Well if anything is going to bring your expectations down with a thud, it’s watching your 2nd string work together to put on a show Cirque De Soleis would be proud of. The usual suspects and some new ones led us to a 3-1 defeat away from home on a night that was further blighted by the hard to stomach sight of Andre Santos being taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
The game didn’t start brightly but Chamakh combined with Andrey for our first one on one, the Russian having his shot cut out by the keeper.
It didn’t take long for our first hash of the evening to occur. Squillaci and JD both challenged for a loose ball, comically it found its way into the path of Djebbour who easily took it round Fabianski and scored.
Bad defending is contagious. Moments after we conceded, Vermaelen shorted a back pass on the edge of the box, Fabianski shanked the clearance and the ball was returned with loft and just missed the post. Visions of Jens in Greece came flooding back!
Fabianski’s final calamity came when JD allowed himself to get roasted for the 3/4th time, the low cross came in, there was a keeper defender mix up, they both went for it, which led to an injury which saw Fabianski leave on a stretcher.
On came Mannone. I like the Italian. I remember his amazing game against Fulham (forgetting his countless disasters). How much worse could he be?
Holebas kicked Coquelin in the knee. The Frenchman rolled around like players used to in mid-nineties computer games, or much like Eboue used to as a standard response to being thrown a Lucozade bottle. Someone quipped on Twitter that challenge would have ended Diaby’s career. Lucky for us, the robust Coquelin survived.
Up the other end, AOC powered his way into the box, his cross looked nailed on for Andrey to bury it, Benny took it on instead and fluffed his shot wide. Why didn’t Arshavin scream for that ball?
Back down our end, Frimpong miscontrolled a Coquelin pass, the ball came back towards our box. Mannone cleared with his head as far as an Olympiacos player, same drill, ball looped back, excerpt there was no loop. Mannone could have used his hands to push the ball away but instead tried to kick it. He missed… The ball slinked into the net almost as embarrassed as Mannone.
Chamakh reminded us all he was alive, diving poorly, possibly anticipating the referee sympathised with wet look gel addicts. He really is a poor player. He has nothing about his game whatsoever.
The second half was no more impressive. Mannone was indecisive from crosses and looked visibly petrified. It’s been a long time since opposition teams fired 40 yard speculative shots at our goal. Well, last night it started happening again. We need to promote that Argentinean kid or buy an experienced back up sharpish.
Hope was restored for a moment when Miquel crossed to Chamakh who looked like he handled/dived at the ball, regardless, it found its way to Benny who buried his shot spectacularly past the Greek keeper. A stunning strike.
Our rank defending continued. If it wasn’t JD it’d be Squillaci, if it wasn’t those two it’d be midfield ceding possession. It really was painful to watch.
The game was finally put in a black bin bag and thrown over a bridge when Mellberg got a header off practically on the 18 yard line, it hit the post and Olympiacos were quickest to rebound.
Whilst there are a bunch of exciting kids coming through the ranks, one has to accept that when tempered with dross we’ve known about for years, it’s never going to work out.
Arshavin was hopeless. He’s off the pace both mentally and physically. I don’t know how he lives with his lack of effort. Why bother? Chamakh can’t even manage the basic 3 yard lay off these days. Something you’d have to say was his bread and butter last season. He was soooo good at 3 yard passes with his back to goal. Where has that exquisite asset gone?
Finally, Johann Djourrou. Now, I’m sure I remember him being a top player for the most part of last season. He was solid, calm on the ball and he put in some good performances. Now we’ve got a guy who seems to have forgotten how to play. He was roasted more times than a wannabe page 3 model at a footballers Christmas party. What has become of him? He’s lost his way with positioning, his passing is nervous and he doesn’t seem to communicate with anyone. It’s a real shame, he’s another Swiss player we all like as a person, but one who struggles with mental demons on the pitch.
The worry isn’t that our reserves aren’t as good as the first team, it’s the worry that at some point, you know we’ll be fielding a few of them against Manchester United in the FA Cup, or more likely, Real Madrid in the quarter finals of the Champions League. Our squad isn’t thin on numbers, it’s thin on quality. That’s what Wenger has to understand and address come January. He can’t go into the second half of the season hoping he’ll get away with Chamakh. That reminds me, if Chamakh is 2nd choice how bad must Park be? You can’t plead jet lag for 3 months!
The upshot of a game like yesterday is that Benny is off the mark. He scored a great goal. I also thought Coquelin impressed. He gets stuck in and he’s a defensive minded player with an eye for a space making pass. I really like his attitude. With a bit more game time and a little more focus in cutting out the silly mistakes, I’ve no doubt we’ve got a top player on our hands. Though Frimpong boasts more enthusiasm than a male intern at a Wonderbra shoot, he still lacks intelligence on the ball. He needs to concentrate on getting the basics right. Something I’m sure he’ll learn at Wolves. You make a hash of something up there, you’ll know about the hairdryer treatment.
AOC looked good in spells. I think he’s the sort of player who will shine in the first team. I don’t think his dynamic passing makes sense in a team with a striker less dynamic than Ade Akinbiyi.
The two messages of the night were loud and clear though.
1) We qualified early in first position. That is an improvement on last year. We did the job early, so if we want to field weak players and lose a game, that’s our decision.
2) By fielding weak players, the whole world has been reminded that a squad isn’t about numbers, it’s about talent. We don’t have talent in abundance outside about 15 players. We need a back up keeper, we need to seriously think about JD and Squillaci and we need, need, need a new striker to at least give Robin competition if Wenger’s utopic dream of keeping his star man fit all year comes to fruition.
That’s my piece said, see you in the comments.