The Hull City game was shocking but in a completely predictable and very Arsenal way. Making so many chances in a game is encouraging, but look at how many the players miss and it becomes clear that they just don’t play with their heads.
They’re so fluttery at times, painfully illustrated when Barcelona showed what this Arsenal team think they are, and the reality is something else. I don’t want to knock the Barcelona game too much because for a good portion of the game Arsenal matched them all the way, but in the end, the players let themselves and everybody else down again, as they so often do. As for Player of the Week, nobody stood up to the plate, but if I’m going to pick someone then it’s Danny Welbeck – who looks far more useful than the rest of Arsenal’s strike force.
The English forward started and shone in the Hull game, and was the involved in everything exciting, until he came off and Arsenal failed to damage the opposition in his absence. Quite simply, I think he looks fantastic for a player coming back from a ten-month injury. His movement and quality at the moment ought to make the likes of Sanchez and Walcott hang their heads in shame, even Giroud – who’s hit a dry patch, not ideal for a title-chasing squad. Welbeck’s recent performances, making up around 90 minutes or so, are either brilliant or damning, depending on how you choose to look at it. It’s appalling that a player coming back from his lengthiest injury, missing months on months, looks brighter than the rest of Arsenal’s forward options. He hasn’t done anything aside from his Leicester heroics, but it’s the energy and spark he’s shown that stands out. And again this could also be a sign of how frustrating Walcott and Sanchez have been, both guilty for their lacklustre, undisciplined performances on Tuesday night. Walcott was virtually ineffective as a sub, and he can’t track runners, and neither can Sanchez at the moment. Perhaps not as talented, but Joel Campbell and Welbeck would have been better choices on Tuesday, both can defend, both are in form, of which seems to be irrelevant in Wenger’s set up, he seems to pick his favourites no matter the occasion, Flamini’s one minute catastrophe being the most tragic of examples. He didn’t need to come on for the last ten minutes. He really didn’t. But this moment of madness had Wenger written all over it and the penalty was written in the script.
So Arsenal were chasing a game against the greatest team of all time. The players were already in the dressing room, the fans were already thinking of how Manchester United will run riot the following week. Welbeck came on and… the result didn’t change. But I felt far more comfortable with him on the pitch. He’s just a better option than Giroud and Walcott. He’s the perfect blend between the two, showing that neither are good enough on their own. He causes problems. He has pace. He’s strong, he can hold the ball up when Theo can’t. Like Giroud, his link up play is excellent, and he’s a poacher, when Walcott isn’t. Welbeck knows how to be more dangerous around the box. Giroud had one chance that night and forced a good save, but that was it. He was too static in the box. In the lead up to Barcelona’s ruthless opener, the ball floated into the box and Giroud, quite literally, stood still and watched the defender take it.
He causes problems. He has pace. He’s strong, he can hold the ball up when Theo can’t. Like Giroud, his link up play is excellent, and he’s a poacher, when Walcott isn’t. Welbeck knows how to be more dangerous around the box. Giroud had one chance that night and forced a good save, but that was it. He was too static in the box. In the lead up to Barcelona’s ruthless opener, the ball floated into the box and Giroud, quite literally, stood still and watched the defender take it. Trust me, it gets worse with repeat viewings. And when he wasn’t in the box he was forced to help out Monreal because Sanchez had gone for a stroll.
Barcelona undoubtedly resorted to brief spells of cheating, but when they did play, they played with a grace and efficiency that Arsenal simply couldn’t match. On the night, Arsenal weren’t disciplined enough. Barcelona knew it and they simply waited for the mistakes. Arsenal could’ve won, but the players lost control for the final third of the game, and you can’t do that against the best. It’s the same old story. There’s never enough discipline with this Arsenal team. They always miss chances. They always get caught off guard with a ridiculous high line. Excellent for 70 minutes only to shoot themselves in the foot. It’s the Arsenal way.