Archive for February 1st, 2009

01
Feb
09

A Pair of DD’s: a Dour Draw and David Dein

Eboue comes down with another of his mystery injuries.

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal’s title bid suffers fatal blow

Telegraph: Arsenal bereft of ideas as West Ham’s run continues

Quote of the day

We will finish above Aston Villa. I’ve nothing against O’Neill. But you ask me who will be Manager of the Year and you have to wait until the end of the year. Villa have played well until now. But you judge a marathon at the end. No one remembers who was leading after 20 miles. — Arsene Wenger, at the Friday press conference assuring everyone of Arsenal’s quality.

The Valtrex

Glossing over an obviously flawed Arsenal squad, Diaby had his best game in the center of the park. He wasn’t a revelation or anything, but on a day when too few Arsenal players had anything to say about a stolid West Ham squad he did at least look lively in the middle of the park. Of course yesterday’s performance only hides the symptoms of this flailing Arsenal team and his stupid yellow card in the 23rd minute means that he will be suspended for the upcoming Spurs match; leaving a barren midfield bereft of one of their “best” players.

The clean sheet Arsenal kept also sort of glossed over the underlying problems on this team. West Ham was content sitting back the whole game and only foraged forward occasionally. So pardon me if I don’t get too excited by a team that kept a clean sheet off the opposition’s 2 (two) whole shots. Not shots on goal, TOTAL SHOTS.

But since there wasn’t much else to celebrate… yippie! a clean sheet!

The Genital Outbreak

It was hugely frustrating to sit there and watch as Villa get a draw, Wenger’s words about them dropping points ringing in my ears, and see the performance that some of these players put in.  I’m sorry, but far from championship quality (we saw that later in the day as ManU held Everton to a 1-0 win) Arsenal look a lot like their closest rivals, Villa. We’re going to have to hope for them to crack and for us to suddenly warm up if there’s any hope of us taking 4th this season.

Vela got a chance to come on and show what he’s made of when Arsenal’s clown (Eboue) when down with some injury that he’s no doubt already recovered from. Vela started well but I think we saw yesterday why Wenger doesn’t play him more; he’s too easy to nudge off the ball.

When Wenger brought Vela on he sort of pushed Bendtner wide, or at least that’s what everyone is saying. I didn’t see it that way, Bendtner was playing as a third striker since he never tracked back to play defense. In fact, according to his heat map, he basically never left the right corner of the pitch.

Not that Bendtner could have tracked back to play defense —  as the Liverpool supporter watching the game said “he’s garbage.” He’s not garbage, but neither is he a quality starting striker on a team pushing for a trophy.

Which makes me wonder why Bendtner got the start over van Persie? We’re not privy to the fitness tests that happen prior to the game nor am I in anywhere near the same league of intellect as Arsene Wenger, so I must assume that Wenger had a good reason for sitting the only player on this Arsenal team who A) seems to give two f*cks and B) has scored and created every single goal in the month of January for Arsenal.

As long as we start Bendtner and Adebayor as our strikers, we deserve a 0-0 draw.

Man, You Got Herpes on Your Face

In a lot of ways Adebayor epitomizes this Arsenal team. He’s hugely talented, having scored 11 goals and gotten 6 assists in all competitions this season. He’s also very important for the heart of the team, I’ve seen him be the only player on the pitch who even tries to win a game. So, it’s insanely frustrating to see him put in the performances he’s put in this week. In short, he’s inconsistent.

Yesterday he exhibited all the qualities that his detractors love to harp on; he was lazy and wasteful. Maybe he’s tired? I don’t know, I do know that all the goals he’s scored this season have been against bottom clubs. Far from “terrifying defenses” as he did last year, top clubs are handling him very well.

I wonder if a week off might not re-energize him and put some fire in his belly?

Conclusion

After the match, Arsene said

We lacked some creativity in the final third, the final pass and from some set pieces. They were very strong in defence I must say with James Collins and Matthew Upson and that’s why we couldn’t score.

I can’t fault the spirit but I believe as well that we lost a bit of sharpness from playing on Sunday at Cardiff, on Wednesday a very physical game at Everton and maybe that was why we lacked a bit of sharpness to score.

Yes, exactly why Arsenal should have signed 2 players in the break: to give us some sharpness, rest players who need it, and add creativity in the final third.

I am worried though since I think that Arsenal might not sign anyone. Not that we will miss out on 4th place, I think 4th place is well within grasps if Arsenal start ticking over. No, more worried that we might do something stupid, like rush Cesc, Eduardo, Theo, or Rosicky back and see one of them suffer an even more serious injury.

Whether we buy Arshavin or not (or even something more surprising like Alonso or Arteta) by-and-large Arsene needs to get the squad we currently have up for these games against our “lesser” opponents and, judging by the lackluster performance of Adebayor, he’s not doing his job. Come on Arsene, lets get the club back playing beautiful football, scoring goals, and striking terror in the hearts of our opponents, you can do it!

And finally, like a bad case of herpes, we had a David Dein outbreak yesterday as well. He doesn’t actually call for Arsenal to be sold to some billionaire but that’s exactly how all the headlines read and what we’ve all come to expect. Let me put this out before it becomes a house on fire: the reason this team is not buying is not down to lack of funds, it is down to lack of will on the part of the manager.

You might not like to hear that, but that’s the facts as far as I can discern them. With cash reserves currently at £93m (and only set to grow as our current Champions League campaign unfolds) the decision on whether or not to buy a player is not about a lack of funds. Hell, with those cash reserves, with our history, and with Arsene Wenger as boss Arsenal could have any player on the planet right now if they wanted him.

So, no sheik with tons of money, false hopes, and a copy of Football Manager in his back pocket is going to change Arsene Wenger. Well, actually, he would change Arsene Wenger; he’d have to get rid of him in order to build his little dream team. Because from what I can tell, Wenger is committed to this youth team project.

Besides, as I’ve argued here extensively, it’s not like the Chelsea/Liverpool model has produced much of a sustained challenge to Man U’s utter dominance either. Sure, Chelsea spent insane amounts of money to win 4 trophies and now look at them; uncertain about the future of the club as the owner looks to be backing out, stuck with bloated wages, aging stars, no youth prospects, and half a billion pounds of debt. I feel very strongly that this is Chelsea’s last year as an oligarch’s dream team.

So I say no to a sugar daddy: what this team needs is just a little more balance on the pitch, not a bigger balance in the bank.

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