04 August 2013

Arsenal 1-2 Galatasaray: I blame Koscielny

This is all Koscielny's fault.  It's his fault we finished so strong in last season's run-in, his fault that we beat Newcastle on the last day of the season to qualify for the Champions League, his fault that we managed a tie against Napoli on Saturday, his fault that we suffered a loss against Galatasaray on Sunday. It's all his fault that we haven't had any significant signings this summer.

Without him, we might have stumbled out of the top four, thereby convincing Arséne that, yes, we do in fact need signings. There was so much love lavished on Kos that we came to believe that we are going to be just fine, that Per's lack of pace is more than made up for by positional awareness, that we could field a back-line of Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, and Miquel against Drogba and Sneijder. Without Koscielny, we would have made enough signings by now that we'd be obliterating the likes of Galatasaray, but no. This morass we're in, this imbroglio, this cess-pool of mediocrity we now find ourselves in, is all his fault. Even the fact that he wasn't on the pitch against Gala is his fault. 

I kid, I kid.

This little set-back is, I believe, actually a good thing as it reminds (those of)us (who need reminding) of our needs; strengthening the defense and offense. Almost all of our focus in transfer-talk has been on forwards—Jovetic, Rooney, Higuain, Suarez—with barely a murmur of shoring up the defense. Yes, it showed greater cohesion and organization during the run-in last year, but let's be honest. We backed into fourth place thanks to a favorable schedule and some help from Spurs. Losing the Emirates Cup to Didier Drogba Galatasarary should serve, I hope, as one more reminder that all is not quite as good as we had led ourselves to hope or believe. We have Aston Villa coming to town on 17 August; that's thirteen days to conclude any signings in time for a player to be ready. The early fixtures afford us a little time for bedding in, but that's no excuse to dilly-dally.

We've seen how thin we are at back over the last two days. Jenkinson, though a bit better than he was on Saturday, still needs more time than we have. To keep the ball on his right, he will take three left turns instead of one right, making him vulnerable to losing the ball deep in our defensive third and preventing him from making passes anywhere. Miquel showed his inexperience, forgetting or not knowing that Drogba will fall like a man shot if molecules of your sweat land on him, especially when he's in the box. A cagier defender would not let himself fall victim to that, knowing that Drogba is to diving what fish are to swimming. It's just what he does. His second goal, however, lays bare Mertesacker's deficiencies: caught flat-footed, he was unable to keep up with Drogba as the pass from Sneijder arrived, nor was he able to change direction quickly enough to get in front of Drogba to prevent the shot.

Of course, at the other end, it was a familiar story as we were unable to unlock a defense. Lots of passing and dribbles amounted to nothing as we couldn't actually get off enough quality shots (for the grammarians out there, let "enough" modify both the number of quality-shots as well as the quality of shots themselves). When we did, our attackers too often shot high, wide, or directly at Gala's keeper. Sanogo looked promising, but that's as much credit as I'm willing to give. Even Walcott's goal was an accident, as everyone expected some kind of deflection. When it didn't come, the ball just bounced on in. We need more offense than that kind of rubbish (sorry, Theo). A forward like Higuain might have come in handy, if not for the direct-threat he could pose but for how he'd help to stretch a defense out of shape to open up chances for teammates. Sanogo had some chances, but he isn't ready to have that effect, and on a day when others squandered their chances, we were left with precious few options.

It's with all of this in mind that I eschew a more direct reflection of the game. The result is about as much as we deserved after relying on a fluke-goal for 78 minutes and conceding twice in ten minutes to a player who has bedeviled us far too often over the years.

Yep, all the pieces are now in place for a dramatic signing or two this week. Thank you, Gala, for helping the scales to fall from our eyes. I refer, of course, to the crust I'll be rubbing from my eyes when I wake up Monday morning to read of some beautiful, beautiful signings. Please?