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.


4 Responses to “A Pair of DD’s: a Dour Draw and David Dein”


  1. 1 WC
    February 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Well everyone was crying for Vela to get a start but I was against it because as much as Wenger looks a bit lost right now he still knows his players. As good as Vela is, he’s still inexperienced and 90 minutes of getting bullied would have his fans being a little bit resistant to calling him for a 90 minute game again.

    The Boss is losing the plot. He predicted the others would drop points and rightly so, but so will we. We failed to capitalize on 2 points on a weekend when Villa drew and Chelsea lost. What use is predicting the others to drop points, when you cannot pick them up yourself and gain ground? UEFA Cup football is staring us in the face and there will be doubts in the mind of some of the players if that becomes the end result. It may just be for one season but these players have their careers to consider and really I cannot blame them if Wenger has very little ambition to build a better team. RVP plays his heart out every week and could walk into the starting 11 of any team in the world and yet his efforts are always undermined by a poor defense or poor midfield. We’re not a rich club or a poor club, but we can afford more than we have been despite not having a rich billionaire. We still have large overhead costs and could not spend 30M on a player like the Mancs but at least 15-18M would land us most players in the world who could only strengthen the team.

    Adebayor, Denilson, Diaby and Bendtner are looking like more liabilities than assets at the moment. They have their days but they are too far and few and are really holding the team back. Injuries have ravaged the team but even still we should be able to compete as a team, yet we are starting to break out the binoculars to see our rivals ahead. Wenger needs to start to admit his humility and put his pride aside to ge t us much needed results. He’s done so much for Arsenal that the team and fans could easily forgive him if he admits he has been wrong, rather than gloss over poor results in the recent years and feed us unfulfilled promises.

  2. 2 Jay
    February 1, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Tim,

    Been reading your blog for a while but haven’t posted before. Big fan of the site.

    Anyways, I figured I would pass on some thoughts.

    As an American sports fan watching soccer, I think I see the game in a different light than those who grew up watching the game. What I mean is that I try and relate what i’m seeing on the pitch to other sports I watch here in America.

    For example, when watching Arsenal recently, it reminds me of a basketball game when a team is playing against a zone defense. Arsenal opponents are just sitting back and packing the box, which is like a zone defense in basketball. The mindset is to not allow penetration and force shots from the outside.

    This is why Arsenal struggles against these teams. They don’t have someone who can shoot from outside the box on a consistent basis. They swing the ball around the edge of the boxing constantly looking for an opening. This will not get it done.

    The correct strategy should be to have a ball carrier penetrate through the middle of this zone and distribute the ball to the open gaps. Unfortunately we do not have a player of that caliber currently. Cesc is that player when fit but that doesn’t help us now. Nasri is great on the wing but seems to enjoy playing wide and hasn’t cut through the heart of a defense yet. Ade doesn’t work as a striker against this type of defense because he can’t carry a ball through the defense.

    In reality, we could use someone to sit behind the strikers and penetrate and distribute in the box. Is Arshavin this player? I don’t know.

    My best hopes for this season is to finish 4th, not rush back the injured and re-evaluate in the summer. It must be confusing for some fans to watch us compete so well against top clubs and struggle against weaker opponents but it is simply because of the style of play. Great teams are willing to attack and their is more flow to the game which creates opportunities for open space. Teams that know they don’t have the talent level sit back and play for the draw, rightfully so.

    Anyways, keep up the great work. Sorry for going on for so long.

    Take care

  3. 3 Tim
    February 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Jay, you raise some interesting points and as a former fan of Basketball, I’ll have to think about it a little before I can come up with an intelligent response

  4. 4 Frenchie Gooner
    February 1, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Good points, Jay.

    Shall I blabber on more about Rosicky? I shall. Arsenal is so easy to defend against as of late, no one dares attempt any long-range blasts anymore so defenders don’t fear the perimeter shooters. Rosicky however, loves cranking that ball from 30+ yards out. Who remembers the Liverpool FA cup tie? 2 goals from outside the box. And that damn glorious, glorious goal in the CL versus Hamburg. While other teams have adapted to our quick passing and moving, Arsenal have failed to do the same. Our opponents have 30 men in the box (Literally, I know it’s insane) and we still seem to insist on passing the ball in. Isn’t that what they say about the Gunners, our fatal flaw is trying to pass the ball in the net? Come on boys, crank some crackers! Maybe we should give them some crank and crack, fabulous.

    My only suggestion is to lay the opposing net with an Arsenal kit, that way they’ll try “passing” from long range whene in fact it’s a shot. Brilliant.


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