Not really an unfamiliar sight is it? Arsene looking on in desperation, as we crumble yet again.
It’s gotten to the stage where I wouldn’t even be adverse to him leaving. I’ve been one of his most staunch defenders lately, and even I’m questioning his methods.
In attack, we were on the whole back to our usual fluid style of the middle of last season. Sadly, we were also back to our shaky old selves in defence. It frustrates the life out of me that we can’t combine the fluidity in attack with the strength at the back. Against Dortmund we were excellent at the back yet struggled going forward, and it was the opposite today. Why can we not have both? It’s as if this Arsenal side don’t have the mental capacity to concentrate on more than one aspect of football in one game. We’re either good in defence or good in attack – at the moment we can’t put the two together.
But why not? It shouldn’t have to be one or the other. If we had both we’d be a much better team for it. But it seems like to play our flowing best in attack, we have to be shaky in defence, and vice versa. Maybe we need to mentally and physically separate the defence from the rest of the team. Let them do their job, let the attack do theirs. Or maybe the concentration has to be drilled into them on the training ground. At the moment I can’t really see that happening.
That’s not to say there weren’t positives – there were, of course. In midfield and attack we were better than we’ve been for a long time. But as I say, if our defence plays like a bunch of spastics there’s not much the rest of the players can do about it. Still, we were very sharp going forward and the team was gelling well in attack.
The goals were also very refreshing; three quite different types of goal, which shows we can vary our play. Gervinho’s was a very simple goal; defence splitting pass (kudos to Alex Song) and a neat finish. Arteta’s was a lovely change of pace in attack; a lovely pass to get Ramsey in a good position (cheers again Alex), and the speed and intensity of the move was a joy to watch as Ramsey cut it back for Arteta to fire home. And the third goal, at last a headed goal and at last a goal from Chamakh; a lovely cross from van Persie and a perfect header from Chamakh to his credit.
And now, the ugly part. The goals we shipped. There were four of them, just thought I’d remind you. Anyway, the first. Fairly poor defensively, Santos and Koscielny playing Yakubu onside, and Mertesacker not really doing himself any favours either with some slow play. From then on there was nothing we could do about it; a lovely finish from Yakubu, giving Szczesny no chance. The second saw a lack of organisation and leadership from a free kick, which saw the ball unluckily ricochet off Song and past the helpless Szczesny. It was similar in the third goal; nobody attacking the ball, and then bad luck on the second ball, this time with Yakubu blatantly offside. Then with the fourth goal, it was a needless sliding tackle from Djourou that saw Olsson break clean through, and Koscielny was a bit unlucky with the ricochet.
We could have been a lot more clinical in attack too actually. Gervinho was wasteful on two particular occasions in the first half, while Chamakh, van Persie and Mertesacker all missed good chances late on in the second half. Mertesacker’s was the most guilt-edged of them all; six yards out, an almost open goal, and he headed over. Of all people, you’d expect Mertesacker to be able to get his head over the ball. However, it was a bit of a pathetic leap, and he nodded over.
We probably should have had a penalty in the last minute, Walcott being thrown off balance by Paul Robinson sliding from underneath him, but there were no protests seeing as we had to concentrate on the ball which was still in play. Regardless of whether we appealed, the referee should have still given it, it was as clear as day from where I was sitting and I can’t see how the referee didn’t see either. But we’re in a run of poor form and sometimes that’s how it goes.
Shrewsbury on Tuesday offers a chance to renew the optimism that we had a few days ago. The likes of Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain should play, and it’ll be exciting for the fans to witness two players who’ll be on the fringes of the first team in the next couple of seasons, while knocking on the door no doubt.
Anyway, that’s it from me. Let’s hope we can turn things around.
The title is no longer in our hands.
We are now seven points behind Manchester United – albeit with a game in hand – after that lacklustre draw with Blackburn at the Emirates. Even if we win all of our remaining games, we still need United to slip up. And if we’re going to continue playing like we did yesterday, not even second place is assured.
It was an average performance, not at all befitting of a team supposedly challenging for the league title. A lot of Gooners have been disagreeing about why we didn’t beat Blackburn. Some say the players didn’t try hard enough, some say it’s Arsene’s fault, some say the players just aren’t good enough. My opinion is that it was just one of those days. Blackburn packed their half, restricting us, and when we did get chances, they were only half-chances, and we didn’t take them. Of course, there was Jack’s miss, but other than that we didn’t create enough clear-cut opportunities.
It’s slightly worrying that AW doesn’t seem to know what’s wrong. Perhaps it’s because our key players are only just returning from injury? Fabregas, Song and Walcott were all back after a while out, plus the players had been on international duty, so maybe they need a little time to gel back together. Nasri wasn’t his usual self after receiving a golf ball sized lump on his head, and van Persie definitely didn’t play as well as he has been recently. However, there were some positives to take from the game.
Arshavin put in a great shift, even sprinting back in defence to make a crucial sliding tackle. Wilshere was decent, despite his miss, and I thought Clichy had a fairly good game. Cesc seemed a bit rusty though, so hopefully he’ll be back ready to start and lead the team on Sunday against Blackpool.
Speaking of leadership, there didn’t seem to be an awful lot out there yesterday. Captain on the day was Robin, but he didn’t really motivate the players – in fact, he didn’t seem to be able to motivate himself, drifting in and out of the game. It’s difficult to understand that, since he was in such good form before the international break and his injury. Let’s hope he can get back to that.
Almunia was dodgy once again, nearly gifting Blackburn two goals. You really have to wonder how long it will be before Wenger decides enough is enough and throw Lehmann in at the deep end. If that happened, Almunia’s Arsenal career would be all but over – his confidence completely gone, if it isn’t by now. He made some decent catches and punches under pressure, but the shot that he fumbled was routine stuff that he should have been saving.
I was not happy at all with fans booing at the final whistle. If they think that’s going to help the team, they’re wrong. They’re called supporters for a reason – they’re supposed to support the club and try to help them to win. Booing them will only make the players feel worse. Just look what happens when the entire ground is behind the team – we can beat teams like Barcelona! Sadly that kind of atmosphere doesn’t happen enough.
Finally, a word on Rocky. I may not have seen him play live, but even I was touched and moved by the tribute to him. His spirit was everything that embodied Arsenal, his passion, and his flair. RIP, Rocky.
Big game tomorrow – every game is from now until the end of the season though.
Before I begin, apologies for a lack of posts in the last few days, the international break crushed my spirits, but with REAL football returning this weekend, I’m back!
The main news in the build-up to this game is the huge boost of having Cesc, Song, Theo and Robin all back. Diaby also returns – I think I’ve made it clear what I think of him – but Ramsey and Denilson miss out. Nicklas Bendtner is also in the squad, while Arsene has confirmed that Manuel Almunia will start, despite his error against West Brom.
It is absolutely massive to have all these players back at such a crucial stage of the season, a time when we’re still fighting for the title. The combination of Theo, Robin, Samir and Cesc is so difficult to stop, they really can destroy teams. The last sustained period that they were together was from the Chelsea game all the way until beating Huddersfield in the FA Cup. During those games, we lost just once, to Ipswich in the first round of the Carling Cup semi final. We won six times, and drew three games.
We also scored a lot of goals in that period, putting three goals past Chelsea, Birmingham, West Ham, Wigan, Leeds and Ipswich. Since then, the only time that quartet of players has been together was Barcelona at home. Need I say more?
Arsene has been talking about how we need to regain our mentality from earlier in the season, when we were destroying teams, during the time I was just talking about. He says we need to relax, and find the balance between enjoying our football and focusing. I completely agree with him. Now it seems like the players are suffering under the pressure. Before, we were in four competitions and had plenty of chances to end the drought. Fast forward a month, and the Premier League is our only chance of that silverware we so crave.
I don’t think we had enough players to take responsibility and pull the team back up after we crumbled in three competitions – we were deprived of our captain and some inspirational players, like Walcott. Those two are back now though, and there are more players to take the responsibility and the pressure from Nasri, Wilshere and RVP’s shoulders. Hopefully that’ll also help take the spotlight off of Almunia.
With Jack having played so many games this season, and played 150 or so minutes for England during the international break, some have suggested Diaby will play, with Jack rested. I have to say, it frustrated me how Diaby can just walk back into the side, without having to work for his place. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented player, no doubting that, but it’s his attitude that just grinds my gears.
85% of the time, he just strolls around the pitch, happy to let his team mates do the work, making the occasional pass, losing the ball a lot. It’s such a shame that he has that mentality, because we’ve seen how good he can be. And that’s not just before his injury, which many have blamed for his development, or lack of it. I was watching a video of Arsenal counter-attack goals, and his goals vs Aston Villa and AZ Alkmaar were featured. He covered so much ground and did so well to score those goals, but it’s something we see so rarely from him these days.
Finally, I have recruited a new blogger to post, and, stuff. Please welcome Dan Bird! He’ll be popping in every now and then to give his opinion, so you won’t have to listen to my rubbish all the time. Until tomorrow!