NLD: post-match thoughts and stuff
Okay, so it’s the morning after, and I've stated countless times I have no intention of excusing the 4-1 loss, but there is no reason to perhaps add perspective to the result and try to understand it.
I know Arsenal fans are desperate to wipe clean the memory of the 5-1 and last seasons 2-1 which ended their season (deal with it Wenger) but let's get some perspective here. Had we won last night, the game would not have got a dvd release.
Selections and formations
Harry stated, a while back, that the game is fundamentally about the players. No matter the formation. 10% about the formation, 90% about the players on the pitch. To quote him:
"If you have the best ones and they do their jobs, then they can pretty much play any way you want them to"
So no shocker then that when you play Palacios in an offensive midfield position, Bentley on the wrong flank, Gio on the wrong flank, then stick in some debutants including Sandro - who, let's be fair, is not going to be that confident in the side fielded unlike say a side with the likes of Bale, Huddlestone, Modric and vdV surrounding him.
I don't blame Harry for playing the players he played. Rock and hard place. If he's not going to play key players, he has no choice but to play the fringe ones. To be honest, I didn't expect Wenger to select so many first teamers in his squad - and then play all of them. I guess he really wants to win something this season.
I stand by my pre-match belief that a NLD is exactly that and we should never be looking to field a non-competitive side. Fact is, the patched up ethic doesn't work for us. It's not so much to do with out of form players or even out of position players (although that has an influence). It's to do with the lack of an in-house top to bottom philosophy.
Philosophy you say?
Our first team is rather good. Our first team would have beaten the team Arsenal put out last night. I'm confident of that. More than confident. Arsenal's first team? Well, that would have been a full blown NLD, blood and thunder and silky skills. We got nothing of the sort last night. So why can Arsenal play a mixture of youth, fringe players and first teamers and look so comfortable against our side of not so many first teamers, put plenty of supposed quality and promising youth?
Well firstly, the supposed quality is either spent or inept. And the promising youth is just that, but not yet excelling. Simply put. Wenger, the canny s.o.b. and the culture he has instilled into their club means that from top to bottom they play a distinctive style. Players are signed and developed to fit into a style of play. Its all very specific, and although arguably, at the moment (at least in the past half-decade) its not proving to be successful in terms of silverware, they do produce very clean, crisp, technical football. They are still massive c**ts, blatantly, in terms of moaning/diving/non-acceptance of defeat - but what it does mean is that they can mix and match and not betray their philosophy of play. There appears to be no detrimental effect, although, under-strength Wenger sides have had their arses spanked before. There are limits. The hype is just that.
There is also no doubting we play with a swagger and style. We always have. It's also the culture of the club to play sweeping pulsating football. But what last night proved is that if you don’t play a spine of first team players, if you take key players out of the equation, it all falls apart. It's not so much sweeping, but more sleeping. Yes, Harry did not help matters what with players out of their natural positions. And some of the players did not help themselves (what is the point of David Bentley again?). There was no cohesion or togetherness out there from our lot. Disjointed the thought of the day.
Our players are player-dependent. The system, it works best when the key players are starting. If we miss key players, there is still enough about the collective, mental strength wise, to still pull it altogether. Far too many light-weights, in the head department, last night. Then again, this is just the one game, so I won't be looking to scape-goat. More on Harry and the players below.
I'm not suggesting an overhaul of the academy, re-introduction of the reserve team etc - although that would be fantastic in terms of long term plans. In the short term, if we're going avoid risking key players but still remain competitive, then for starters - let's have some consistency in formation and balance the team out so it can at least pretend to try and play like a full strength first team. This would mean, signing a particular ilk of player. It's not an over-night solution. And Harry - long term - might not have the inclination to work in this way. Levy - wise up and get on it. If anything, the academy really has to start pushing on at same point soon.
Quick-fire player reviews
Pletikosa - Not very convincing
Naughton - Struggled
Caulker - Played well, but clumsy needless penalty. Would want to see him involved in more games because there is defo something about him that would have me think he has a future
Bassong - Meh
Assou-Ekotto - Was fine, nothing more, but you try looking effective with Bentley up ahead of you
Gio - Had to be subbed. This kid must have something if you can do it at international level. Time Harry cut him same slack ON the pitch
Sandro - Debut, NLD, showed glimpses but can't be too critical, considering the surroundings
Livermore - Struggled, not quite ready, even for a lower-tier cup game
Palacios - He's a DM, not a very good one at the moment regarding form, so why start him in a more offensive position?
Bentley - Honestly mate, stick to setting your foot on fire and diving into in-door swimming pools
Pav - No service, is not the type of player to carve out something from nothing
Keane - He scored. Hit the woodwork. Didn't do too badly, but if we're comparing him to Keane of old, it's all a bit depressing. He has lost the mojo.
Lennon - Little room for movement, little effort when the ball was at his feet. Do we need to draft in a psychologist?
Kranjcar - Out of position
As for the swamp things?
Plenty of possession, movement and passing. Didn't create that much though, did they? Two penalties won them the match, even with our complete incompetence to resemble a competitive side, it flattered them. I know, that's subjective. I wonder if Wenger will play a full strength side if he faced Chelsea in the next round? Probably beat them, innit, what with them being wonder-kid toddlers with mental matrix skillabilities. Gooners are really milking this, bless 'em. I guess they have to take what's handed to them on a plate and make the very most of it. At least they care enough to gloat. Take the bragging rights - no argument - but don't kid (lol) yourselves. It's not half as impressive as you'd like it to be. But then, you know that.
Harry got it wrong. It happens. Did he honestly think Wenger would play the under 11's? Whatever it was he tried to do failed, epically. It's frustrating that, say the likes of Gio who hardly gets a chance, gets one but is played out of position. Bentley, who you'd hope would want to change his application to something that doesn't involve him pouncing around like a really crap David Beckham impersonator, failed to ignite any hope of redemption. I'll stop now, I did say - no scapegoats.
If he can learn something from this, it's some players really do need to be gone in Jan and others need to be developed and used effectively. It's a shake of the head from me that Harry didn't follow his own belief about playing players where they play best.
Even so, what with all the post-match reflection this morning, the game changed on the first penalty decision. The chances created prior to that (our chances) were better. So, in the grand scheme of things…don't read too much in it. It sucks losing to them, its never acceptable to lose in a dejectable manner, but that's football.
Roll on Saturday.