s place, and should have been the first choice considering that he has had more game time lately as well.
Likewise, Per Mertesacker was an embarrassment at times yesterday. How does a 6’6″ giant consistently lose headers to players several inches shorter than him? Lack of pace is understandable, but when a centre back can’t win headers even with a height advantage then it gets ugly.
Finally there is Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican’s days at the club are surely numbered now, and he will likely be the first out of the doors come January. The fact that Kieran Gibbs was preferred ahead of a natural winger speaks volumes about the manager’s trust in the player, and when Campbell finally got a chance to impress as a sub, he fluffed one of the easiest opportunities of the night.
The rest of the players hardly covered themselves with glory either, with the exceptions of Sanchez, Ozil and possibly Giroud. Alexis’ play in particular was amazing to watch, since this is a player who is on the verge of breaking down due to fatigue and he was still miles better than anyone else in the side. Ozil continued his fine form as well, notching up an assist in his seventh consecutive game, and Giroud bagged himself a goal, although he misfired on a couple of occasions as well.
Ultimately it comes down to this – we lost a game 2-1, when the opponents had just one shot on target throughout. As much as we would like to write it off as an aberration that will soon be fixed, the game once again highlighted the fragile nature of our squad. Players like Wilshere and Ramsey keep getting injured season after season, and it has reached the point that we should plan around it, rather than hope for them to stay fit for the full duration. Also, for God’s sake buy a backup for Coquelin!
Here are our player ratings:
Petr Cech – 6.0
First goal was not saveable, and neither was the second.
Hector Bellerin – 5.5
The young Spaniard is not quite back to full fitness yet, and it showed. He was slightly off his usual pace and struggled defensively.
Laurent Koscielny – 6.0
Was better than his partner, but made a few mistakes that he really should not be making.
Per Mertesacker – 5.0
Mertesacker is quickly becoming the weakest link in our defence, and oppositions are exploiting this to the max. He was already vulnerable against speed, and now seems to be reluctant to challenge for aerial balls as well. Disappointing performance from someone who is so experienced.
Nacho Monreal – 6.0
Fairly solid game down the left, could have maybe attacked a bit more frequently.
Francis Coquelin – N/A
Wasn’t on for too long as he picked up a knee injury, but the defensive shambles without him are clear testament to his value for Arsenal.
Santi Cazorla – 4.5
The Spaniard really struggled to dominate in the midfield. Without Coq, we have no physical presence to really challenge for the ball and the pairing of Arteta and Cazorla were simply unable to hold back the West Brom players. On top of that, Cazorla is going through a slump lately.
The penalty miss was bad, but to be fair to Cazorla, he had scored all six of his previous attempts in the League.
Mesut Ozil – 7.0
Set up a goal for the seventh straight game in the Premier League, which is a new record. Looked dangerous whenever he was given a little space to work with. He also struck the post with a rather weak effort that might have gone in on a better day. Obviously the most in-form player at the moment.
Alexis Sanchez – 7.0
Apparently, someone told Sanchez that Wenger was thinking about resting him. The Chilean’s response was to come out all guns blazing against the Baggies, and he was by far our biggest threat in the opposition box. He produced his trademark performance and ran tirelessly, but could not find the end product that might have salvaged a point for us.
Olivier Giroud – 6.0
Continued his decent run of form by scoring yet another headed goal from a set-piece. Arsenal are starting to really threaten from set-pieces, which is a good sign. Still, Giroud struggled in the second half as the Baggies defence stuck to him, and he simply could not find a way to break through.
Kieran Gibbs – 5.0
Gibbs had a fairly decent game, all things considered. His pace was a welcome addition to the attack and he created a couple of chances early in the first half. His finishing was terrible when presented with an opportunity, but you cannot really blame him since he was playing out of position.
Mikel Arteta – 2.0
Was punished rather harshly in the buildup to West Brom’s first goal, since he had gotten a touch on the ball. In the resulting free kick however, he failed defensively and it only got worse from there as he scored an own goal before succumbing to a calf injury. If this doesn’t convince Wenger we need reinforcements, nothing will.
Mathieu Flamini – 5.5
We improved noticeably after Flamini came on and added a more physical presence to the midfield, but we need someone younger to play the backup role for Coquelin.
Joel Campbell – 5.0
Gibbs’ miss can be justified by saying he is not a natural forward. Campbell has no such excuse. For a player who is stuck on the fringes of the club and in danger of being sold, he did a really poor job of convincing the manager of his value.