17 August 2013

1-3 Aston Villa: precisely what we need and deserve

I won't even summarize the events of the match. I'll skip past that step because I'm simply disgusted. We didn't look like we wanted to win, and with the way we played, we clearly didn't deserve to. The only flaws to this outcome, in my mind, is that there are a few fig leaves that
Arsene can hide behind: one, we didn't have a full-strength squad available; and two, the refereeing was truly abominable. As the baying for some kind of signings grows, I'm afraid that these two will be offered as mitigating factors and to somehow try to suggest that we're going to be fine once we get players back from injury and don't have to deal with that kind of refereeing again.

This was an embarrassment, and any attempt to dress it up as anything else would be a sham and a scam to boot. Yellow-cards or penalties aside, this shows that we don't have enough quality on the squad to contend—not that any of us had full-faith otherwise. If this doesn't cause the scales to fall from Arsene's eyes, I'm afraid I may just lose the faith I've had in him. As it stands, my faith in his leadership is hanging by a thread.

This result, then, is perfect. It exposes the squad for what it is. The injuries have depleted us, of course, but we'll go into next week's match against Fulham without Koscielny as well, leaving us with Mertesacker and Jenkinson as our only fully fit defenders after Sagna and Gibbs appeared to suffer injuries during the game. Two years ago, it seemed to take an 8-2 drubbing to convince Arsene to sign Arteta, Gervinho, and Mertesacker—days before the transfer window closed. Last summer, it took the looming departure of Robin van Persie to get Arsene to sign Podolski, Giroud, and Cazorla. This past January, it took an injury to Gibbs to convince Arsene to sign Monreal—on the last day of the transfer window. If we have a manager whose transfer-"policy" depends on responding to injuries and crises, we are absolutely and completely screwed. There's no other way to put it; we'd be left right where we are and have been for the last few weeks, actually hoping something bad happens—a shock-loss, an injury, etc.—before something good can happen to improve the squad.

Of course, 3-1 is not nearly as bad as 8-2, but, then again, Aston Villa is not nearly as good as Man U, and the Emirates is not nearly as hostile to us as Old Trafford. We faced a team that barely escaped relegation last year and who made a few nice additions but are still likely to face it again this year, and we were thoroughly out-classed. Aston Villa averaged 0.63 goals per game on the road last season, and we conceded three. I don't care that two of them were the result of crap-calls You can't concede penalties in the box unless you let opponents carry the ball into the box in the first place, and you can't go out and score only one goal against a team that conceded 2.28 goals per game on the road while still pretending that you're a top-flight team.

We're just not a top-flight team. This is only one result, of course, but it's a damning one, and it highlights too many of our flaws. We depend entirely too much on Koscielny to do everything on defense, and when he falls short of the excellence he's shown, there's little else we can do and no one else to turn to. We depend too much on Arteta to organize the midfield, and when he's out, we lose. It seems to be just that simple. We don't have anyone to depend on up-top, so I can't even single out someone whose absence or poor form doom us similarly.

There are little more than two weeks left before the transfer-window closes. If we don't see any action soon, it could be a long, dreary season.