Monday, November 20, 2006

Defensive mistakes, not profligate finishing, are hurting Arsenal this season.

I've been away in Scotland for a few days. Hence the lack of posts for a while, and my absence at the Emirates on Saturday. It appears, however, that I didn't miss much. I'm still so grateful for my season ticket that I cherish every occasion I go, but our home form this season is rapidly becoming a farce. Its either 1-1 or a reasonably comfortable victory, and its the painful draws that are seemingly becoming more prevalent. The key seems to be the first goal. We've given away cheap goals to teams, allowing them to sit back and defend for the rest of the game. We can moan about it, but Georgie G used to do it every week with us not that long ago.

The most galling thing for me is that these teams seem to be scoring with their only shot on goal. Everton, Boro, Newcastle, and to a lesser extent Boro, had one, perhaps two, shots on target yet took their chance with aplomb. We play pinball for 90 minutes and scrape late, tense equalisers, the last two of which haven't come from open play. There remains a horrible, insidious feeling that we could concede at virtually any time, and then spend the rest of the game frustrated. We need to cut out these early-ish goals. If that happens, teams will open up eventually if its 0-0, much more so than if its 1-0 to them.

Tomorrow's game is a big one for our season - a complete, stone-cold must win. Wenger's been criticised for not starting Henry, but you can't play him - and expect a decent performance - for 90 minutes 3 times in 6 days. Blame Domenech. I do. A draw vs Newcastle and a win against Hamburg is preferable than vice-versa, so Arsene was just thinking ahead. A Thierry-less Arsenal do look toothless, however, possibly because Arsene is persisting with RvP on the left-wing, rather than letting him play up front on the right, possibly in front of Hleb. I think we need to consider giving Aliadiere more of a chance, especially if Bendtner now seems set on staying at Brummie-ville all season. I can't really comment on his performance as I didn't see much of it, but it also seems that the Julio 'I am superman!' Baptista myth may have, temporarily, come to a halt. I think he should be a good player for the club, but he had his own song before he'd played more than 20 minutes for the club. I also think that none of us really know where he's meant to be playing.

With Gallas ruled out today 'for a few weeks' - I've already heard that its until Christmas - our task of keeping in touching distance of ManU and Che£sea is harder still. We've got Bolton on Saturday to look forward to as well. But I would end by suggesting that our problems this season stem from conceding sloppy goals. Our attack has been profligate, but the job for our forwards has been made harder by our defence letting in really, really soft goals and allowing teams to defend in depth. Our priority for the next few games should be to keep things tight at the back, which will make scoring goals easier. Because I can't take another 1-1 frustration-fest.


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Anonymous said...

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