Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another trip to Bolton, another defeat.

How achingly predictable. We go to Bolton and lose; Anelka not only breaks his duck, but knocks two past us. When you see him finish in such a composed fashion and you, as I did, go on youtube and watch him in his pomp for us, it makes you think how good a player he could have been. He's a superb player at literally about 50-60% of his full capacity. If he'd fully applied himself, and not surrounded himself with greedy family members, he could have been one of the all time great European players.

Some conclusions can be drawn from the game. Firstly, Freddie and his future. Or, the lack of. A winger who cannot beat his player and cross, who cannot score, and who cannot beat his marker for pace is, by definition, not good enough. He's still good for work-rate and snapping at the heels of defenders, but he's not a real threat, and I can't see him significantly contributing to any future success for us. He's been a great servant, but its time to go.

Secondly, we have to do more with possession. We had about 68% of possession today, yet couldn't turn it into goals. It took a driving run from Gilberto to get us a goal, and I can't help but think that we look a little toothless. It seems almost capricious to have players like Bendtner on loan who are scoring for fun - or at least really troubling defenders - while we only seem to have one real striker available in Thierry's and RvP's absence. Perhaps we need a poacher up front, but maybe RvP already fills this position.

A few positives can perhaps be gleaned from the performance. It was not, at least, the abject surrender that has come to characterise so many of our trips up north. We lacked a bit in physicality in midfield, but Bolton didn't dominate us. Also, luck seemed against us. On another day Davies would have been sent off, Anelka would have been ruled offside and one of our three shots that hit the bar would have gone in. And Theo, I think, put in another good performance. He's still, clearly, learning his trade - yet he at least looks like he could do something, that he might be a threat.

The performance of Flamini was a cause for continuing consternation, however. He simply doesn't do enough in midfield. He has a high work-rate, but that's not enough. He doesn't have the range of passing, or tackling, to justify a central midfield birth, and I'm counting the days until a, hopefully fully recovered, Diaby returns. Also, we still have no left wing. I worry that a lot of us have invested our hopes in Clichy, partly because we want to spite Cashley. But, perhaps its time to admit that we miss a quality left-back, and an out and out left winger who can beat people, either by cutting inside or outside his defender.

A few weeks ago, I wrote in the aftermath of our devastating performance at Reading that Arsenal could win the title. I always felt, however, that Bolton away would be a real test of our ambitions - even a draw would have shown a real improvement on last season. As it is, we've lost, but with a marginally better performance than last season. Perhaps our expectations for the league this year should be just that: marginally better than last year. A comfortable fourth, or, at a push, third. I can't shake the feeling that while we have a good team, its still not certain whether it will become a great one. Its certainly a long way from the vintage of 2004.

Indeed, its not been a good weekend for Goonerboy and sport. The England cricket team comes second in my affections after Arsenal, and they are currently in the process of being slowly slaughtered by an Australian team practically foaming in the mouth in their desire for revenge after last year's glorious summer. As an aside, an interesting comparison: Flintoff and Henry. The best player in their respective teams, but not their team's best captain? Here's hoping England can bat out the match...I hear a thunder storm is predicted for tomorrow afternoon...


Tom said...

Agree with you about Freddy. He has to go now - asap! I have posted elsewhere that someone like Tim Cahill would be an ideal replacement. Not a winger as such but I don't think Freddy is either.

Flamini - ffs he is so much of a liability I have to question Wenger's faith in him. He runs about a lot but does nothing constructive and very little destructive. Like you I can't wait to see Diaby back but he's still very very young. I think we need to buy someone that can do that sitting, tackling, breaking up play. Someone a bit more mature and experienced that can offer leadership in the centre of the park. Reo Coker could be the man.

Both left and right back are defensive liabilities at the moment. I believe in both of them but for me neither are first choice defenders for a team with title aspirations. I look forward to Lauren coming back to fitness. Clearly we need to buy another left back - again with experience. That's a January window must do!

Up front we need an alternative striker ... Ade is great in my book but its too early for him. The problem here, for me, is that none of our strikers is at his best as a lone ranger - they just 'ain't lethal enough and we've missed a hitman for a few years now. Oh for an Ian Wright!!!! If we had a more solid defense & midfield perhaps that would create a platform enabling us to revert to 442 or even 433? Then we might not need another striker.

Oh and we could do with a quick left winger.

Grim Sunday.

Anonymous said...

does anyone think adebayor misses so many chances, ok, he scores some of them butin my opinions the guy misses too many. he missed one yesterday in the 1st minute too.

Anonymous said...

I would be more concerned with the fact that in the second half Bolton were without any recognised full back and still managed to sit back deep and absorb the pressure. Arsenal are very similar to Liverpool(could have said Spurs but that would be way too low) at the moment as they can play to a certain style with a great passing game akin to European Football but when it comes to the bread and butter you lack the fight and spirit required. Chelsea have Makalele and that is exacrlt what you need to provide the required spine thro the team along with winger to compliment Theo. Ashley Cole and subsequently Gallas were sorely missed yesterday. Everyone criticises Bolton - but they can play football and indeed many teams incl Chelski have adopted set pieces directed itno hit men in the box. In the scond half they simply were too good for you....

Anonymous said...

We need Michel Essien type of midfield while playing Walcott or Fabregas. In the first half, we really missed the skill in ball posession of Hleb and Rosicky. Flamini works hard, but his passing and game reading are not that good.
Eboue needs to be more agressive and get closer to opponent; as it was guilty on Anelka's first goal as well as Newcastle's.

Anonymous said...

Freddie has been finished for a while now - what I can't understand is how AW consciously picks him ahead of Hleb!!! I know he wanted Theo to play on the right, but surely he could've started him on the left and let him roam a bit and swap with Hleb every now and then. This was the reason why we kept losing the ball - only Cesc was left of the dynamic passing triangle that is him, Hleb and Rosicky. Flamimi is not the best, but his passing shortcomings are nullified when he has at least Cesc and Hleb ahead of him. Also by dropping Hleb, Wenger broke up one of our most penetrative partnerships in Hleb-Eboue (although Theo combined well).

I blame Wenger for not seeing these problems, not the players who struggled as a result of the poor selection.

Although Eboue was out of position on the secong goal, it was Toure who backed off and allowed Anelka the space to shoot - he was the first man, not Eboue.

Also, I've been critical of Clichy recently, but he had a good game yesterday and hopefully he continues in that vein.

Goonerboy said...

I think Hleb was rested with a view to keep him fresh for the two games in London this week. dropping/resting him didn't work in any case.

Anonymous said...

freddie have to go..don't play freddie ahead of rosicky when he fit..

Anonymous said...

Looked at the starting line up and instantly thought, where are the goals gonna come from??

theo deserves a start but I would question whether Reebok staduim is the place!?

Flamini fills me with me dread. How the hell can this guy start. Surely the Beast should have started instead?

Also why the 4-5-1 now. It worked last year against technical teams in champs league and Man U this year but we are showing too many average teams respect...My belief is that Wenger knows that Fab & Gilberto is too lightweight as a centre mid partnership and therfore puts and extra body in there. We need a tough tackling cen mid with some goddam balls for this kinda away games!!!

Balls....something that we are lacking at the moment I feel...

Anonymous said...

Seems strange to be talking about a lack of balls in a side which has just had 68% possession, the majority of shots on goal and four near misses in front of goal.

There is nothing wrong with the team that a little bit of confidence in front of goal will not cure...and that will happen.

If Sam Allardyce got his tactics right in that game as everyone says, he was very clever to know that Nic Anelka would produce that excellent second goal, that the ref would not give the third goal off side and that we would miss four goals.

We just have to keep going and as supporters we have to stay behind the side. They really are getting there...not as fast as Wenger wants but they are. Not many sides would be able to play that way at Bolton with missing players of the stature of Henry, Van Persie,Rosicky and Gallas.

Anonymous said...

Say we bought Bolton's Faye, as a big boy ball winner - would we all start moaning about him loosing possession?

We have plenty of possession but seem to lack confidence at both ends.

Anonymous said...

Wenger should go His desicions are crap. No chance of the title we look shite. Out of CL next week and prob worthing cup .. another crap season in the shadows.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sidwell will be available on a Bosman next summer. I would have him back and get rid of Flamini. At least he puts his foot in, is strong and scores goals.

I think he is really hoping that Arsenal come in for him; Wenger did say that he might buy him back one day.

Goonerboy said...

We won't sign Sidwell - he's leaving in dreamland. anon.9.00 pm don't be ridiculous, even if Frank is being wildly over optimistic.

gazzap said...

some great comments/article here, all of them pretty much spot on.

I have given up on freddie due to his total lack of pace, while flamini has his uses as a sub that can cover 6 positions, but as a serious premiership midfielder with the quality that a top team needs, you just cant compare him with Lampard, Essien, Carrick, Gerrard, Parker or just about any central midfielder I can think of.

As someone else says, the blame does not go to Flam or Fred but to Wengers team selection.
OK so he may have rested Hleb for fulham, but he effectively threw the match with that decision.
Rosicky is back on Wednesday so Hleb could have been rested then but not yesterday. when Hleb came on he was too desparate and too rushed. I am certain he would not have been like that had he started.

As I said a few times before. This squad really is capable of being right up there competing with Man U and Chelsea, but not the way its being used right now. None of the players are reaching their potential in what is always a very negative system these days. Please bring back the 442!!!

Anonymous said...

I have been perusing Arsenal's problems for a while now. I have arrived at a conclusion that:
1 The team is lacking in confidence
2 There is not enough pressure on the ball.
3 Arsenal do not play at the right tempo. I like the pass and move game but it drops the tempo too much it sucks.
4 Arsenal at the moment have no striker but still doing reasonably well. For me TH14 may get to the striker level we kow him for in the next few games but we've been missing the real TH14 for a while
5 Please give Adebayor time, he may not be a finisher but eventually he will be a foil for a top striker.

I'm suprised AW conceded the title. He must be frustrated. It's November and we are 13pts adrift with a game in hand. Over 24 more games to play. It is still a possibility. Injuries and international fixtures will play a big part.

If you can, just erase the Bolton game from memory. There was no chance of winning without the main strikers TH14 and RvP

Anonymous said...

Optimistic..but not wildly. However there is certainly some wild pessimism around. Just wait and see, after three wins in a row all will look different and the fickle media will be singing our praises - except Brian Marwood, Alan Smith and the other ex-players who like to whings and whine away about Wenger and the team for hours at a time.