There were many that were shocked when they saw Theo Walcott starting ahead of Oliver Giroud against Newcastle, but many were applauding the inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I know the game was extremely tough and we didn’t create too much but I believe it was the right squad 11 vs 11.
We had Laurent Koscielny back in central defence alongside Gabriel, two rather similar players but absolute warriors. Not long into the first half we should have had a penalty when Bellerin was brought down in the box by Newcastle newboy Thauvin. The only reasoning I can conceive as to why it wasn’t given is due to the referees line of vision being impaired.
Newcastle then opted to play rugby for the remainder of the first half with some ludicrous fouls in quick succession. Sissoko picked up a yellow for going studs first into Monreal’s shin, then not long after Mitrovic decided to do the same to Coquelin. He was shown an instant red card. The referee showing he was card happy in order to reduce the amount of dangerous challenges. This was not to be the last of it though, especially on Coquelin.
Our game plan was obvious, lure the Newcastle players out of position and play Theo in behind the defence, and utilise the pace of Alexis and Chamberlain outside him. This game plan went out the window when the red card was shown as it changed the entire dynamic of the game. Newcastle were going to sit deep with the objective to not lose and try to hit us on the counter if possible. This does not change the fact that we need a new striker, as in my opinion Theo Walcott is not a central striker. Walcott, in my mind, is an attacking wide man.
Frustration grew throughout the entire first half due to the fact we got the edge of the penalty area then either passed it sideways, backwards or just gave the ball away trying to thread it through 5-6 Newcastle players. Everyone knows that against a defensive 10 man team you need to be patient but we were trying the same thing over and over again with no positive outcome. There was a lack of drive, urgency and effort. We were trying to pull players out of position but we were playing far too slow to do so.
We eventually managed to go 1 nil up thanks to a deflected Chamberlain effort shortly into the second half. Then the game resorted back to more of the same of the first half. There was a great chance at the end for Giroud, when he came on, which saw him try to be too clever and lob Krul but it was an easy save. A top striker should be finishing that chance.
People were moaning that we lack creativity without Mesut Ozil but we managed to create 22 attempts at goal and 9 shots on target with the team that played. The problem is our finishing and ruthlessness in front of goal and converting those chances/efforts. We attack as if we know we will get another chance and it doesn’t really matter if we miss, which is totally the wrong attitude. If we want to be true title contenders then we need to be converting our chances. What if we don’t get another goal scoring opportunity in the game? What if we get a red card? Make the most of the chances and be ruthless, we lack that killer up front.
Here are Wenger’s comments after the match:
You play away from home, 11 against 10, and you know that they will play 15 yards deeper, you play 10 against nine in the final third, the crowd is behind their team which puts pressure on the referee, and then it’s very difficult. We didn’t find the space. They defended well and they’ve shown why they didn’t concede at Manchester United as well. We are happy to have the three points and to win 1-0.
On whether we will be active in the transfer window:
“We are open and we are in the transfer market. If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it. At the moment I don’t know if something will happen or not. We’re working on it, I’m not any more or less optimistic than I was last week. You always want more goalscorers, but it’s unpredictable.”
I really hope we do sign a player in a position that is lacking, such as a defensive midfielder or a striker. But be prepared for disappointment as you know how transfer windows are for us Gooners. It wouldn’t just be great for the squad but it would lift the fans and lift the squad morale.