Aaron Ong laments the rearguard frailties which saw Fulham score thrice in a 3-3 draw and says Arsene Wenger needs to instill a greater sense of commitment and concentration.Hope is a dangerous thing to have when watching a football game.
Why? It is dangerous to have hope, simply because of the cruel way it can be snatched from you at the very death.
And that was what happened to us this past weekend when Arteta saw his injury time spot-kick saved, though it would honestly have been an undeserved win if it had gone in.
But sometimes you do need these kinds of things to go your way. A win might spark a run of good results, while a draw simply increases the pressure on our team, of which so much more is expected.
Some of that expectation was heightened early this season when we seemed to have found some defensive stability. We have since lost our league-best defensive record, and seven goals conceded in the last three games suggests that a lot more work needs to be done in that area.
Our defending against Fulham was simply sub-par and unbefitting for a team at this level. Berbatov was afforded far too much space to score the first and set up the second. Looking at our back-four, I cannot see any case for a change in personnel, but the defensive tactics and concentration do need a big shake-up if we are to improve our results anytime soon.
Once again, I don’t think our midfield acquitted themselves particularly well. Coquelin, who I was pleased to see in the starting line-up initially, was pretty anonymous and didn’t provide the ball-winning contribution I had hoped for. His replacement, Ramsey, was really careless with his tackling, almost getting sent off, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger gave him a earful after the game.
More worryingly, our two Spaniards chose this day to put in a relative non-performance as well. Cazorla looked like he was in need of a break, and Arteta will remember this game for the two penalties. His miss was obviously disappointing, but more crucial was his lapse of concentration that led to his foul on the very impressive Bryan Ruiz.
Giroud probably had his best game for us, and he took his two goals with absolute aplomb. I am glad he is finding his scoring boots, but it does seem like we have simply progressed in one area of the pitch, while regressing in another.
Wenger's biggest challenge could be to bring about a greater sense of commitment and concentration. It may sound rather abstract, but there’s no other way to describe what has changed in our defensive makeup.
The good news is that there isn’t a need for added motivation for our next game against Tottenham. Along with the fans, the players will be fired up against our North London rivals. A win will not only lift us above them, but it could very well have the same transformative effect as our 5-2 win over them back in February.
Come on you Gunners!
Aaron has been an Arsenal fan since the mid 90's, and is currently a member of Arsenal Singapore, the official Arsenal supporters' club in Singapore. He is also a passionate Lions supporter, and he still dreams of seeing Singapore compete in the World Cup someday.