Wow. What a game! I’m writing directly after Arsenal ran out 7-5 winners over Reading after extra time. It will surely go down as one of the most bonkers games in footballing history. There were more twists and turns than an epileptic adder. Arsenal fans can take great solace in the fact that their team ended up on the winning side.
But this should also provide us with a moment for pause. No game should ever end up 7-5. That’s just not how it works. You should never, ever, ever be allowed to concede five goals and still win a game. Whilst Arsenal pulled off the seemingly impossible feat, they must take every necessary step to ensure that these circumstances never occur again.
From the 50th minute, Arsenal looked like a side who knew their season was in the balance. Reading looked like a side who had just been struck with the following realization: ‘there’s a long way to go and we’re playing against some of football’s best attacking players’.
That Reading all of a sudden began to lose belief, is something of a marvel in itself. They enjoyed an imperious first half, where they made a hapless Arsenal side look like Championship fodder. Arsenal were all over the place at the back and Reading were able to pluck down every ball that was sent into the box and trouble Arsenal’s inexperienced goalkeeper.
Their aerial dominance, combined with an air of confidence to create a style of play that Arsenal just couldn’t keep up with. Worst of all, I won’t have it said that the Gunners can pass it up as being the result of ‘youth’ and ‘inexperience’.
No Wenger-side should ever be that poor. Laurent Koscielny should have provided more leadership. Francis Coquelin should have provided more protection in front of the back four. The full-backs should have displayed more discipline. Discipline was the key word – Arsenal displayed no structure and were punished on multiple occasions.
We’ve seen these problems at Premier League and Champions League level too this season. Defending is still a major issue for Arsenal. Without top class players like Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker, there’s no telling how many goals Arsenal would concede.
At the moment, the balance clearly isn’t right and Arsenal always look susceptible to the counter attack. The first team needs to find the right mix, apply discipline and maintain consistency. Without these elements, the Gunners will be in for a mighty long season.
What’s your take? How do Arsenal solve their defensive crisis?
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