Archive for January 18th, 2009

18
Jan
09

Hull 1-3 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Nasri picks his post

Match Reports

Telegraph: Blushes spared as Arsenal’s late rally sinks Hull City

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal stutter to victory

BBC: Brown rages over penalty decision

Quote of the Day

Bernard Mendy was a handful with his pace and determination, but overall it was a good contest between him and Gael Clichy. I believe this team goes from strength to strength. Mentally they were up for it, we were focused, united, and ready for the battle. And we gave it a go until the end. Did I mention that this is a young team? They are you know; young young young. — Arsene Wenger

The Good

Where would this team be if (knock on wood) Robin van Persie had gotten another of his injuries this year? In his pre-match press conference, Wenger was asked about van Persie’s injury history and he said that Robin’s tendons and ligaments have all stretched into place and that injury period is behind him. Maybe van Persie is 1/2 man, 1/2 silly putty? It would explain why the papers leave such an impression.

Thankfully Robin’s legs are elastic because I hate to think what would have happened yesterday without him. Maybe Adebayor would step up like he did last year, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Robin van Persie shows week in and week out that he is true class and yesterday’s match was yet another example of that as he garnered man-of -match praise for having a part in all three Arsenal goals. Robin now has 12 goals and 9 assists in all competitions for Arsenal and is running away with player of the year plaudits.

Nasri too had a great match, most of which came after Wenger moved him away from the wing and more centrally. Well, I say “moved him” but it’s more like “unleashed him” because basically Samir was all over the pitch. Now, I’m not saying that Nasri is the new Ronaldo because, well, because Nasri’s not a diving, cheating, whining, little cunt but that free role is the same role that Christiano Ronaldo occupies for Man U: technically a wing player, he’s given freedom to roam and create havoc up front.

Wenger tried this with Hleb last year and it worked pretty well for Hleb too, with the main difference being that Nasri can dribble, create chances and score crucial goals. I know I’ll get stick for this and don’t really care, but there were several times last year when Hleb had the ball in the exact same position that Nasri was in yesterday for the third goal and Hleb elected to pass. If Nasri goes the rest of the season without another goal or without another assist he still will have had a better season than any Hleb ever had; just by dint of the fact that Nasri wins matches.

And that’s the last you’ll hear me compare Hleb and Nasri because there’s no comparison, Nasri is twice the player Hleb is.

The Bad

I don’t care how Arsene spins it, this club has serious problems at the back. How does a club like Arsenal have so many pervasive defensive problems and how is it that we burn through so many extraordinarily talented defenders? Every time I turn on an Arsenal match it’s like watching a little piece of one of our defenders die. Yesterday, we saw Clichy, obviously outplayed by Mendy, let his foot off the gas a bit, Mendy took advantage and put in a superb ball which Hull converted.

Before you get to typing an angry response, let me say that I think Clichy is an enormously talented player and while it was his fault for not closing Mendy down I actually see a bigger problem: Arsenal are the world’s most physically demanding team.

Playing in the fastest, hardest challenging, league in the world Arsene Wenger has designed a system which relies on players like Clichy to not only break down opponents on the wing, but defend against the world’s best attackers (Mendy is NOT one of those, but you get the point).  How players like Sagna and Clichy are able to do what they do week in and week out is just amazing if you think about it.

The problem is that unless you have a world class stopper in midfield to sop up some of the pressure, the entire back line is susceptible to leaking goals off simple mental and physical errors.  That’s what happened yesterday; twice to be fair to Hull.

Wenger isn’t going to change his system at this point so, unless we get a real midfield stopper (Diaby is a joke in that position) there’s going to be a lot more days like yesterday.

The Ugly

Djourou sure clattered Manucho didn’t he?

I’d feel real bad for Hull being denied that penalty if Arsenal won every single penalty that they deserved. But no one wins every penalty. Hell, we don’t even win all of the completely obvious penalties much less the ones like that where in real time it looks like a 50-50 challenge.

Conclusions

This is what happens when you let yourself slip early in the season: every late comeback by Man U, Chelsea, or Villa (all had late comebacks yesterday) puts them closer to sealing their position and leaving us out of the top four.

Unfortunately, consistency is going to be the key to overtaking any of the top four clubs, consistency plus hope that they slip. Right now, Arsenal are getting some consistency from the front players but the only thing we can count on from the back is that they will give up easy goals. Let’s all hope Wenger pulls one of his super signings out of his ass, because unless we shore up the defensive midfield, I fear Arsenal will be left hoping that Villa slip to claim our 4th place birthright.

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