Arsenal 0 Blackburn 0 Review

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Apr 072011
 

Hi folks, I’m back after a bit of a bloliday. The agent and the Arsenally little one needed a bit of attention, and work had been piling up around me.

Another reason I haven’t posted recently was that I was scared I’d produce something so vitriolic, so bilious that servers would crash and burn through the fury of it all.

It’s been a bit of a frustrating time, hasn’t it? Out of all competitions, some might say. Until Blackburn, we had control over our own destiny in that successive victories would have seen us win the title. Now, it’s out of our hands.

What gets me the most is the apathy of our non-performance against Blackburn. AW gave a very honest summary of the game:

We had a bad performance today. You don’t get away with that kind of performance against a Blackburn side who defended well. We had no change of pace, no penetration, our rhythm of passing was too slow – exactly how we don’t want to play. It’s disappointing, and I’m really concerned about the level of our performance today. Players have come back from international duty and they’re not sharp – half of the team has not recovered.

I wouldn’t argue with a word of that, but I will add two points which frustrated me more than any lack of pace or penetration.

Firstly, almost all of the Premier League teams had players playing in internationals in midweek. What kind of excuse is that? Everyone else had the same problem, but didn’t let it affect them. For AW to use that as an excuse struck me as desperation.

Secondly, where was the enthusiasm, drive to win, burning desire to win? It wasn’t there. And that has two causes. Teams need to be inspired by the manager, and it worries me that that didn’t seem to happen.

And, was there a vocal presence on the pitch? Was one player chivvying the others along, encouraging them, motivating them? No. We desperately need a player, or players who make their voices heard. Who inspire the others when the pace drops. Who finds motivation in the result that all the players heard that weekend – West Ham 2 ManUre 4.

Yes, it would have been dispiriting to have thought that United would lose, only for them to come back from 2-0 down and win against the Hammers with four unanswered goals.

But seriously, could no-one lift the players? Could no-one point out that a ManUre victory meant that winning was the only option for us? I don’t see any other teams who seem to suffer so disproportionately when things don’t go well for them.

Another thing that seemed to knock us off our stride was the injury to Samir Nasri. It looked nasty, and knocked the wind out of our sails after a good start. Kudos to Nasri for coming back on, but I did get the feeling that he wasn’t functioning at 100%.

With Wilshere also the target of some hefty Blackburn tackling, we needed someone to step up and urge the players on. We just didn’t have that.

And that wasn’t simply because Cesc Fabregas started from the bench. even with him playing we lack a vocal presence on the pitch. I think Cesc does inspire others to play well, but when we’ve been battered around and lost our flow, he’s just not the type of person to be vocal.

Fingers crossed, and we will have some more leadership when Vermaelen returns next season. I hope that we’ll sign someone who can inspire others and lift the team’s spirits in situations like Blackburn’s visit to the Grove.

In the meantime all we can do is play to the best of our ability, starting against Blackpool on Sunday. Can a team that hasn’t won since the end of February still go on to lift the title? It’s possinle, so I’ll keep on dreaming.

Arsenally despondent,

Will

Man Utd 2 Arsenal 0 – Review.

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Mar 132011
 

In my preview I wrote of what impact of a win would have on our confidence, the rest of our season, and the race to the Premiership title. I also wrote that a draw would also give us belief, and that we’d likely beat ManUre at the Grove to progress in the cup.

Well, we lost, going out of the third cup competition in the space of just two weeks. We didn’t collapse at Old Trafford; we didn’t play terribly badly. We had much more possession than United; we had several shots on target. We just didn’t have enough composure in front of goal, and United were able to catch us on the break.

The team looked jaded. In fact, they didn’t look much like a team at all. There didn’t seem to be a lot of mental strength, and the injury to Djourou robbed us of whatever resilience and fighting spirit we had at the start of the game.

Diappointed Wenger at Old Trafford

Not again!

The manager attributed our lack of oomph to the crushing defeat at the Nou Camp:

Subconsciously I feel the disappointment of Tuesday [against Barcelona] played a part in the game. You could see something has gone, not in our effort or attitude, but confidence-wise.
But I don’t feel like the season is slipping away. I believe we can do it. It is a good test for us now to show we can regroup and show the mental strength and togetherness quickly.
We will have to answer this kind of question in the next two or three weeks. We have to show we have an answer.

Whether or not we do find an answer, whether or not we fight for the title, and whether or not this season ends up like the previous five – trophyless and disappointing – depends very much on our back five.

According to the official site
, Djourou will miss the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated shoulder against ManUre. He will be sorely missed. His performances this season have shown that he has come a long way, and has become the defender that we’d previously only seen in glimpses in seasons past. He’s been solid, and formed a great partnership with Koscielny at the back in Vermaelen’s absence.

Speaking of whom, where is he? I’d been given the impression here on the official site that he’d play for the reserves before the end of February. That hasn’t happened.

Even if Cesc and Robin stay fit, they still need support in the form of a good reliable keeper, a strong defence, and good defensive players in the middle of the park. Assuming Song returns, that’s the latter sorted. But if Vermaelen doesn’t return soon, we’ll be relying on the services of Ignasi Miquel. With the greatest respect to him, I don’t know that he’s up to the job at such a tender age, and with so little first team experience.

Although Almunia played well against Barcelona, he flapped when Rooney scored, and I don’t think he has the confidence and backing of either the team or the manager. Our goalkeeping Poles, both threatening to establish themselves with the No. 1 jersey when they got themselves injured, will be missed. Will James Shea stay on the bench till the end of the season? That doesn’t inspire me with confidence.

Wenger now has a chance to really earn his wages. He must motivate a deeply disappointed squad. He must find an emergency keeper. In short, he must inspire his team to fight for what remains of the season.

We were in a good position at the end of last season. We could have won the title, but defeats to Sp*rs and Wigan allowed Chelski to lift the title as we collapsed with a distinct lack of confidence. It may not feel like we’re doing well, but in terms of the most important competition, we certainly are. Wenger must make the players realise how much we can still achieve. Only 3 points separate us from the league leaders, and we have a game in hand.

We can still win something this season. The title, the most important prize of all.

Arsenally still believing,

Will

Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1 – Review, Wailing, and Gnashing of teeth

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Mar 092011
 

I didn’t blog last night because I was just too angry. But sorry folks, I’m still angry. Furious, livid, enraged, indignant, even splenetic. That’s not going to change for a long time.

At work, even my Luton-supporting line manager sympathised thought the refereeing decision was dreadful. Even my Chelski-loving boss and colleagues agreed it was wrong. And even the ManUre fan thought it was harsh.

What they all said was that Arsenal would have lost anyway. I disagree. They quoted stats like the fact that we didn’t have a shot on target the entire game, that Barcelona had 73% possession and completed 900 passes. All true, undeniably so.

But that doesn’t paint the whole picture. In two previous games against Barça we’d struggled for the first half. In both those games, however, we grew into the matches, drawing one 2-2 and winning the other 2-1. Diaby was becoming more of a presence. The defence was growing in confidence, and Wilshere was beginning to make his extraordinary talent shine in the middle of the park.

Then we lost v Persie to a second yellow. Not for kicking the ball away at a free kick, but for taking a strike at goal one second after the whistle had gone for a marginal offside decision. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are situations where refs dish out mandatory yellow cards, such as celebrating a goal by taking off a shirt. Always gets a card, no exceptions.

Yellows are rarely given, in the Premiership at least, for kicking the ball away. If it’s an obvious time-wasting tactic when a free kick is awarded, then yes, you do sometimes see a yellow. But if it comes a matter of seconds after the whistle blows for offside, and it would be a player’s second yellow, how often have you seen that before? I haven’t ever.

Which is why I’m perfectly happy to bring up the possibility of a bung. Referee’s are always given some latitude to allow the game to flow. They are encouraged to keep all the players on the pitch if they can legitimately justify it. To dish a yellow out like that to our most in-form striker was taking advantage of the rules to get the player off the pitch. Disgraceful.

AW was far less slanderous than I just was in his comments after the game:

It’s not a surprise the referee didn’t book a single Barcelona player. I just spoke to [the] Uefa people. They are shocked as well. He killed a promising, fantastic football match. What for? If it’s a bad tackle it’s a second bookable offence but the way he did it it’s embarrassing, if you love the game. If you have played football at a certain level you cannot understand that decision. It’s impossible.

Robin van Persie was more blunt:

In my opinion it was a total joke, the sending‑off. How can I hear his whistle with 95,000 people jumping up. How can I hear that, for God’s sake? Please explain me that.

I sincerely hope that Busacca is found to have taken a bribe from Guardiola, Xavi and Dani Alves, and they all receive the punishment they deserve, nothing less than public flogging, before being forced to march naked through the streets of Islington.

Busacca

Cheating, bribe-taking incompetent fool

Of course we’re the ones who’ll be punished for this debacle. According to the official site, AW and Samir Nasri face UEFA charges of being honest improper conduct, and will face the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on Thursday 17th March.

All that said, there were points where we didn’t help ourselves. It was Cesc’s ridiculous back-heel that gave Iniesta the ball to feed Messi for their first. Overall, our club captain hardly set the world on fire.  Koscielny’s trip on Pedro gave the Catalunians a penalty. Bendtner should have won it for us at the end.

Bendtner’s chance is another example of how the game would have been different with v Persie on the field. The Dutchman would have slammed it home; the Dane fluffed it.

And to top it all off, the promising young Pole Szczesny, who had played excellently since getting his place in the side, is out for the season with a hand injury. With Fabianski also out till August, that leaves Almunia. It must be said that the Spaniard did play well in the Nou Camp. Let’s hope he can keep that up as we challenge for domestic titles.

Let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and destroy ManUre on Saturday.

Just to make life even better, I must bring you the distressing news that Sp*rs have qualified for the last eight, drawing 0-0 to AC Milan. Watching the game, I couldn’t help but think that Arsenal would have destroyed either side with ease. Not much comfort now, but that is an encouraging thought.

To end with and to cheer you up:

A man walked into a costume shop and asked for a Dracula costume. The shopkeeper said “You need to go to the Spurs shop over the road”. The man replied, ” You misunderstood. I said I wanted to look like a count.”

Arsenally Yours,

Will