‘Boro 1-1 Arsenal: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Aliadiere haunts Gunners

Guardian: Aliadière’s head haunts boring but pretty Arsenal

Daily Express: ‘Boro hold Gunners as title hopes fade.

The Good

Adebayor seemed like the only player on the pitch who wanted to win the match. He was everywhere, not just holding the ball up, but chasing the ball down, making runs, and playing defense. Adebayor was our best player yesterday and showed exactly why Arsenal kept him this summer.

The Bad

Gael Clichy is a fine footballer. His ability to go forward and work rate is only matched by a few full backs in the world but he has shown a proclivity for making  elementary defensive mistakes: after the attacker goes by him, he tries to poke the ball away.  Sometimes he gets away with it, sometimes he doesn’t. Either way, it’s a horrible habit for a pub level player much less a seasoned professional like Clichy.

Despite the fact it didn’t cost Arsenal yesterday’s game that type of schoolboy defending from Clichy has in the past (Birmingham) will in the future cost Arsenal points and Wenger needs to sort that out quickly. ‘Boro had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied and perhaps even deserved the three points.

Cesc, after a week off, looked tired and had one of his worst matches so far this season. His performances have gotten progressively worse this season and I’m very concerned about him. There’s no one there to take the pressure off him and he’s currently playing both his role and Flamini’s role. Song is looking the part a bit more every day, but he’s not quite there yet, so Cesc is doing it all and it’s clearly taking its toll. Arsenal could be in danger of losing this young man if we’re not careful. Surely Wenger sees that?

The Ugly

I’m going to say it, damn the consequences, this team is not pretty, it’s fucking boring. I am sick to death of watching Arsenal keep 60%+ possession and have it come to nothing. Not even a shot on goal. Not even a shot at all!

You know how a team, when they are up say 3-0 and there are just a few minutes left in the game, you know how they pass the ball around and the crowd yells “OLE!” at every pass because we all know that they are just passing the ball around to kill off the game? You know that? You know how boring that is? Yeah, that’s Arsenal right now. Sure, it’s a bit prettier than that and sure they are getting the ball forward but there are huge swaths of time where the club does nothing but pass the ball.

In the absence of a dominating midfielder like Patrick Vieira and a dominating defender like Tony Adams, playing keep away is one form of defense. So, it makes sense, but I’m still sick and tired of it. What made the games like the one against AC Milan last year so memorable, wasn’t the beautiful passing, it was the fact that Arsenal passed well, moved well, AND SCORED GOALS.

Every game is the same right now, and when our opponents score their inevitable break away goal, Arsene Wenger simply says “we needed to keep the ball more” or “we gave the ball away in a bad position” or “HURRRRGARRRBLE YOUNG TEAM ARRGUERSAHQAFRAYJK THEY NEED BELIEF GASGYA WE CAN WIN THE LEAGUE.” It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to hear or read his post match comments.

Final Thoughts

A young, free flowing team, with some tough as nails defensive midfielders, a decent back line, and a creative midfielder who has them scoring bags of goals overtook Arsenal for 4th place. But not only does Arsenal have to worry about Aston Villa they have Hull City tearing up the table and 3 points plus goal differential away from overtaking Arsenal at 5th place.

I take some solace in the fact that both Hull and Villa are playing better away from home than they are on their own patch but it is a cold solace because I have to hope that neither team will be able to maintain their current away form and hopefully their home form is their more realistic form. Basically, I’m saying that Hull and Villa have surprised a few teams away (both of them beat Arsenal away) and I would be very surprised if those wins are from genuinely good away form rather than just catching teams unawares.

Still, it is very worrying that Arsenal could drop to 6th place.

Or maybe it isn’t, maybe 6th or 7th place is exactly the kind of shock to the system that Wenger needs to improve the squad in January? And lest you think that 7th place is unreachable, Arsenal host Liverpool next Sunday, travel to Villa Park for Boxing Day, and then host Pompey two days later. I could see Arsenal losing all three of those games.

Of course, with Wenger saying that buying players isn’t important, that we’re a young side, beset on all sides by the iniquities of the press and the tyranny of the bloggers, and that they just need to keep possession more and “get lucky,” I have to openly wonder what league position would it take for Wenger to break out the wallet and buy?


10 Responses to “‘Boro 1-1 Arsenal: the Good, Bad, and Ugly”

  1. 1 keith
    December 14, 2008 at 10:03 am

    What game where you watching Song was useless out of position he was supposed to be playing Holding Midfield how many times did you see him in advance of Cesc? thats why Cesc is struggling he has to cover the Holding role
    Wneger is realy getting to me now he has lost the plot its a game if we won would have put us right back in there with the other big 3 failing to win
    Why wait until 80 mins to put on a sub? why paly Diaby (who was the worst player on the pitch) and Denilson on the wings when Vela and Wiltshire are on the bench we have no width or pace

  2. December 14, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Look at the heatmap….


    Song played mostly behind the midfield line where he was supposed to be.

    Cesc played forward.

    I try not to make things up.

    Despite what the Arseblogs say Song is not as bad as everyone thinks. Sure, he’s frustrating but everyone’s frustrating on this team this year. I actually think Song is a better defensive midfielder than Denilson: at least he tries to tackle. Besides, which player would you put in defense in a pinch?


    Song’s problem is that he seems to move slowly, I don’t know whether it’s his size or just the way he runs, it seems to have no pace, but there were several times when he tracked back and stopped ‘Boro from running circles around our full backs.

    Watch the Clichy highlight again… Song was there. Clichy didn’t need to stab at the ball. Song was there. He did that time and again.

    He also has other qualities that people aren’t paying attention to. First, he wins a metric shit-load of headers. He may actually be the best defensive header on the team. Also, he has a bit of a shit-kicker’s attitude about him, which Arsenal need. He tackles hard, he wins the ball, he fights, I think he’s almost good enough.

    If we were winning matches everyone would be singing his praises. And the reason we’re not winning matches isn’t because Song isn’t playing hard enough; it’s because after Adebayor and van Persie, there’s no one on this team scoring goals.

    I saw this same thing last year with Flamini, he was universally slagged off by all the bloggers and blog posters. Go back and read my blog: I nailed it. I feel the same way about Song, but I also think you guys aren’t going to give him a chance.

    How many poor passes did Patrick Vieira play when he was coming up? How many red cards? You guys just don’t give players a chance any more, do you?

  3. 3 Bull
    December 14, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I totally agree with what you say. Song is improving dramatically. Clichy although one of the finest left backs needs to remember the priority in a game you are leading 1-0 is to defend. Fine if you have a cushion, but with the current form, safety first. I’m not one of Adebayor’s biggest fans, he misses far too many chances, but he chased his heart out and gave everything! The cash needs to be splashed in january not least on a good centre half and a defensive midfielder. It the rumours of interest from Juve in Bendtner are true, get rig of him too, he’s great at winning flick ons but that’s about it. I am really concerned at the way this season is going.

  4. 4 CaribKid
    December 14, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Have to agree with Timothy and Bull, Song may not be the “final answer”, but right now he is the best CDM we have by far and is playing well.

    Same old story applies to the game, players out of position, little creativity in MF, no pace or width on the wings and profligate finishing.

    It’s been the same old story all season and only Wenger seems oblivious to it all.

    My question is, where has Wengerball gone? Arsenal are now one of the most boring teams to watch in the EPL.

  5. December 14, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Even Nasri only brings the good stuff to the top games and with Theo and Nasri out, we have Diaby and Denilson out wide. It’s cringe-inducing stuff really.

    But I do respect them for trying. In fact, since pretty much every player is being asked to perform way above their ability, maybe we should ask less and expect less?

    I don’t know yet.

  6. 6 barnaby
    December 14, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    We have good players, but I don’t like the overall mix as you know. Villa are looking fairly strong all the way around. We are not as convincing in my view. It’s a thought to try to snatch young from villa to strengthen our side and weaken an emerging rival, but Wenger may not be up for such a move as it may look desperate(frankly I like the idea as he answers one of our wing issues quite nicely). Arsene needs one important buy in Jan to placate the fan base, if he doesn’t and loads more responsibility on our youth things could get even more troublesome, I for one wouldn’t want to see wilshere slammed, stomped and frankly beat up and dismayed before he’s really ready, and what troubles me is the lack of an enforcer to watch over the lads on the pitch.

  7. 7 T-town Alex
    December 14, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I like the logic behind snatching Young from Villa, but I have a better idea: Let’s buy Essien from Chelsea. We’ll win the Trebble.

  8. December 15, 2008 at 4:33 am

    I like Ashley Young, he’s a good player, he’s also English and thus would cost probably £40m for Arsenal to get him.

  9. 9 WC
    December 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I remember Wenger considering Ashley Young after Watford hit the drop and I was quite intrigued by that. I really wanted him to wear the shirt because he was the best player on a very awkward team. He cost Villa practically nothing in today’s market and if they were to sell him could probably buy a small island somewhere with the transfer fee. Instead we got Rosicky who is still a class player but being available once a season is not worth it.

    I’m even tempted to add another Chelsea cast off defender in Alex because he really is a good defender and probably the type e need – strong, good in the air – but I really don’t even want to hear the other teams come and call us some washed up refugee camp for their failed players.

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