Thursday 20 March 2014

Those Lot 0-1 Us Lot [Herris Damansara Perdana, Kuala Lumpur]

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Borneo writing this, and I'm quite smug. Why's that you ask? Let me see:

I witnessed a good ol' one-nil to the Arsenal. Against Sp*rs. At White Hart Lane. To make it three consecutive beatings this season (I like the term 'beatings' over 'wins' when it comes to Sp*rs, it seems more fitting somehow). We are in strong contention to qualify for the Champions League for the umpteenth time whilst that lot over there are having to settle, once again, for the Europa 'Special'
Podolski. I think he likes it here
League that, let's face it, isn't any more salubrious than the 'UEFA Cup' which preceded it. We're also within a shout of winning the FA Cup and, whilst it's a long shot, the possibility to lift the Premier League trophy too. It. Just. Might. Happen.

Meanwhile Tim Sherwood is trying to eat his own face.

Sunday's game at the Lane of Farts was an odd one though. We went ahead after two minutes, courtesy of an absolute stunner by that man Tom Ross. It will go down as one of the great derby goals, although lets face it, there have been many, many, many good ones netted against them over the years. Once the ball had ripped its way through the back of the net and scorched on towards Essex, we had a few clear chances to really put the game to bed but, with the Ox failing to find his shooting boots (even his 'assist' for Rosicky was questionable) we were once again left squandering our opportunities. It was another one of those matches where we carved out a result despite accepting that at any point we could have drawn, or even lost the tie.

It's because we simply aren't ruthless enough. I'm perfectly happy with us winning every game by a single goal to clinch the title, but we all know that's about as probable as Nicky Bendtner passing a sobriety test on a Saturday morning. We have a solid defensive pairing in Mertescielny at the back but even they can't stop the inevitable few goals from creeping in, be it as a result of a calamity from Szczesny, a slip (or late tackle) from Kos or simply a stunning bit of individual play, like Deulofeu's equaliser against us earlier in the season. We can't assume we're going to get these one-nils all the time.

The fact is, Arsenal are a team that simply don't capitalise on opportunities and possession as well as others would do in our situation. Eventually this'll come back and bite us like the proverbial monkey with rabies, and we'll be left on the floor struggling to pick ourselves up. Now I'm not one to complain, I really am the optimist when it comes to Arsenal and the Wenger-era, but even I know that we have a lot more to give in terms of goals, and we can do it with the squad we've got at the moment.

Arsenal's chance-taking is getting better, and it's become evident over the past few weeks. Our game is now more direct, which I can only see as a good thing (everybody knows Arsenal are the world-leader in passing the ball from one player to the other horizontally whilst avoiding shooting at every opportunity). It's no coincidence that we are without the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil and Walcott and yet our attacking has become more fluent and aggressive. The absence of the aforementioned has presented the likes of Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain – arguably our most direct players - with the opportunity to demonstrate their worth, and boy have they done just that.

It's not just about ability, Özil and the others have that in spades. It's about mentality, it's about having balls, 'enterprise' if you like, and taking the game by the scruff of the neck, inviting tackles in as we move forward the moment we have the ball and accepting that a move may or may not pay off (and that we might just lose possession). No hesitancy, just direct play, towards those white sticks some people call 'the goal'. Rosicky and the Ox are already doing it. Özil, Ramsey, Wilshere and even Walcott are not. I've seen it myself on more than one occasion where they will actually slow down their own counterattack to get the pass rate up, at which point opposing defenders have already regrouped and pushed us back into our own half. WHY!? It's bloody frustrating and I'm sure many others will agree.

We have to look at the basics, the foundations of our tactics: keeping the ball, something that has always been the Arsenal way, because if you have the ball, the opposition can't score, simples. But if that's the case, why do a good handful of the teams we play against, who average 20-40% possession in each game, still beat us? It's because they take risks with their forward play. Put simply, it's a numbers game, like anything else, be it gambling, dating or selling timeshares. The more you have a stab at it, the more likely you are to succeed. And that's the kind of mentality we need to adopt. Passes don't make goals, shots do (hey I came up with a new song!).

A snake. Borneo
So essentially, if it were me wearing the body-length Nike embroidered ribbed condom with malfunctioning zip, and not Mr Wenger, I'd take a look at what TR7 and OX15 are bringing to the team and try replicating that mentality with the others, or at least make sure that we always have at least one of those players on the field at any one time. We have others that have been 'pre-programmed' to automatically run for goal the moment they have the ball who are chomping at the bit to get on the pitch, that includes Serge Gnabry. I'm sure that the involvement of these direct players, together with our technical playmakers, will give us a whole new dynamic without upsetting the possession play that is part and parcel of present-day Arsenal football.

So, with 'Clueless Pete's Guide To Winning' out of the way, I can give you a bit of an update on the charity situation. As of right now, I'm currently at the $11k mark in fundraising for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. If you're not aware of the motive behind this, please read more about it here. I still have another $4,000 to go, and the season ends as soon as we've lifted the FA Cup Trophy (!) in May. So I don't have long to go, but that's still a hefty amount to raise. I would really appreciate your help in achieving this goal, so please spare what you can, literally anything, and donate here.

Right now I'm in Kota Kinabalu in eastern Borneo, where I have already had some encounters with the local residents, including the Proboscis Monkey with it's massive schnozzer (related to our Olivier perhaps?). I will be watching the Chel$ea game here with the local Arsenal fans before heading back to Kuala Lumpur next week to watch my final match in Malaysia, Arsenal v Swansea.Then, at the end of the month I head to Vietnam and, last but not least, China!

For now though, selamat tinggal!



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