Arsenal 1-2 Hull, the Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good

Props have to go to Hull, I’m sorry but they outplayed Arsenal yesterday. I could try to psychoanalyze the Arsenal players and wonder aloud whether the pre-match chatter about them kicking us off the pitch played a part in why the Arsenal players looked timid at the start, but that’s just plain unfair to the Hull players and their manager. They came out with a game plan, with the desire to win 3 points, and with the certain knowledge of how to get them, and they did.

Sure Hull came out and gave a few lumps to start, and maybe my reaction in the live-blog was the same as the players, a sort of sense that injustice was being done. But after those initial few lumps, the game smoothed out and it looked to me like both teams played fairly, Hull was just seemed to want it more.

After the 0-0 first half, it turns out that Phil Brown took off the headgear and spoke directly to his players, reminding them that they had worked all week on set pieces and that if they just kept up the hard work, it would all pay off. Arsenal scored first and I really thought that we were going to open them up at that point, but then we just sort of looked like we took our foot off the gas and suddenly Giovanni found himself in loads of space and fired in a beautiful goal; side net, unstoppable. Again, the good has to go here to Hull, they showed the character to fight back after going down 1-0 to the vaunted Arsenal.

Finally, when they were lining up the corner that won the match, I don’t know if I could sense something or not, but I had a bad feeling about Arsenal’s defense on that corner. I couldn’t see it until the slow motion replay but the squad was in utter disarray. Hull capitalized on that, plus their foreknowledge that Arsenal couldn’t defend a corner against a bunch of third graders right now, and they scored the winning goal. The point here is that Hull stayed committed to their gameplan throughout and when the time came, they simply executed what they had practiced.

After the match Phil Brown said this of his team

The character and commitment and desire is a joy to work with.

Character, commitment and desire; in the end, that’s all we need to know about why Hull beat Arsenal.

The Bad

Arsenal simply fell apart. Maybe they read too many of their own press clippings and started to believe what people were saying about them, I don’t know, I’m not the team shrink. I do know that the team fell apart and that you have to look no further than the disastrous defending on the second Hull goal to see that. Who was marking who and why wasn’t that clearly articulated? It’s easy to blame individuals (where was Toure, why was Gallas late, why didn’t anyone close down on Giovanni?) for individual breakdowns but I actually blame the whole team and more specifically the team’s leadership.

I learned a phrase in one of those work life seminar/retreat things that I think is completely appropriate here: the fish rots from the head. On the pitch, and in the moment of the corner, it’s William Gallas who does the organizing, Bill Gallas who sets out the marking, and Bill Gallas who leads the team. It was good ole Bill who is directly and indirectly to blame for Hull’s first and second goal.

First, he’s the guy who’s supposed to sense that his team have taken their foot off the gas and get them back on task. He failed to do that. Second, if he can’t sense that his teammates are getting lax, at the very least he could scream at someone to close down on their opponents. He failed to do that. And finally, after they scored the first goal, Gallas should have rallied the troops, that’s what leaders do, and instead he faded into the wallpaper, failed to organize the team, and they simply let Hull score.

Arsene Wenger doesn’t want to put any blame on any individuals but I will, I blame William Gallas, and since it’s ultimately his decision to retain Gallas as captain, I blame Arsene. When the chips are down, William Gallas is a poor leader. More than anyone else on the pitch, the captain needs to be the one showing strength, maturity, and desire. Arsenal lost that when we lost Flamini, who was the only person I saw last year with those qualities.

The Ugly

Prepare yourself for a non-stop barrage of stories about how the mighty have fallen. I should have seen it coming. The reaction from the press over the 6-0 Carling Cup win was just too effusive. As a fan, I wanted to believe that press (it made me feel good) but now I see it for what it really was: build them up so that when they fall (which all great things do) you can write 1000 stories about how they fell. Now, we’re going to get in-depth analysis of the team, their boss, the garbage, the tea lady, the ball boy, everything. Get ready for it.

The season isn’t over guys: we’re just two points off the leaders. Sure, Arsenal haven’t played any of the top 5 teams like West Ham or Aston Villa, but there are 32 games left and a possible 96 points. We, the team and the fans, need to regroup, refocus and get out there and beat some people like we know we can, starting on Tuesday.

Until tomorrow, up the Arse.


9 Responses to “Arsenal 1-2 Hull, the Good, Bad, and Ugly”

  1. September 28, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Full-heartedly agree, Tim. We are suspect in defence, and we will continue to be until Wenger gets us a centre-half who shits nails after breakfast and then wipes his arse with effete, inventive striker. We had one in Campbelll, but he lost the plot and joined Portsmouth. We had one in Senderos, but he lost confidence and never cemented his place. And now, we’ve got Gallas and Toure, who can’t get the job done at set pieces.

    What’s the solution? Buy someone who can do the job. Forget about nurturing this one from within – Wenger don’t do defence, so he’s better off buying one off the rack. I don’t know who. Maybe it’ll be Senderos, who, if he comes back, will be more awesome than before and knit our team together like a warm granny-made scarf. But don’t hold your breath.

    And I’m sorry about your “ugly”, Tim, but I disagree. We NEED to win games like this to maintain the lead. We lost games like this last year and we fell off the pace. We need to win ugly, we need to win when we’re playing badly, we need to win out of habit. We’re not there yet, and that’s what’s costing us. And part of that is having a proper attitude towards defence, which we’re not getting.

    I’m in Salisbury right now, and I just saw the Archbishop of Canterbury baptise and kiss a couple of babies. Now, if even he is able to lower himself to snog a couple of wimple-gowned kiddies, surely Wenger can focus on set pieces and defence? Sheesh.

  2. 3 Rob
    September 28, 2008 at 8:31 am

    The moat frustrating thing is that nothing will change. Gallas will continue to start and be captain even though is doesn’t deserve a starting place, and no matter what happens this season the boss will always be the same, and the board wont even think about sacking him.

  3. September 28, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Connolly’s Agent, I’m convinced that someone of Appiah’s past ability (he must not be up to it any more or someone would have signed him by now) would be perfect for the team. As well as Denilson did in the first half, he did equally poorly in the second and for me the defense starts and ends at that position. Again, I put that down to Gallas, it’s his job to “gee” up Denilson when he sees him sagging and he didn’t do it.

    Moreover, as Gunnerblog(p) points out, Hull’s tactics and formation were the proper ones to stifle us on the wings. Why didn’t Gallas and Wenger respond to that diamond formation?


    The problem with buying a really good defender is 1) who? and 2) you basically have to demote Gallas or Toure. Wenger’s whole idea this year seems to be team unity (which failed miserably yesterday) and so, he might be afraid (did I just write that????) to change Gallas for fear of losing the team and all that he’s built.


  4. 5 Eboue's etc etc
    September 28, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Gallas managed to win an attacking corner and hit the bar, is it time to convert him back to his natural position? Arsenal was simply indecisive in their finishing yet again, nothing more. And the main factor lies in Phil Brown being the former No. 2 man to Big Sam at Bolton, who apparently invented the “Way to beat Arsenal”.

  5. 6 Dixie
    September 28, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Wenger has been lucky this year but we will get walloped by Chelsea.

    As a Centre Back of old, it is clear that Gallas is too short for te role and can’t jump and Kolo is always lost. His speed gets him back into position ut that’s not good enough when his partner is flawed too. What is needed is a 6 Ft 3 In. bloke who can jump. Eboue on instead of hat trick hero, Vela; stupid, stupid stupid.

    Adebbayoe has no interest and is very selfish. Needs to be sold.

    Denilson has too many off days. The first 11 must include Ramsey and Vela and Nasir needs to get fit. Plus Gareth Barry must join us in January plus the big German cenre back at Real Madrid. Wenger is treating The Arse like a business and seriously annoying fans. It’s our money he’s hoarding and ultimately our pain. He can feel bad but for £2 Million a year wages, it must soften the blow. Not for us paupers.

  6. September 28, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Sorry, Arsenal don’t need an entire new starting 11…

  7. September 28, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    We took this game to lightly, no doubt about that. To say that our current squad can’t win the league is rubbish too, we have the talent and the only thing missing is focus. Actually, it’s been missing for the last two seasons – mostly at home against shit teams. It’s become a consistent thing with Arsenal to lay back and not try a 100% against shit opposition and its coming back to haunt us (remember Birmingham last year). Wenger’s not one to throw a tantrum at halftime but he should’ve been shooting flames based on their first half performance.

    When the first goal happened everybody thought the “floodgates would open” but after the goal we reverted back to huffing and puffing but not actually trying and expected Hull to fold. Didn’t happen. Shit weekend.

  8. 9 Alex
    September 28, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I completely agree that we took the game too lightly. A friend of mine who is a MU fan commented that maybe we should have started the same 11 that played Wednesday – THEY were at least hungry. We never got out of 2nd gear on Saturday.

    Another big problem was the pig-headed insistence that we play everything on the ground. It doesn’t always work. If they are going to stifle you on the wings and sit on your short game, it’s time to break out the long game up the middle. Everton were doing the same thing last year and two long balls up the middle to a poacher (Eduardo then – should have been Vela yesterday) will pin them back and let you play the short game you are so comfortable with.

    Main point is that we lacked versatility. You have to be able to adjust your game and we didn’t do that yesterday. Meh. Everybody has a bad day. Hopefully this will be the blast of cold water they need to wake them up. That’s the one problem with kids – all too often they need their ears slapped back to remind them that they can’t coast and have to be focused all of the time.

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