Monday, April 14, 2008
Arsenal lack either maturity or bottle, as the season comes to an end.
So that's that. It's been a painful, drawn out end to the season, one that's seen us first draw, and then lose our way out of contention. When the rot started is unclear, but 2 wins since the home victory against Blackburn on 11 February tells its own story. That game was followed by the 4-0 drubbing at Old Trafford, and then by the nightmare which was the 2-2 draw at Birmingham. Whether we ever recovered from those games is questionable.
Anyway, the season review is something I'll write when we've played Sunderland; when things have formally drawn to a close. Yet, the game yesterday was, again, a microcosm of our season: we played some great football, dominated the game, took the lead, were unable to hold it, and fell to soft goals.
Because we were by no means outplayed by United yesterday. In the first half we repeatedly cut open their defence, and only lacklustre finishing by Adebayor stood between us and a first half lead.
Having said that, some superb saves by Jens Lehmann kept us in the match. Yet again, with almost no warning Jens has come back and pulled out a great performance in a massive match. Almunia has played well this year, but he has no authority in the box, and he doesn't consistently make the game-winning saves that Jens does. This may have been the his last game for the club, but I really think we could do better than promoting Almunia to the number 1 position.
Another player who performed well was Alex Song. The lad has come in for a lot of stick in his brief time at the club, but, a few slip ups aside, he look fairly assured on the ball and in the tackle which is saying a lot given this is his first league start this year(?). He certainly did better than Senderos on Tuesday.
As for the rest of the team:
Eboue showed, yet again, that not only is he not good enough to play for Arsenal, he's also a complete twat. Case in point: out team has the ball, break over the half-way line, Eboue goes down injured. Instead of continuing our attack we have to knock the ball out for Eboue's injury, which is, of course, non-existent. United then pull the Chavski trick of kicking the ball out at our corner flag to restart play. Not only, therefore, is he rubbish when he gets the ball, he endangers our goal-line when he doesn't have it. Sell. Now.
Hleb played well, but we had to play RvP out on the left-wing to accommodate him as a support-striker. If Hleb wants to play in the hole, his goalscoring record needs to improve; either he grows some balls and takes a few more shots, or we put him on the wing or on the bench.
RvP: completely wasted on the left; like he always is when he plays there.
Cesc was knackered, Gilberto put in a half-decent performance, Clichy was marvellous apart from his crossing, Gallas cost us the lead with a stupid hand-ball, and Kolo looks in decline. Bendtner and Theo both deserve more minutes on the pitch.
In all, the team either lacks maturity or bottle. To take the lead against the other top three teams in three separate games, and end up losing all three games hopefully only points to a lack of maturity in seeing these situations out. But Alex Hleb is 27; Gallas is 31; Kolo is 27; Gilberto is 31. Are these players really going to get more mature?
Perhaps the answer is a mixture of both. Players like Ade, Clichy, Fab are not mature enough, yet; others in the team are maybe just not tough enough.
We had the league in our hands this season but blew it. We're not a million miles away from success, but I can't see us winning trophies without a thicker squad, and one which does not rely on the likes of injury-prone Rosicky and RvP, or idiots like Eboue.
I wrote at the beginning of last season - not this one - that the team was 90% complete. We still seem to be at this state of affairs. United beat us professionally: by taking their chances, ones that we largely presented to them through an idiotic handball and a needless challenge on the edge of the area. Moreover, they were able to bring on the likes of Anderson and Tevez when the clock began to run down. United have efficiently rotated their squad this season; we haven't. Ours is on its last legs; theirs will push on to win the league, and perhaps the CL as well.
The remaining 10% we need may come from within the team, but I'm pretty sure it needs an injection of new blood to push us across the final ten yards. I'm hoping we'll see this situation remedied this summer. Whatever happens, let's not turn on Arsene; he deserves better than that. The media will certainly be out for his blood soon, and let's not buy into the rubbish that'll be in most papers over the summer.
So, four games left, and some players will hopefully use them to prove their worth, or otherwise.
In any case, the 2008/9 season starts today.