So season over… we kind of knew that anyway right?
We were put out of the Champions League and then the Premiership in the same week. It has been a disappointing end to what has been our most competitive season in 4 years. I’m not going to sit hear and tell you I am pleased with how this year has panned out, but I am not completely gutted.
We’ve played some beautiful football at times, some average players have come good and we’ve shown that with a few select additions we really could be contenders next year.
The key to next year being a success is that Arsene and his coaching staff learn from the failings of this season, and probably seasons past. I am going to give you a break down of where I thought things went wrong yesterday, and what I thought was great about yesterday.
There is no need to go overboard today, I think its time for some honest reflection and for us as Gooners to look forward to next season.
So what happened?
Well, who looked at the line up and didn’t say… SONG! At centre back! What that fuck… is he mad! Yes, Song at centre back. Arsenal, one of the greatest clubs in the world was playing an average player in an unnatural position for the 2nd time in his Arsenal career… against the Worlds form team.
Then blogger Geoff made the good point…
‘Its better than having Phil there…’
A good point, he can’t be any worse can he? Is that something an Arsenal fan should ever be saying? Is that what our squad has boiled down to? Playing poor players out of position?
Wouldn’t logic tell you that Eboue should play right back, Toure should play in the middle and Walcott or Cesc on the right?
Anyway we played great football and we had the best chances. We dominated the first half and should have been 3 up.
Adebayor missed 3 absolute sitters. It was unbelievable how guilt edged the chances were, but he is a man out of form and low on confidence. I am not going to slate him, because I rate him. He ran his socks off and he worked himself into the positions. I’d prefer a player to miss 4 sitters than a player who isn’t good enough to get into the positions in the first place. The goals will come, it is just not happening for him at the moment.
When we went 1-0 up after Ade’s hand balled goal, I went mad… but how many of you actually believed in your heart of hearts we’d hang on? I didn’t. Nor did the other Gooners I was sitting with. This team doesn’t know how to close a game off do they, maybe that’s what Wenger meant about maturity.
Sure enough we were right… 10 minutes later and Gallas handled a through ball and gave away a penalty…
Take note Gallas… No one walked away and kicked the hoardings did they? No one went and sat on the half way line and sulked did they? I don’t want to completely lambaste the guy, but he is 30 years old and was once regarded as one of the top 10 defenders in the world… what has happened recently? We have two of the best full backs in the world, you can’t really argue with that… but we’ve only kept 12 clean sheets this year and I can’t remember many Manuel mistakes.
Is the problem that Kolo and Gallas aren’t as good as we think they are? I don’t know… but it’s worth asking the question because we just don’t seem to be able to crack it defensively do we? What makes it worse is Sol Campbell is doing really well down and Pompey… and we let him go on a free!
Next up on my list of moans was the free kick Gilberto gave away. Gilberto is just not…
No, I am not going down that route, Gilberto was excellent today and I think the worst thing we can do this summer is get rid of him. Why are people so quick to write good players off? He is an asset and I think his dip in form was due to match practice and being sacked off as the captain.
Sorry, I went off the point.
My point is, we conceded our second goal for the same reason we conceded the first against Liverpool (Away). Lehmann watched the player not the ball. He didn’t even dive! He was waiting for Ronaldo to shoot! I hope I am not alone in my thoughts on that… it was a good free kick, but it merited a dive at least.
I remember reading that when Beckham took free kicks against Seaman, he wouldn’t asked for a wall because great players didn’t worry about the wall. I am unsure why Lehmann left so much free space for Hargreaves? His kicking was poor today, but he did make a few good saves. For me, he just cemented my attitude… Almunia is number 1.
So how about the good things? Well, we’re not that far off being a great team. I hope Wenger is bluffing when he says we only need one player… even the most ardent ‘Arsene Know’s Brigader’ can see that is simply not true.
If we sorted out our defence in the summer by my reckoning we would only be a winger and maybe another midfielder off being a great team. I accept that Vela is coming, but he is not the answer… let’s not pin our hopes on up and coming children. I’ve had 3 years of doing that. How many of these kids come in and have an immediate impact? Hardly any of them…
Up front Bendtner looks like he is very close to becoming a great player for the club. Adebayor is already a good player, he just needs a bit of confidence and a rest. RvP will start next season, so hopefully he can fulfill his world class potential. Theo could come of age next year and we still have Eddie to look forward to at Christmas. Maybe we could do with a bit of proven goal scoring talent? I don’t know… just someone to bang them in when our backs are against the wall. We don’t have as many match winners as our rivals do we?
In midfield Cesc is just Cesc, he hasn’t been on fire during the tail end of the season but you know he’ll be stronger for next year. Hleb was fantastic today; I wish he could motivate himself to play like that all the time. The only problem I have with him is that he is only 70% of what is required… if you won’t shoot as a midfielder… players will stand off you. No one fears Hleb from 30 yards out.
I may as well just start the player ratings now!
Lehmann: Made some important saves early on but he let himself down with his kicking and his player watching for the Manc free kick. 6
Toure: Caught out of position a few times and skinned by Rooney early on… clearly not a right back. 6
Song: Not great for an Arsenal player, but good compared to Senderos. It’s not a glowing endorsement is it? Why can’t we just buy a decent back up? Why put a DM in at CB… 6
Gallas: He was doing ok until he conceded that ridiculous penalty. Arsene just doesn’t seem to be able to get the best out of him at Arsenal. 6
Clichy: I really rate him, he causes all sorts of problems going forward and he is spot on at the back. He had a good game today and added a bit of stability to a shaky defence. 7
Eboue: The guy is an appalling player. He feigns injury at every opportunity and seems to be living off a cross he made last year. It was one cross people… One CROSS! Rubbish as usual. 4
Gilberto: I thought he was great today, his passing was on and his break up play was great. Don’t sell him Arsene, we need to keep all the experience we can. 7
Cesc: I thought he played well today, I wonder where he left his shooting boots? They have been missing since December… If anyone has seen them, drop me an e-mail. 7
Hleb: My gosh, did someone promise him a free Mr Whippy at the end of the game? The guy was fantastic today; the ball stuck to his feet like glue, his passing was brilliant… but no shooting as usual. 8
RvP: Non existent most of the game. He is taking a long time to settle back into things; maybe Euro 2008 will give him the boost he needs! 6
Adebayor: Missed 4 guilt edged chances, but he worked hard and caused Rio and Pique problems all day. He got his reward when he elbowed the ball into the back of the net, but on his report card there is a big…’Must do better‘. I have faith in him though; he is very close to becoming a truly great player for the club. 7
Theo: He got a whole 30 minutes today. I think we were hoping for more of an impact, but hey… he is only 19. Even though his contribution was low, it was still twice as good as Eboue’s. 7
Nikki B: Caused almost as many problems as Ade when he came on. He squandered to headers at the far post, but his passing and link up play was great. I think if he stays this summer, we could be in for a treat next year. 7
Hoyte: To be honest, he was a freeking revelation… he marshalled the back line with Tony Adams like authority and made sure no one gave Lehmann anything to worry about. If he’d have started… we would have won. Fact. 10
So in conclusion, we lost but we expected it.
Let’s not go down the route of blaming our collapse on luck, it’s a weak argument. In football, as in life… you make your own luck. When you start blaming your demise on things out of your control you start to feel sorry for yourself. Arsenal FC is not about that.
Let’s not blame injuries. All the big teams have had injuries. Let’s be thankful Cesc, Flamini, Hleb, Ade, Gallas, Sagna and Clichy went majority of the season unscathed. Let’s hope Rosicky has successful surgery in the summer and let’s hope RvP is over his thigh problems. Instead of moaning about injuries, let’s think about what a bit of decent cover could have done.
Please don’t call for Arsene’s head. The guy has worked wonders for us over the years and he is close to pulling off his next miracle. Loyalty works both ways. How many of the doom mongerers were signaling the end of Arsenal when it looked like he was going to leave? Plenty!
At the same time, don’t be satisfied with a trophyless season. It is not our divine right to win something every year, but it is our right to have a team that can compete on numerous fronts. We pay enough money to expect a big enough squad. Hopefully Wenger will realise that in the summer.
Next season begins today. Try and be positive because it ain’t all bad!
Happy Blogging Grovers!