The sun was shining. The grass was pristine. And Arsenal were back. Within a quarter of an hour, Alexis Sanchez had the Gunners ahead. The first day back from international break could have been going any better. But soon, in typical Arsenal fashion, they allowed Hull to level with their first sniff of goal. And not a minute after halftime, Hull scored again to take the lead. The Gunners grabbed a late equalizer and pushed on for the winner in stoppage-time, but this match came as a harsh reminder that Arsenal are a squad filled with issues right now.
The start of the game saw Arsenal dominate in the final third. Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were taking turns dropping deep to receive the ball. They’d look up, and somebody would be making the run. Sanchez’s opening goal came from a brilliant solo effort down the right. But on the whole, Arsenal created a lot of chances in the early going with intricate moves through the midfield. But then it all changed.
The issues start at the back. Yes, Mathieu Flamini was pulled back on Mohammed Diame’s goal after getting goalside. It was 100% a foul. But what was Nacho Monreal doing? He ran up the Diame and whiffed on both the ball and the man. He didn’t even come close to stopping a man that was running directly at him. Some would say he even got out of the way. And this wasn’t the only time Monreal failed miserably at center back. The message is clear. Nacho Monreal is not a center back. Do not play him there. The fact that there aren’t any other senior options does not make Monreal starting there permissible.
Then at the start of the second half, Per Mertesacker, the experienced defender, fell asleep on Abel Hernandez’s run in front of him. Monreal probably should have read the first ball and not allowed the cross to be played in. But it was horrible defending from Mertesacker.
Once Hull went ahead, they were always going to be hard to break down. Their defense was organized, and Arsenal decided the best way through was to dribble straight through them. It didn’t work. Finally, after a full half of doing this, Alexis Sanchez played in Danny Welbeck in the first minute of stoppage time for the equalizer. Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal had chances to get all three points in the closing minutes, but the game ended 2-2.
When Arsenal were down, Wilshere was the one demanding the ball. But as has happened far too often this often, he went down with what looked to be a fairly serious knee injury. We can only hope it’s a three-week injury and not three months.
I guess it continues to be a positive that Arsenal continue to save points at home with late goals, but at some point, they need to stop going behind. It is one thing to give up 2 goals to Manchester City at the Emirates. It is entirely different against Hull. Right now, Arsenal are not playing well at home. That is a problem that must be fixed.
I thought Joel Campbell made a strong case for more playing time today. He was confident on the ball and was always in the right place. On another day, he might have done better with Cazorla’s rebounded shot, but on the whole, I thought Campbell made a much bigger impact on the game than Aaron Ramsey did off the bench. Ramsey still doesn’t look quite fit. And generally, I was pleased with Hector Bellerin. He looks to a be a real talent.
Things are not going to be easy for the next couple months. Arsenal are woefully short in certain areas of the field. They will have to grind out results week after week. They will need wins, not draws, from this point forward. It will test character and commitment. Is this Arsenal side good enough to compete with anyone? Absolutely. But are they willing to battle in the trenches while the injuries mount and with all the pressure in the world squarely upon them? I wish I knew.
Unfortunately, because I lost my feed for an extended stretch in the second half, I can’t provide player ratings for today’s game. Who did you think did well? Please comment below.