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.


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.


17 Responses to “Hull 1-3 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly”

  1. 1 Keith Barham
    January 18, 2009 at 10:07 am

    RvP is a quality player, no doubt. He’s also made of glass, so I always worry whenever he regains such strong form.

  2. 2 keith
    January 18, 2009 at 10:15 am

    The problem with our defence is that we need a keeper that commands his defence Almunia does not communicate with them
    The best defenders in the world would have problems even Lehman was erattic
    Also a Holding midfielder is required

  3. 3 k man
    January 18, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Some fair points, but why are you even settling for fourth? The title is a long shot, but we have some very key elements going for us; first, an increasing unified spirit. Secondly, we do not have the pressure of leading right now, so everybody else can soak up the pressure off the media. Thirdly, Arsenal have and always will have an underdog perception about them…and that is a good thing. When we have our backs up against the wall, we have fought harder, fueling our belief and determination. We will only get stronger. The momentum is gathering. Perhaps I’m just optimistic, but I think we still have a great chance. Our games at the end of the season against the other top four will be crucial, but we’ve done it before, so it isn’t impossible…keep the faith…we might just be pleasantly surprised…

  4. January 18, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I put some of the blame on Almunia for set pieces, but Clichy does things that a lazy or tired defender does; stick his leg out instead of moving with the man, give his marker extra room because he’s afraid of him dribbling around him, etc.

    No one in their right mind would say that Clichy is lazy, uncommitted or stupid, so it has to be that the physically demanding nature of Arsene’s system is leaving him jaded. Note that all of these “mishaps” happen later in games.

    It’s also possible that Wenger gives players the freedom to choose how much they want to go forward and that Clichy is choosing to go forward more than he should. Look at Sagna, he goes up a bit, but never nearly as often as Clichy. He’s also more solid in defense for all 90 minutes when Clichy isn’t. I don’t think that’s coincidental.

    Even the world’s best keeper can’t make up for basic problems in defending and right now Arsenal are making basic mistakes. Which, again, I attribute to focus. All players love going forward but Wenger needs to refocus his defenders on defense rather than going forward, Clichy obviously cannot handle the physical demands of going forward all the time.

  5. 5 caribkid
    January 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Agree 100% with Keith. Almunia, although being a good shot stopper does not command his penalty area and has communication lapses with his defenders. This places an undue strain on the defenders and will lead to confusion and mistakes.

    Combine this with the lack of a truly robust DM and we will always give away a few cheap goals, albeit, 5 conceded in 7 games, including 2 against Villa, is not that bad.

    Put in Fabianski, get a DM and a creative Winger/MF and we should be okay until our medically challenged squad returns to duty.

  6. 6 VolsnCards5
    January 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Fabianski isn’t near the shotstopper that almunia is right now…and do you really think a 23 year old can command his back line better than almunia?

  7. January 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    What’s this? A link to the anti-Arsenal trashy site soccernet? Bad Arsenal blogger Tim. :) Bad Arsenal blogger.

    In other news, Arshavin is as good as signed…. for 15M.


  8. 9 caribkid
    January 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm


    Then lets get a GK who does command his area.

  9. January 19, 2009 at 5:03 am

    I link to ESPN because almost in spite of themselves they have built something worthwhile: the match reports have detailed statistics, individual heatmaps and so on. Also, they are my default site for getting stats like goals, assists, shots, fouls committed, etc.

    I am wide open to suggestions for sites that provide all that detail.

  10. 11 Yan
    January 19, 2009 at 5:29 am

    1. Hull’s was a ‘lucky goal’. Clichy deflected the crossing ball that ended on cousin’s header.

  11. 12 Yan
    January 19, 2009 at 5:34 am

    2. IMHO, it wasnt a penalty on manucho. They crashed heads, but there wasnt intention on JD’s part. Have that same sequence happened outside the box, no foul would have asked by Brown .

  12. 13 Yan
    January 19, 2009 at 5:34 am

    2. IMHO, it wasnt a penalty on manucho. They crashed heads, but there wasnt intention on JD’s part. Have that same sequence happened outside the box, no foul would have been asked by Brown .

  13. 14 Yan
    January 19, 2009 at 5:37 am

    3. You seem to overlook RVP’s most remarkable talent! He seems to have some kind of off-side inmunity!

    • January 19, 2009 at 9:29 am

      I’ve seen that site, there’s no stats like Shots on Goal, passes, there are no heatmaps, nothing. Just some bogus “Actim Index.” That index is so ridiculously bogus it lists Denilson as Arsenal’s best player.


      Plus, I’d have to go over to the UEFA site for CL stats, the FA for Carling Cup stats, etc etc.

      Sorry dude, ESPN’s poorly named “Soccernet” is the best stats center on the webs.

  14. 17 Yan
    January 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    uh! forgot to mention:

    4. Did you see Nasri’s pace when he was in the middle? Definetely they are working on balancing his game, the boy can make a good run or two.

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