There is always an odd mood around the Emirates during the season’s curtain raiser. There are those who are dissatisfied with our summer dealings, and those who think it may be our year. The murmurs of discontent battle with the whispers of optimism, and ultimately it makes for a disappointing and subdued atmosphere. After an extremely disheartening 90 minutes, murmurs had turned into cries, and all the optimists were in the away end.
I was very positive. So, so naïve. I nonchalantly strolled over the Ken Friar bridge, informed my West Ham supporting friend to expect a 3-0 defeat, and sat in my seat, eagerly anticipating the majestic feast of Football that awaited me.
Ugh. Even if we ignore my unfairly high expectations, there were lots of problems today. I am a big fan of Olivier Giroud; I feel he gets a lot of unjust criticism and is fantastic at what he does. But he was awful today. Hideous. His normally excellent hold up play completely deserted him, he made the wrong decisions with the ball, he missed decent chances. Aside from the odd inconsequential Oxlade-Chamberlain dribble and Özil pass, everyone was poor today, but I felt Giroud was amongst the worst. It was also very alarming that he stayed on after appearing to be unconscious, and I do wonder how the club and FA will respond to that.
Giroud’s good friend Debuchy also had a poor game, perfectly highlighting why Bellerin should be playing instead of him. He plays too narrow, and is reminiscent of Andre Santos in that whilst he spends a lot of time in the opposition half, he isn’t actually good going forward. Ok as back up right back, and nothing more. I expect our lord and saviour Carl Jenkinson will compete with Bellerin at the start of next season.
We struggled to create from the back today, and despite having 62% possession, we struggled to string any meaningful attacking moves together. Coquelin and Ramsey are a partnership for games where we are expecting to be on the back foot, where defensive work is more important than dominating. In games like today, where we should be dominating teams, I feel we need a better controller. Neither of them are good enough passers of the ball to orchestrate attacks or control games.
The possession stat can be a misleading one; we didn’t dominate the game today, on the contrary we played exactly how West Ham wanted us to. Once they got their set-piece goal they sat deep, let us having what was effectively meaningless possession, they used their pace out wide to counter attack. They executed their game plan excellently and well done to them. But I think if our midfield plays quick enough and our front three make the right runs, their game plan shouldn’t be allowed to work.
I don’t think I will ever like Francis Coquelin. He is an utterly brain-dead player. His unneeded slide interception led to the second goal, and his refusal to act within a defensive line played everyone onside for the first. He often neglects his duty to cover passing channels, and instead opts to charge at the ball like a puppy on ecstasy. He dawdles, he cannot pass. It’s near impossible to play quick attacking moves with him in the team. What he is good at, is running side to side and intercepting bad passes. Like a Footballing Crab. He still plays like a seventeen year old desperate to make an impression in the dying minutes of a League Cup tie. We are in critical need of a new midfielder if we are to get anywhere near Chelsea or Man City. Or we need to give Arteta’s brain to someone who can walk.
And Petr. Oh Petr. He will be excellent for us, I think. I hope. But his performance was inexcusable today. He was miles away from challenging Kouyaté for the first goal, and the second goal is even worse. He was wrong footed by nothing. Zarate hit a shot Čech should have saved comfortably, and instead he made an almost unfathomably feeble effort of keeping it out. I bet Mourinho’s sent him to as to act as some kind of goalkeeping trojan horse.
Today was just one game out of thirty-eight, but it was alarming. All the sloppy errors and defensive mishaps we thought we had left behind still remain. Giroud was at his 12-13 season worst. Things were so dire in the centre of midfield Özil was having to juggle starting all our attacks and doing all the tackling. I think the Boss has something up his sleeve before the transfer window shuts, and things will pick up. But let’s not pretend today was anything other than a fucking disaster.