Eboue Squillaci Djourou Gibbs
Wilshere Fabregas Denilson,
Rosicky Walcott Bendtner
Another shocking night of football to throw onto the nasty smelly pile that is gathering in corner of the Arsenal dressing room. I spoke to someone close to the club before the game and he said he thought last night was going to be a really tough game on account of how deflated everyone was after the Spurs game.
How right was he?
My brother said it was like watching England and I couldn’t help but agree. We were unimaginative, flat and completely lacking in confidence. That was a team on their knees, a team struggling for leadership… a team without a clue.
This wasn’t your run of the mill Champions League team. This was a team of first timers who have a novelty stadium built into a cliff. They’re not a big name in Portugal… they’re one season wonders in the Champions league and they’re currently sitting 10th in their home division after losing 4 of their last 5 games.
We dominated them possession wise but as we’ve touched on a thousand times over the past 4 years… posession doesn’t count for anything if you don’t put the ball in the net. We were so poor in attack I can barely remember their keeper making a save. Arsenal crabbed the ball around the park in a most unfluid fashion. Without Arshavin, Chamakh and Robin Van Precious in the side, we really do struggle with directness. 1 shot on target is testament to that.
Cesc played with that 2010 sullen moody look on his face. I said earlier in the summer that it wouldn’t surprise me if he picked up lots of niggly injuries this season. He doesn’t want to be here and he’s playing that way. He picked up a hamstring tweak but it wasn’t bad enough for him to go down. I can’t help but be reminded of Arjen Robben in his last season at Chelsea. Is he really interested in fighting for us out there? Did he fancy it last night? It didn’t look that way to me and sadly a team is a reflection of it’s captain.
Nik Bendtner added about £26 to his £2.5million valuation with yet another anonymous performance. If his game was as good as his arrogant sound bites, we’d have a real player on our hands. Not that he was the only poor player out there today. I can’t remember seeing Nasri at all, he really didn’t impose his good form on the night, like I’d have hoped from an impact sub.
When I did see Theo he was either running into someone or trying to show off one of his two tricks (jink left / jink right). Rosicky kept the ball flowing and that was about it. Denilson returned to type with a typically poor performance making two costly errors in the process. How many times do I have to complain that Denilson isn’t up to the physical challenge of top class football?
I knew once we hit the hour mark at 0-0, we were in trouble. I said to my brother,
‘This is the sort of game we’ll lose 1-0’
85 minutes kicked in, a long ball was launched up the pitch, Denilson was marking one of the fastest players on the pitch… bang… 1-0 down. How our Brazilian can be so switched off that he loses at least 10 yards in two seconds is totally beyond me. No one in our back line was thinking about Mateus. We totally switched off again.
Shortly afterwards a similar event unfolded, Denilson wasn’t strong enough to shield the ball, he was clattered over, Mateus picked the loose ball up from behind the half way line, he powered into our box, 3 of our defenders couldn’t handle his trickery and he rifled home from 10 yards out.
At least Song would have had the decency to body check his man.
I have to say, that last goal actually made me laugh. The defending looked like a scripted re-make of a Charlie Chaplin silent movie classic. It was slap stick. It wasn’t something that was meant to be seen on a professional football field. It was totally Arsenal.
I can’t even say it was unbelievable because it was 100% believable. The players all huffed and puffed because they knew, once again, they’d shown they’re not up to it.
We can complain about the penalty that definitely was not a dive. We can complain the referee was so bad the Scottish FA would probably pass on him if he threw an application into the ring this weekend. We can shout about our bad luck with injuries. The simple fact is, if we can’t do the basics right, we’ve only got ourselves to blame.
I said after the home Shaktar game that clean sheets were important because we couldn’t go on averaging 3 goals a game. Well, now we’re not scoring the goals, we’re suffering the indignity of losing to poor teams… and yes, Spurs are a poor side compared to us.
Why are we playing such a high line against a team of incredibly fast players? I called it in yesterday’s post… beware of the pace! How can we be so consistently naive? Why is Denilson chasing Bale one week and the fastest player for Braga the next? Even more frightening is that we rarely concede more than 6-7 shots… yet we can’t stop leaking goals. They only managed 3 shots on target yesterday!
Fans respond to fighters on the pitch. I didn’t see any evidence of that out there this evening. Where is the desperation to win? Where is that never say die attitude? Why didn’t Carlos Vela scream at the ref when he was blatantly hacked down? Where were the rest of his team mates backing his case?
Technical talent can’t hide the fact that we’re soft to the core. The mental spirit is weak, there’s no winning mentality on the pitch and right now I’m struggling to work out who is more at fault, Arsene Wenger for sending out his team without motivation or the players for being so gutless?
Someone asked me if I thought another manager could do a better job. Personally, I think we’ve got the best squad in the league. I am totally of the belief that if we had a culture of ‘win at all costs’ in the dressing room things would be different. Young players are different to experienced pros. You have to teach them the art of winning. Wenger isn’t doing that at the moment. He’s teaching them that if you stick to Wengerball, everything will be ok. Don’t worry about defending, don’t worry about the other teams strengths… just play the beautiful game.
It doesn’t work…
Those players need instructions. They need to be told exactly how to defend. They need to be told who are the danger players and we need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition before we play and build a plan around them. This squad are good enough to win the league and on their day they are good enough to make a semi final of the champions league.
They’re not good enough to do it without leadership, tactics and motivation.
We’ve lost our edge and the manager now needs to earn his crust and give these boys the belief back.
As bad as tonight was, don’t lose sight of the fact that we can go top of the Premiership on Saturday and we only need a win against Belgrade to qualify for the Champions League.
Things feel bad at the moment, but they could be a whole lot worse. Tonight will have meant nothing if we go to Villa on Saturday and stuff our Brummie friends in their own back yard.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
A few weeks ago I was told Cesc wasn’t injured, he was playing with the hand brake on… Last night he pulled up with what looked like a hamstring tweak. Hopefully its minor, either way, you’d imagine he’ll be out longer than the 2-3weeks Wenger has been quoted on. How can he keep coming back in the minimum time if it’s ‘recurring‘?
Emmanuel Eboue picked up his first serious injury from a tackle. Ironic as he’s been feigning leg break like pain for years. Wenger said it’s serious which is a worry. There is also the news that Robin didn’t travel because of an ankle knock… which is just precautionary, so hopefully we’ll see him this weekend.
The only bit of positive news I can give you is that Thomas Vermaelen does not have a career ending injury. He’ll be back in January and maybe even before if his rehab goes well. We could really do with his presence and hunger out on that field right now.