Good evening Gooners. There’s only one place to start today and that is with Arsene Wenger’s press conference this morning, where the manager was unusually tetchy as he faced a bit of an inquisition into his team selection for last Tuesday’s loss against Olympiakos.
Asked again about his decision to play David Ospina rather than Petr Cech in goal against the Greek champions, the boss went on the defensive, stating his belief that both his goalkeepers were ‘world class’ and that Ospina was not to blame for the defeat in midweek. He said:
Looking at Ospina and Petr Cech, I think I have two world-class goalkeepers and it is the easiest choice I have to make because I can pick either of the two and I am very comfortable. It is the most difficult as well, because the two of them are world-class players and always you have to leave one out. No matter who plays you have a good goalkeeper in goal. One pundit says something on television and all behind that they repeat exactly the same thing. It is quite boring because nobody came out with numbers of this game where the game was won and lost. It’s quite depressing to read that and to hear that, to all come just to the same conclusion and not watch well what has gone on on the pitch. We have lost the game because we didn’t defend well, yes the goalkeeper made a mistake but we could still have won the game [despite] that.
I like the fact reporters are now asking difficult questions at these gatherings because for far too long I’ve felt that managers generally get too easy a ride from meek journalists, who are either afraid, or incapable, of making the kind of inquiries that would elicit insightful responses.
I’m not saying we’ve got to a stage where managers are intelligently grilled on tactical nuances or offered blunt appraisals by the press on certain players, as you often get in other countries for instance, but moving away from simply asking for an injury update or a manager’s ‘thoughts’ on something or someone is a step in the right direction in my opinion.
That said, what Arsene highlighted about Tuesday’s game is hard to argue with. Yes Ospina made a terrible mistake which led directly to us conceding a goal but then if, for example, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had done better on that first-half counter attack we had and scored or set-up a goal, perhaps the game would have turned out very differently.
Too often, one moment in a game is used to define the entire ninety minutes of action and that’s a bit simplistic. So in that respect, I agree with the manager – our loss had far more to do with collectively bad defending and in-game management by the team, than the selection and performance of the goalkeeper on the night. A better question to ask would have been ‘why do Arsenal seem to have these games every so often when they show all the intelligence of 11 Robbie Savages?’. Arsene then expanded on where he felt we went wrong, saying:
Maybe we lost the focus to defend and we just thought that we want to score more now. We were too much orientated on offensive drive and not enough on defensive caution. We learn from victory and we learn from defeat. We are eager to learn from what happens to us but it is true the disappointment is that it happened to us before and it has happened again.
Which goes back to what I said earlier this week that we were basically just a bit thick for a period in that game. Having just made it 2-2 and with plenty of time on the clock for a winner, we should have regrouped and taken our time in finding the next goal whilst ensuring we kept it tight at the back.
Anyway, that subject’s getting a bit boring now and if the squad’s soul-searching in the latter part of the week leads to a win against United on Sunday, then we might look back and say our shambolic showing in the Champions League was perfectly timed as far as our title challenge is concerned. That’s what I’m clinging to anyway.
Back tomorrow with a preview of the United game.
Have a good one. Laters.